Why Do Teachers Leave The Profession?

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Why do teachers leave the classroom?

It is a well know fact, that the teacher attrition rate in England is an area for concern. While the overall number of teachers has kept pace with increasing pupil numbers to date (20% for the past 20 years), it has been argued that there are growing signs of shortages, particularly in certain geographic areas and in certain subjects.


In June 2017, the House of Commons provided information on the recruitment and retention of teachers in England, including Government initiatives to increase teacher supply.

House of CommonsThe report found that “there is no single observable factor that can explain why teachers and leaders move to a different school, or why they leave the profession altogether, but that there are some factors that are better at predicting such moves than others.”


You can read the full report here.


Before you do, take a look at the list below and see if you can add another reason ‘why teachers are leaving the profession’.


Reasons For Leaving:

  1. Long hours
  2. Low pay
  3. Reducing budgets, pensions.
  4. Workload, planning, marking, data
  5. Excessive detail required by school leaders
  6. Too many meetings
  7. Target setting teaching, reporting
  8. Curriculum and assessment reform, new initiatives
  9. Lack of PPA time; arranging extra curricular events
  10. Performance management, appraisal, difficulty to progress up the pay spine
  11. Moderation of marking and continual cross-referencing
  12. Completing homework, behaviour logs
  13. Communications with parents
  14. Duties and managing detentions
  15. Writing policies
  16. Lack of training
  17. Poor behaviour – although surprisingly low at 5%.

Here is the research data on page 18.

Unspoken Reasons:

Of course, there are thousands of reasons why teachers leave the classroom, that isn’t reported.

  1. Bullying
  2. Lack of research used in school e.g still grading lessons/teachers
  3. Mental health, lack of support, family reasons
  4. OfSTED methodology
  5. Current English Baccalaureate policy
  6. Forced MAT takeover
  7. Redundancy or retirement
  8. Changes to terms and conditions
  9. Safeguarding concerns / Capability
  10. The lure to work overseas or in the U.K. independent sector.

What’s missing above? If you have left the classroom, add your reason ‘why’ to the comments section below.

There are over 5,000 research articles on teacher attrition in England; access them here.

10 thoughts on “Why Do Teachers Leave The Profession?

  1. Poor/inconsistent/non-existent Governing Body support and/or challenge and the demise of Local Authority Advisors and support networks. At times my school had outstanding support from all of these good folk but at others it was woeful. PRU’s are difficult places (on the good days!) with extraordinary challenges requiring hugely experienced, knowledgeable and highly skilled people capable of providing professional support, guidance, reflection opportunities and challenge. There are not many around with those qualities and, what with the direct political and economic assaults on Local Authorities, alongside the accountability mirroring that of mainstream (but, more often than not, with very poor baseline data) it is extremely difficult to recruit suitably equipped people. Under that sort of pressure and immense workloads (because when there are gaps you have to fill them yourself) the strain and stress eventually takes it’s toll. I saw many experienced and incredibly talented professionals leave when their next step should have been into those very supportive roles described earlier. A vicious circle is created almost by default in a setting which has so much to be learned from by mainstream partners.

    I was fortunate enough to have a superb Chair and an outstanding mentor who helped me to realise I simply could not continue to work at the pace commensurate with the demands of the job of headship and cover so many other functions due to lack of funding or staffing or external support. Early retirement became the most attractive option so that I could coach/mentor those taking on the responsibility of catering appropriately for our terrific young people. But, guess what? They couldn’t find the funding. The result is so predictable and the consequences dire although fortunately not for myself. Most of the headteachers have left the profession and few are occupied in school support in one form or another.

    Sustainability is critical with these small institutions not just for the young people and their families but also the community and local schools who form brilliant partnerships in support of our most vulnerable children. When will we learn?

  2. The fact that ethnic-minorities are both under-represented and lack support in the teaching profession are factors that drive people away from teaching.

  3. I have to agree with Aisha. I’m proud of being an ethnic minority teacher and had great relationships with all my pupils, parents and colleagues. I speak differently from everyone due to my Congolese and South African experience and the fact that I started learning English by watching American television, as you can imagine, my accent is different. I felt my experience allowed me the opportunity to show children that everything is possible through hard work and determination.

    I was loving life, making a difference and being appreciated by pupils and parents. I was also placed on an NPQML course as a result of my commitment. However, we had a change of Headteacher 18 months ago and within 4 months, I was then placed on a ‘struggling teacher program’ and the main reason was that the new Head didn’t like how I explained information to my pupils. Having survived a civil war, lived through apartheid and moved to foreign lands, I thought it was just a little challenge I’d take on. How wrong I was.

    It took two weeks before I started forcing my wife out every weekend so that I could work overtime, my relationships with my wife and family had been badly affected and for once in my life, I felt like death would be a good thing to help take the burden off my wife and maybe it would help pay her mortgage. At that point 5 teachers resigned as they were unhappy with their treatment but I saw that as giving up. 2 months later, I decided to look elsewhere and got an interview. The headteacher came into my classroom and told me to stick it out as he thought I’d be a good teacher at the school that I was in. It turns out that, I was only kept because too many people had left and me being one of the popular teachers at the time leaving would look bad for him. I know this because the second week in September, he had me in his office and indirectly told me that I should be looking elsewhere because “that’s what I’d do,” he said.

    I went back into the classroom to teach and the next day, I broke down in the staff room and couldn’t explain why I was crying (Never cried for over 10 years prior to that) and why I felt so useless. I left school and only returned 6 months later to pick up my stuff.

    During this time, I was done with teaching. I would’ve been happy working in a supermarket or any other job that would take me on. Luckily, I had built up a good network of friends and some were headteachers and they all reminded me that I had a gift of working with children and getting them to work for me. It took months of colleagues, parents and family to convince me to not abandon the profession.

    I’m now teaching Computing in various primary schools with a private company and I absolutely love my job. I have been with my new employer for 9 months and have worked in different school settings teaching children from Nursery to Year 6 and I’ve only had praise about my pedagogy , class management and relationships I’ve built with these pupils.

    The main point of my blabbering is, I’m not the only one to have gone through such an ordeal. When I was off ill, on antidepressants and locked in my house, I read a newspaper article about a teacher that had committed suicide and it hit home. I was so close to being another newspaper article and the only thing that saved me in my darkest times was the fact that I had to pick my daughter up from the childminder and I couldn’t possibly hurt her. How many teachers have we lost through this type of bullying or mismanagement? How do you achieve subjective targets such as ‘explaining information properly?’ Would me changing my accent and speaking like someone else have saved my job? When will these types of Heads be held accountable for how they help to raise the statistics in mental health issues in schools.

  4. It’s so sad to red these stories. I have been teaching since 2009 and although I started teaching full of positivity and gusto, I am now on the verge of leaving the profession. I am demoralised, disillusioned and my mental health is suffering. This is having an impact on my relationships at home, as my partner & family continue to watch me struggle under the weight of the ‘profession’ I know I am a good teacher, but I really don’t want that title to continue to define me.

  5. I too have left the teaching profession after 19 years! When I said those words out loud this morning I was not sure how I would feel. But I can say it feels good.

    I did not make a conscious decision to leave teaching, it just happened. Like many teachers who have spent years in teaching, I did not know what I would do if I left teaching. Fortunately, my new career (in careers leadership) gives me autonomy, responsibility and allows me to be strategic whilst utilising a range skills, including my intellectual capabilities. I believe I have the best of both worlds. I describe it as having a whole school role without the teaching.

    What is interesting is when I explain my transition from teaching to my new career path the response from both teachers and senior leaders has been positive and varied including: “Good for you!”, “I would be happy stacking shelves”, to “You have given me food for thought!”

    I loved teaching. It was my life! Now I have a job that I love and I have a life! My new career also allows me to do the things that I love including writing, speaking at conferences and consultancy work.

  6. I would like the people educating our children to be happy and content in their job. If they’re not happy, our children aren’t going to be happy.

    Why do governments insist on bringing in useless consultants to reform education and not ask teachers and schools what they think is the best course of action then empower them to deliver it?

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