Workload, stress and pay blamed for exodus of teachers
Shock rise in numbers quitting the profession aged just 45 and over
SCHOOLS have faced an exodus of their most experienced teachers over the past seven years at a time of unprecedented upheaval in the sector.
Analysis of statistics from the Scottish Government show there has been a 21 per cent reduction in the number of teachers aged 45 and over since 2010 – accounting for some 5,000 members of school staff.
The decline has come at a time of major reform with the introduction of a new curriculum and qualifications, widely seen as having been introduced in a confusing and overly-bureaucratic way.
Teaching unions have repeatedly warned of the impact of excessive workload and resulting stress on staff, with surveys highlighting the desire of staff to leave the profession.
There have also been concerns about the erosion of pay and lack of promotion opportunities after the phasing out of principal teachers.
Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, said the loss of experienced staff was a particular challenge.
He said: “The loss of teachers over 55 would be expected, but more concerning is the loss from the 45 to 54-year-old group as they represent a significant loss of teaching personnel, as well as potential expertise.
“Much emphasis has been placed recently on the challenge of recruiting new blood into the profession.
“The issue of teacher retention is a challenge of at least equal importance.”
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, called for investment to ensure it became a more attractive profession.
“The Government has failed to tackle the impact of pension changes on Scotland’s teachers and this, coupled with concerns over low pay and high workload, has led to an exodus of highly experienced and highly valuable teachers,” he said.
Parent bodies also raised concerns over the fall in more experienced teachers.
Joanna Murphy, chairwoman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: “I would be sorry if staff were leaving if they couldn’t find promoted posts and I hope that this will be looked into as soon as possible.”
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “What might be useful is to conduct exit interviews from those who are leaving the profession, to drill down into why that is and to learn from their experiences. Then we could see if this is ‘natural wastage’ or if this is an expression of something more serious.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers were committed to maintaining the highest standards for all teachers, regardless of age.
He added: “We are investing heavily to help recruit and retain teachers. As a consequence of our actions, there are now more teachers in Scottish classrooms than at any time since 2011.
“Importantly, our education reforms will also create new opportunities for teachers to progress in their careers, for example by giving headteachers power over staffing decisions including whether to have new promoted posts such as principal subject teachers.”