Home > Education Policy, etmooc, Maths, Teaching > ‘Wasted Investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?’

‘Wasted Investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?’

This post is a response to the 3rd #blogsync topic of ‘Wasted Investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?’

To see all other posts on this topic go to http://share.edutronic.net/

The question for me encompasses many things, but I think the crux of it is alludeed to by the blogsync question itself, and can be summed up by: “the way people enter the profession.”

Perhaps I’m naïve, but the coincidental timing of the deluge of people from my PGCE course who left the month after the “golden hello” arrived in our bank accounts was staggering, and I think it is people like this who skew the figures.

When I was training, and since for that matter, I have encountered many maths teachers/trainees who didn’t seem to have an appreciation for the subject. This struck me as strange initially, but then I realised why. There was one lady on my PGCE course who baulked at the thought of algebra, her degree was in MFL (I think) and she made no bones about the fact she didn’t like maths. She had been made redundant from her previous job which involved bookkeeping and she had been short of ideas, so had decided to take the bursary and get paid to train as a teacher. She didn’t make it through the course. However, there were others who did, but equally didn’t seem to like maths or who had an obvious preference to other subjects, but had chosen maths as the bursary/golden hellos were bigger.

I think the negative impression of teachers given in the press and held widely by society are also at work here. As people think that teaching is a 9-3 job (it isn’t) with masses of holidays (there is). I think people then come into teaching with the idea that they will just have loads of free time, they don’t realise that you need to put the work in outside of lesson hours. And they then realise that, actually, it is a lot of hard work and in many cases this makes them rethink and leave.

My own journey into teaching was a rather long one, but one which had a lot of thought put into it. I had first decided I fancied teaching as a teenager, and had done a pre teaching course during my time at sixth form. My mum, numerous aunts and my grandma were all teachers, and as such I had grown up around a shed load. They had left me with a very real view of what life as a teacher would be like. (In a nutshell – extremely hard work but immensely rewarding). When I was in the upper sixth I was looking at what to do next, I had thought about teaching then, but I didn’t think I was ready to embark on the journey just yet. I didn’t really think I was mature enough to go to university at that age, but my mum disagreed. I thought a gap year would give me chance to get the drinking and partying out of the way and let me go to uni as a more mature person ready to knuckle down. My mum thought a gap year would lead to me becoming comfortable in a minimum wage job and never getting round to going to uni. She won the discussion, and so I applied. I applied to maths courses, as I love the subject and still didn’t think teaching was right then. I think it’s a good job I didn’t apply to teaching as my first degree years were great, but my attendance levels weren’t. I was able to make up missed work with marathon revision sessions based on photocopied notes from my course mates (to whom I will always owe a debt of gratitude, and, let’s be honest, my degree!). I am certain that if I had been this lax on a teacher training course I would have been jettisoned sharpish, and quite rightly so. When I left uni I started the process of applying for the PGCE, but cancelled my application as, on reflection, I decided that I was not yet mature enough to put the hours I needed into it to get to where I wanted to be. Instead, I took a fulltime job working in the bar I had worked at during holiday periods from uni. This was a great job that I enjoyed, but it was only ever a stop gap. I did move into relief management for a time, and I guess the hours I put in then (90 plus) put the 50 plus I put in now into context.

I returned to uni after a year and completed a postgraduate diploma in finance. My attitude was better and I feel I got a lot out of the course, but most significantly, it reminded me that I wanted to be in a profession that was making a difference, not in the world of finance where everybody was out for themselves. I then worked in a variety of project and admin roles within local government based around children and young people. This took me into the sector I wanted to be in and I enjoyed the years I spent doing them, but I was not at the frontline. I attended a multiagency training session with many people who were on the frontline and it hit home how much I wanted to be there. I promptly applied for my PGCE and here I am now. Doing a job I love, and one I can’t ever imagine giving up to head back to the mundane life of the office.

I am passionate about the subject, and I am passionate about the profession. These are the attributes we need to be looking for when recruiting new members into teaching. There was a man on my course who left a well-paid solicitors job to train as he had that same desire. There was a guy called Johnny Saunders who used to report on the sports for the Beeb (including the Chris Evans breakfast show), left his high profile journalism job to train to teach because he has that passion. These are the people we want. Not the people who finished uni, didn’t know what else to do so applied to teacher training as it gave them more time as a student but with their fees paid for. Not the people who were made redundant during the recession, struggled to find another job so sought out the biggest bursaries. But the people who want to teach, who want to make a difference to the lives of young people and who want to share the passion they have for their subject with the next generation.

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  1. August 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience – you’re right that I do like reading other people’s routes in.
    I’m not sure I agree 100% about people having to start with a passion. It intrigues me that (in 2009 – when I read the stat) only 1/3 of people joining TF want to be teachers as their career but, by the time they finish the 2-year programme, over 1/2 want to be teachers as their career (making it comparable to PGCE. I believe the figure has increased since then). Depending on your experience, I think the experience of teaching can, in itself, create that motivation. I think my love of maths has only grown now that I teach it, and I have a much finer appreciation for it than I did 5 years ago. Has that happened for you, also?
    That said, I do identify with your sadness at people joining because of extrinsic motivators like golden hellos, especially when they don’t like the subject. Those cases seem like a massive waste of money and opportunities, and a waste of their time and the children’s time.

    • August 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      I agree. It’s a massive waste if time and money. My love of maths has indeed grown as I teach it, and read more deeply about it and engage in it for fun.

      TF is a strange one. I was put off by it initially as I, like many, erroneously thought the premise was “Teach First, then do something else” (I’ve since discovered the true meaning behind the name!) I heard it described as “missionary work, where the elite spend two years in deprived communities”, and I worry that for some it kind of is, but for the vast majority it’s not. I know some excellent teachers who have come, and who are still coming, through that route. I have also worked with many who left by October half term and left the school majorly in the lurch. Working with teach firsters has given me a real appreciation of how hard it is to enter the profession through that route. I think TF is bringing more top grads into teaching, which is great. Re the not wanting to be teachers thing, it strikes me as odd that people would apply without wanting to be teachers, it’s bloody hard if you want to do it! I worked with one guy this year who wasn’t sure, but I hope he stays, he’ll make a,great teacher.

  2. September 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Thanks for leaving the link to this in your comment. You’re right – the profession needs more people who have that passion to teach. I think the profession also needs more people like you who have done something else first.

    I do agree with Miss Quinn above though, that sometimes you gain a passion for something through teaching it. I’m an MFL specialist, but as I usually teach in primary schools, I obviously have to teach maths too. I teach it from FS to Y7 and I enjoy it far more now than I ever did at school or during my previous working life.

    • September 28, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And I’m glad you’ve developed a love for maths.

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