Work­load, stress and pay blamed for ex­o­dus of teach­ers

Shock rise in num­bers quit­ting the pro­fes­sion aged just 45 and over

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW DENHOLM JAMES MCENANEY

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.”

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