Why Are More Teachers Leaving Teaching Than Entering?

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School Workforce Census


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What does the latest research tell us about the education workforce in England?

On Thursday 28th June 2018, the Department for Education published National Statistics for 2017 (for data over the past 12 months). This is a single reference for all school workforce statistics based on staff working in publicly funded schools in England. Here is a summary and some interesting facts.

Why do we accept a 9.4 per cent attrition in the teaching profession, year on year? Is this figure in-line with other industries?

Teacher Numbers

In 2017 there were just over 498,000 teachers in schools in England (headcount). The number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) teachers. Teacher numbers have fallen in 2017. There are now 451,900 full time equivalent teachers working in state funded schools in England.

  • The total FTE number of teachers in all schools has fallen by 1.2%, from 457,200 to 451,900 between 2016 and 2017.
  • The number of FTE nursery and primary teachers fell by 0.6%, from just over 222,400 in 2016 to 221,100 in 2017.
  • FTE secondary teacher numbers fell by 1.9%, from 208,200 in 2016 to 204,200 in 2017.
  • The rate of increase in nursery and primary pupil numbers has been slowing and is due to stabilise in 2019.
  • However, secondary pupil numbers have been rising and are projected to continue to increase until 2025.

School workforce in England: November 2017

Entrants and Leavers

The rate of entry into teaching and leavers out of teaching are now at the same level.

  • The total number of FTE qualified entrants to teaching has decreased since 2015 from 45,500.
  • Over the same period the total number of FTE qualified teachers leaving teaching is consistent at 9.9 per cent.
  • This is the first time since 2011 that the rate of entry into teaching has not been higher than the percentage of qualified teachers leaving the profession.


In November 2017 there were the full-time equivalent of just over 947 thousand people working in state-funded schools in England.

  • Teachers made up the largest proportion of the workforce (47.7%, of which 95.3% have qualified teacher status)
  • Teaching assistants accounted for 27.8% of the workforce. The remainder (24.5%) made up of regular support staff.
  • There were 42,430 FTE new entrants to teaching in state funded schools in 2017. This includes newly qualified teachers, teachers new to the state-funded sector and those returning to teaching after a break.
  • There were 42,830 FTE qualified teachers who left teaching in 2017; this includes teachers taking retirement, those taking a break from teaching who may come back as returners in a later year and those leaving the profession.
  • Part time teachers are more likely to leave teaching; in 2017 the leavers’ rate for part-time teachers was 13.0 compared to a rate of 9.4 for full-time teachers.
  • Out of the 97.0% of teachers for whom we hold qualification data, the majority of teachers, 98.6 per cent, hold qualifications at degree level or higher. This is an increase on last year where the equivalent figure was 98.5 per cent.
  • The percentage of teachers with relevant qualifications for the subjects they teach has increased.

School workforce in England: November 2017

Teacher Pay

The following statistics show the average (mean) salaries, in cash terms (unadjusted for inflation) received by teachers who were in post in schools that were open on census day in November 2017.

  • In 2017, the average (mean) FTE salary for all teachers in state funded schools was £38,700 – an increase of £300 compared with 2016.
  • The FTE salary for all full and part-time classroom teachers was £35,400.
  • Salaries are higher for leadership teachers, typically £63,700.

School workforce in England: November 2017

Pupil Teacher Ratios

In 2017, the pupil teacher ratio has increased in state funded schools and is now at 17.9 – up 0.3 on 2016.

  • Based on the department’s 2017 pupil projections the increase in the primary & nursery school population is projected to stabilise in 2019 at 4.7 million children as the drop in births in 2013 feeds into the school population.
  • The secondary school population started to rise in 2016 and is projected to continue increasing to 3.1 million by 2020 and further until 2025 when it is expected to peak at 3.3 million.


A question: If we need 47,000 teachers for the year 2025, is the Government confident that we will reach this target?

For more details, visit the Department for Education. You can download a copy here and the full data sheet here.


13 thoughts on “Why Are More Teachers Leaving Teaching Than Entering?

  1. The lack of people coming into ITT are mentioned by all who comment on this issue, also those who do not last more than a few years. Those that leave because they want something new will be mentioned as will those who can’t sit by and watch what education is doing to our kids now or their own family. I am in another category that does not get mentioned. I am going into my 20th year in the classroom, have a young outlook on life, keep up to date, develop how I teach and what I teach and attend things like like teachmeets in my own time and at my own expense. I want to stay being a teacher. Between being on the pay grade I am ( stayed at UPS 1 so as not at top of scale financially) and being the subjects i am which are getting squeezed out by the ignorance of our government (music and drama) I am finding that losing out to NQTs who are cheap. If they could tell me what I could do to improve my interview, but it all comes out so positive. They haven’t got the money, or won’t pay the money depending on their idea of what is important. What do we do? We are here to teach, but maybe we will waste 20 years experience soon by going into another job we don’t want and reduce teacher numbers further. NQTs are vital, so is experience.

  2. I would be interested to know how deep the ‘pit’ is – the pool of inactive teachers. Last I heard it was about 400,000.

  3. Totally agree. I had to take a cut from UPS2 to MPS6 in order to accept the job that I was offered. Schools simply can’t afford to pay for experience (17 years) unless they belong to a multi-academy trust and I’ve worked for one of them and wouldn’t choose to again.

  4. I totally agree. However, I was a qualified accountant and recently, I join the teaching professionals. For me to teach Math, it is unbelievable the pay the school offers me. As a new teacher in the classroom, I do not know how long I will survive in the teaching profession.

  5. Hi Cebert

    I agree with you that teacher salary is too small. However, I would advise you as a new teacher do not get turn off. I have been in the profession for over 10 years and despite the the challenges I am surviving. My encouragement to you fight the challenges the kids need you.

    Professional teacher.

    1. Hi Dean
      Thanks for your respond and encouragement. However, as you are in the profession over 10 year, I assume you have acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience in behavior management. Can you please advise me how I can get students with challenging behavior to settle down quickly into my Math class.


  6. Hi Cebert

    In my school challenging behavior is a big issues. However, as I am a veterant in the business I can give you certain tips.
    Firstly, I suggest try to discuss with learners how to get them to behave appropriately in class. Draft an agreement with them and get them to sign. Then whenever, he or she misbehaved remind them of the agreement.
    Let them know the important of good behavior, for example let them know if they obtain job in the future that if they do not maintain good behavior they will risk being fired.

    Good luck, I hope this is of value to you.


  7. Hi all,
    This is my 20th year of teaching science. I try to teach young people how to take an empirical approach to the world around them. Here are some observations ;
    1. Teaching is the only graduate profession that is recruited for, regularly, on TV.
    2. Along with nursing it is regularly labelled as a “Vocation” implying that so long as we get enough food so as not to starve and that we’re not standing in rags, then that’s all we need and money doesn’t enter the equation.
    3. All the people I have ever met that describe teaching as “A joy”, “A privilege”, ” So rewarding” have never taught.
    4. All the people I have ever met that do teach and describe teaching as “A joy”, “A privilege”, ” So rewarding” . Tend to leave the profession immediately they become financially able to. Indeed if it is such a wonderful vocation, accept early retirement and return immediately on a voluntary basis, full-time. It is for children after all.
    5. If a group of people who are being bullied are not prepared to stick up for themselves then it seems to me that they will continue to remain a target. Unions cannot act unless their membership wants them to.
    6. Pub talk describing teachers fall into two camps. a) “I wouldn’t do your job for all the tea in China” b) ” Teachers-useless and lazy, stuffing themselves with my taxes and always on holiday”

    An empirical assessment doesn’t paint a particularly rosy picture and I could go on. Teaching is a dispirited, demoralised, churn’em and burn’em industry that is heading towards a major crisis.

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