44% of teachers in England plan to quit within five years

A survey of NEU members has shown a rise in the number of teachers intending to leave the profession, with high workload and workplace stress significant contributors.

When asked where they see themselves in two/five years' time, 22% of state-school teachers in England said they will no longer be working in education in two years’ time, while 44% plan to quit within five years.

When they were asked the same question in 2019, 21% of respondents indicated they would leave within two years, and 51% in five years. These figures predate the pandemic. In 2021, when the same question was put amidst a third national lockdown and a period of great uncertainty for the workforce, the figures were 14% and 41% respectively.

When asked in 2022, workload was the overwhelming motivation for 65% of teachers in English state schools who expect to go within two years, and 63% of those departing within five years.

The next most popular options were “the feeling that the education profession is not valued or trusted by the Government and media” (38% of English state-school teachers planning to leave within five years) and accountability (35%). Pay was also a significant reason given (25%), as was retirement (26%) although many who selected the latter option were in leadership roles or already working part-time. 

Members were asked to identify the ways in which recruitment and retention challenges are putting a strain on their workplace. The answers from teachers in English state schools reveal significant trends toward ‘doubling up’ of workplace roles to make ends meet and a reduction in support staff numbers over the past two years.

On the question of support staff posts being unfilled, 74% of teachers in state-funded special schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) felt the situation had worsened since March 2020. The same was said by 66% of secondary school teachers, and 56% of primary school teachers.

Similarly, 67% of secondary teachers felt the picture on unfilled teaching posts had worsened, compared to 59% of those in special schools and PRUs and 44% of those in primaries. Members described supply teachers being used instead of permanent contracts due to budgetary worries, and teaching assistants increasingly being asked to deliver lessons.

The vast majority of respondents said that their workload was challenging. Past surveys, including the Government’s own, typically place working hours at around 50 hours per week. This is well above the OECD average of 41 hours.

In the State of Education survey, 52% of English state-school teachers said their workload was either unmanageable or unmanageable most of the time, with a further 30% saying it was ‘only just manageable’. A small proportion (2%) said it was manageable all of the time.
current workload bar chart

The change in just a year shows a severe and growing problem with workload, as the return of Ofsted and ever-present accountability demands clash with the urgent challenges of educational recovery post-pandemic.

Teachers in leadership roles were a little more likely to say their workload was unmanageable than classroom teachers, and primary teachers were slightly more likely to report an unmanageable workload than their secondary counterparts.

Reducing teaching time in favour of space for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) was more popular with classroom teachers than those in leadership (although it was still selected by 41% of leaders), and it was particularly supported by teachers in secondary schools, 72% of whom chose it as one of the three most important actions to make workload manageable.

Smaller class sizes were also supported more by classroom and secondary teachers than those in primary or leadership roles. This should not come as a particular surprise when class sizes in secondary schools currently stand at a more than 40-year high.

57% of school leaders responding to the NEU’s latest survey favoured a less punitive inspection service in order to alleviate workload pressures, and 48% wanted to see an increase in the number of staff employed. This is significantly above the 43% and 36% of classroom teachers who selected those same options amongst their three priorities. Just 1% of respondents overall said that they needed to see no changes to make their workload more manageable.

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