The Odds Are Against Me!

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What should be the accepted rate of attrition for teaching in England?

Almost a third of the new teachers who started jobs in English state schools in 2010 had left the sector five years later, ministers have confirmed. Of 24,100 state school teachers to qualify in 2010, 30% had quit by 2015, Schools Minister Nick Gibb revealed in a written parliamentary answer. (BBC news)

The odds are against me. According to data shown in the School Workforce Census 2015, I have a 50% chance of sticking it out in teaching. This is not bad considering I am in my 20th year. I have presented the data below and offered a number of questions in the foot of this post.

Teacher Turnover:

Here is what Nick Gibb MP presented at the House of Commons: what are the retention figures for (a) primary and (b) secondary school teachers who began their employment in each of the last five years?

DfE Workforce Census 2015

20% Attrition after 2 Years:

It’s good news for those who’ve been teaching in the profession for a number of years, that the media have finally taken notice of this serious issue. Looking deeper into the dataset, it is clear that the 30% attrition rate within 5 years has been commonplace for the past 20 years.

Take a look at this table: (click to expand)

DfE Workforce Census 2015


And although it is well-cited that attrition is 30% after 5 years, it is still 20% after two years! Just look carefully under the 2nd year column; it is consistently 80% or thereabouts.

Economics or Politics?

Quoted in Schools Week, teacher supply expert Professor John Howson, who runs recruitment website TeachVac, says he believes the poor teacher retention rate has ‘more to do with economics than politics’.

I would agree, although rapid education reform of late has not helped our cause.

“[DfE] need to make sure we do not head towards a full-blown teacher supply crisis. They should do something to make sure people are not being wasted; by hiring people who are younger and more mobile over someone who is location specific.” (Professor John Howson)

Is teaching an attractive career? It was when I started. I entered university on a teacher-training course, knowing I wanted a career in teaching, but this is clearly no-longer an option for thousands of people.

Teachers in England work the longest hours and are paid one of the lowest salaries in OECD countries. Is there any wonder we have a problem in England?

Education Policy Institute (EPI) Workload OECD report

Another thought to consider is The Hidden Workload Scandal from @DebraKidd:

How many of you went part-time to cope with work/life balance or know someone who has? And is this an invisible factor in teacher shortages? From teachers explaining that in their departments, over 50% of the teaching staff are part time and from heads saying that in order to keep staff they have had to support part-time requests for work.”

Kidd says there are two possible issues:

  • Firstly, most of those saying they had moved to part-time hours, were working on their days off.
  • Secondly, it is harder to find two teachers than one when a full-time post becomes available.

So, what are we going to do? How many teachers go part-time just to cope with full-time demands, and what problems does this create for schools?


Here is the data from the School Workforce Census 2015. I have highlighted the category in which I would be considered.

  1. Table 1: Full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers and support staff in state funded schools
  2. Table 2a: Head count of full-time, part-time and full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers in state funded schools
  3. Table 2 (cont.): Head count of full-time, part-time and full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers in state funded schools
  4. Table 3a: Head count and full-time equivalent numbers of regular qualified and unqualified teachers
  5. Table 4: Full-time equivalent number of regular teachers in state funded schools
  6. Table 5: Percentages of the head count of regular teachers in state funded schools
  7. Table 7a: Qualified teacher entrants and wastage in state funded schools
  8. Table 10: Head count of regular teachers in all state funded schools
  9. Table 11: Head count of teachers and number of hours taught by subject and key stage to year groups 7-13
  10. Table 18: Teacher retirements from state funded schools.


So, I have a few questions to ask readers:

  1. Why do we accept a 30% attrition rate year-on-year?
  2. Why is there little talk about the 20% who quit after the first two years? This is little time to know the job!
  3. Should we accept that there will always be people who will drop out after a number of years?
  4. Is 20-30% wastage good for recruitment and retention?
  5. Is it value for money?
  6. What are the reasons for people leaving so early on into their teaching career?
  7. Is there data pre-1997, at a time when OfSTED were becoming increasingly high-stakes?
  8. With a rising population of students and a decreasing number of teachers, what do we have to do in the next 5 years?

More research is available here which I will save for another post.


6 thoughts on “The Odds Are Against Me!

  1. Isn’t there a case for the teacher training agencies whoever they are to answer?They mustn’t be very thorough in the interview process.We have had student teachers in our school who obviously weren’t really intending to go into teaching.They were just doing the PGCE to get the funding or as an additional extra qualification.Has anyone else found this? Don’t forget these training agencies are businesses themselves and as such need to recruit as many students as possible.

    1. Yes, fair point Susan … but we have to recall recent funding cuts and hike in student loans; courses at universities are keen to be full so their courses/funding and jobs aren’t cut too. It’s a hard question to answer, but if you and I were in charge of a degree course and had low numbers, would we lower our entry criteria in order to ensure a full cohort?

  2. I sleep like crap every night because I’m stressed about all the ways I perceive myself to be performing inadequately, even though I work through breaks, late after school and over the weekend. What’s keeping me here is that retraining in a different profession would entail an untenable drop in salary. Younger teachers starting out have time to dodge a career that is patently widow making but the rest of us put up with it because we have no choice. As caring teachers we won’t strike so the government can go on having its way.

  3. Pingback: A Call To Arms

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