UK: 20% Spike in Number of Teachers Leaving the Profession

The number of British teachers who left their posts over the 2010-2011 school year is up by nearly 20% from the year before, according to Schools Minister David Laws. Laws unveiled the numbers in response to a question from a Parliament member in the Labour Party, and he refused to speculate about the long-term implication of the jump. Laws pointed out that the data presented wasn’t yet finalized and might change.

If the final numbers show a rise in the number of teachers who are quitting, that would reverse the trend over the previous five years, when the number of qualified instructors who left the profession was declining year-on-year. Laws said that 47,700 teachers quit over the 2010 academic year; prior to 2010, the number topped out at 42,870 in 2005-2006, after which it declined to as low as 40,070 in 2009-2010.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s shadow education secretary, blamed the spike on education policies supported by Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and his education secretary Michael Gove. Twigg said that such high number of instructors leaving the profession will hinder efforts to improve school quality across Britain.

“It’s no wonder given teacher morale is so low and Michael Gove insults teachers, calling them ‘whingers’.”

Labour said it planned to boost teacher numbers by expanding schemes such as Teach First, to bring in top graduates.

Although a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said that the number of people interested in entering the teaching profession is on the upswing — and that teaching vacancies in schools are at a record low — leaders of the country’s teachers unions say that the reports of low morale are widespread and a growing number of members are thinking about leaving the profession due to feelings that their efforts are not being acknowledged or appreciated.

Chris Keates, of the NASUWT, said: “These figures come as no surprise; they confirm the findings of a recent NASUWT survey which showed that 84% of teachers felt demoralised and de-professionalised and that over 50% of teachers had seriously considered leaving the profession in the previous 12 months.

“The government cannot mount a relentless assault on the teaching profession and expect that they will stay around to be further abused if they have any chance to leave.

Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers blamed teacher scapegoating by government officials along with policies that included pay freezes and pension cuts for the demoralized instructional workforce. She added that unless the government reversed its policy of constantly criticizing teachers, schools are going to find it increasingly difficult to attract quality instructors.

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