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More teachers feel ‘tense’ or ‘worried’ about their job than those in comparable professions

A new report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) looking at the issues facing the teacher workforce in England shows that job-related stress is higher among teachers than other professionals.

NFER’s first annual report on the teacher labour market in England highlights that one in five teachers (20 per cent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 per cent of similar professionals.

With rising pupil numbers, shortfalls in the number of trainee teachers and an increasing proportion of teachers leaving the profession, there is an urgent need to ensure there are enough teachers in our schools.

Working Conditions play an important role in attracting and retaining teachers. The latest data shows that teachers work longer hours in a typical working week compared to similar professionals. Although their working hours averaged over the whole year are similar to those in other professions, working intensively over fewer weeks of the year leads to a poorer work-life balance and higher stress levels among teachers. Two out of five teachers (41 per cent) are dissatisfied with their amount of leisure time, compared to 32 per cent of similar professionals. Making teachers’ workload more manageable therefore presents the biggest potential area for improving retention.

The report comes after the Department for Education (DfE) published its Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy in January, which sets out to address the teacher supply challenges facing the teaching profession. Over recent years, NFER has published several pieces of research on this issue, consistently calling for a greater emphasis on retention and not just recruitment.

NFER’s annual report summarises the state of the teacher workforce using the most recent available data when the strategy was published.

Other key findings highlighted in the report include:

  • Alternative sources of teacher supply, such as returners and overseas-trained teachers, have not increased in spite of the growing supply challenge.
  • Teaching’s traditional ‘recession-proof’ advantage over other professions has eroded over time due to a relatively strong graduate labour market. High job security for graduates outside of teaching makes it harder to attract them into teaching and retain them.
  • Retention rates of early career teachers (between two and five years into their careers) have dropped significantly between 2012 and 2018.

Commenting on the research, Jack Worth, co-author of the report said: “England’s schools are facing significant challenges in recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of teachers. Nurturing, supporting and valuing teachers is vital to making teaching an attractive and rewarding career choice. In order to do this, there is a clear need to improve the working conditions of teachers, with a focus on making the teaching career more manageable and sustainable.

The proposed measures to address these issues in the Government’s new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy are welcome, but the teacher supply challenge will continue to grow, particularly in secondary schools, unless urgent action is taken. The recruitment, retention and development of teachers is a key area of focus for NFER. Through our annual teacher labour market reports we aim to use the latest data to monitor the progress the school system is making towards meeting the teacher supply challenge.”

‘Teacher Labour Market in England – Annual Report 2019’ will be available to download from the NFER website here.

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