Nearly one in ten teachers left the profession last year – the highest proportion for a decade – and almost a quarter of teachers now leave within three years.
Towards the end of the Autumn term, I noticed a common theme in all the schools I visited: “Christmas!” I hear you exclaim… Unfortunately not. The commonality was a kind of mania – getting through to the Christmas holiday. Where I remember (fondly – and I am sure with a little rose tinting!) December in Primary schools meaning glitter, tinsel, nativities and carols these are now elements which have to be squeezed in: assessment week has taken over. The reds and greens of Christmas have been outshone by the reds and greens of the online tracker! Now glitter has been replaced with PIRA, Christmas baking comes second to PuMA and staff count the minutes of carol singing so that can get back to finishing end of topic assessments. Evenings are filled with analysing the data and updating the online tracker whilst having one eye fixed on next term’s topic planning…because , as we all know, the Christmas holiday is taken up with family ( heaven forbid) and before we know it, it is the January INSET day and back on the hamster wheel.
But that’s okay, Christmas is always the full on, busy time of year isn’t it? Next term will be calmer and back to ‘normal’. Again, maybe in the ‘good old days’ but in the current education climate, there is no calm term: each and every one of them is equally manic. And although the teaching profession as a whole constantly jump through the hoops placed in their path, they are trip hazards and take an awful lot of energy. More and more colleagues from the teaching profession I speak to are finding the job all consuming; they struggle on; their personal lives taking a back seat to the ever increasing demands of their role. Is that what we really want for our children? Staff who struggle on? Exhausted staff surely cannot inspire the children as much as a fresh, fulfilled one. I have always strongly believed that teachers need to be so much more than just a teacher: they are role models so they also need to inspire pupils to achieve dreams whilst also teaching them resilience and self- care. Surely they have to be able to model this?
We need to take a step back and assess the current situation, assess the teachers workloads and well-being (without entering the outcomes into the tracking system!) Our school staff need looking after: they need to be persuaded that it is okay to ask for support; okay to take a step back; okay to enjoy the learning experience with the pupils in their care. We need to indulge personal development and focus on staff’s resilience and self-care.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Figures show a further deterioration in retention after three years, which is a source of great concern for school leaders. We lose a quarter of those who enter service by this point. This has been steadily worsening over the past four years, and the government needs to look at the drivers – workload, stagnant pay and an over-bearing accountability system – behind this worrying trend.”
A point to note is that ‘stressed’ is ‘desserts’ spelled backwards, and maybe, just maybe, stressed out staff is our ‘ just desserts’ for the educational pressures our schools are under…
Written by Jane Attwood, Wellbeing consultant.