Is a relentless workload forcing teachers to leave for lower paid jobs?

7 December 2015
What was claimed

A relentless workload is forcing teachers to leave the profession for lower paid jobs.

Our verdict

Research found people leaving teaching roles in state schools are ending up in jobs which are on average lower paid, at least in their first year. It's not clear to what extent workload pressures are encouraging teachers to leave for lower paid jobs specifically.

"'Relentless' workload forcing 'desperate' teachers to leave profession with big pay cuts"

TES, 1 December 2015

New research has found that, over the last 15 years, people who left teaching roles in state schools took up on average lower paid jobs. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), quoted in the TES' headline, said that's due to the relentless nature of the workload and pressure.

The research didn't look at why teachers are leaving for lower paid jobs. Polling suggests workload is a significant factor for teachers wanting to leave, but we don't know that it's the main reason why some teachers are prepared to leave for lower paid jobs specifically. The research said there could be any number of reasons.

The analysis looks at short-term job transitions. Over the longer term, it points out, some of these jobs may become better paid than teaching jobs. For example, if teachers are changing career they may well start off on a lower wage while they're developing new skills.

Reasons for taking lower-paid jobs are unclear

The research, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), explains that teachers leaving state schools for a lower paid job may be leaving for any number of reasons, such as reasons relating to their previous job (which could include workload), personal factors (e.g. health problems) and changes in job circumstances for their family.

That's not to say that workload isn't a significant factor for teachers wanting to leave and actually leaving. But we don't know if it's making teachers willing to take up lower-paid jobs specifically.

Workload came top (61%) in reasons given by teachers who were thinking of leaving the profession in a recent YouGov survey for the National Union of Teachers, closely followed by seeking a better work-life balance (57%). This echoes findings from another YouGov poll, this time for the education company Pearson, which found workload was the most important reason among those who had considered leaving in the last six months.

Lower wages seen among teaching assistants and public sector workers

Excluding those leaving the profession to retire, the research found just over half of people leaving teaching roles in the state sector moved to other jobs in the wider school sector—such as teaching in private schools, becoming teaching assistants and taking up non-teaching roles in schools. So in the case of those moving to private schools, they're not entirely leaving the profession.

It looks at employment survey data over a 15 year period, so this is a long term view.

The report doesn't comment on the potential reasons behind moving to each type of job; some of them will be less workload intense than others.

It was the people who left to become teaching assistants or to work in the public sector (for example in colleges or universities) who saw a substantial drop in their wages—a fall of around 25-30% compared to similar people who stayed.

Those who moved to private schools, non-teaching roles in schools and private sector jobs didn't have a significantly different salary to their equivalents who were still teaching in state schools.

Part-time teachers and those over the age of 50 are more likely to leave

Part-time teachers and those over the age of 50 were more likely to leave, while teachers with leadership positions were less likely to leave.

The research also found over the 15 year period a greater turnover among secondary school teachers—with teachers more likely to join secondary schools but also more likely to leave secondary schools than primaries. Using different data and looking over the last four years it finds individuals are more likely to join primary schools.

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