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Why I left: a senior lecturer with 12 years’ experience

“To be honest it wasn’t one singular thing, it was a multitude of reasons. It was the widening disparity between the outdated curriculum that we were forced to teach, versus the skills and training that students really needed to stand a chance in the working world. It was the immense pressure put on me to ensure that every single student succeeded, to preach that there is no such thing as failure. Then there was the age old ‘numbers game’, the culture of increasing ‘bums on seats’ and milking the cash cow of education. All that really happened was we saw quantity over quality and added stress due to an immense lack of funding. I ended my time in education due to an overarching passion to return to the industry in which I trained and subsequently worked in for the last 30 years that lead me back to the private sector.”

The workload

Recent statistics show that in the last 12 months 80% of teachers have seriously considered leaving their jobs. Around half of all teachers asked, stated they didn’t think they’d be teaching in 10 years’ time. Shockingly, just 1/10 teachers believe they have a good work life balance. The main reason teachers highlighted for leaving the industry was the workload. Demanding workloads see teachers working late into the evening, at weekends and during scheduled holidays. On average, one third of all teachers spend an extra 16 hours a week playing catch up on their workload. In response to this, the government has issued a plan to reduce teacher workload, this was sparked by fears of unsustainable working hours and the high number of teachers leaving.

Workplace stress

As an ever-increasing workload shows no signs of slowing down, teacher stress has hit an all-time high. Some teachers see 55 hour working weeks, just to get on top of workload. In 2017 alone, 3,750 teachers were signed off with long term sickness due to workplace pressures and anxiety. Coupled with that, in 2016/17 teachers had 312,000,000 sick days and 1.3 Million days off in the last four years due to stress. In an effort to make the industry more appealing, the government have decided to add additional spend of up to £1.3 Billion by 2020 to attract new teachers.  

Lack of flexibility

With teacher burnout on the rise and an accountability system that is leaving teachers exhausted, flexible working hours could be the answer. Teacher unions are calling on governing bodies to allow flexible working hours to improve the work-life balance of teachers, the assumption being that this will improve the quality of teaching. 1,800 teachers were asked if they would be interested in working flexible hours, of which 40% said yes. If 40% of our teachers cut their working week by one day, the government would need to employ 40,000 more teachers to cover the shortfall.

Although teachers are granted large chunks of holiday, the routine of having them at the same time every year can be stifling. In extreme cases holidays can cost up to £3,000 more, for a family of four, when booking in peak season. This makes it harder for teachers to truly kick back in their free time. 

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