Do 40% of teacher quit in their first five years?

When the HMCI makes a statement such as ‘we invest so much in teacher training and yet an estimated 40% of new entrants leave within five years’ it much be taken as being authoritative, and presumably correct. However, it is worth digging a bit more deeply into the data to see what actually happens to new teachers. Fortunately, the DfE published a detailed analysis of a cohort in their review of the first School Work Force Survey of 2010. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182407/DFE-RR151.pdf

According to the DfE’s analysis of 100 entrants to training, 56 would still be teaching in the state-funded sector five years later, and another six would be teaching in the non-maintained sector; others might be teaching abroad or in the further education sector, possibly in a sixth form college. So, the 40% looks like an upper limit on the number leaving post-qualification.

What is more interesting is the loss after actually entering the profession. According to the DfE analysis, only 4 of the 47 postgraduates that found a teaching job left after five years, and the number of undergraduates was actually greater by one at the five year point than the number counted at the first year after training; presumably as late entrants found a teaching job. This analysis, therefore, points to the greatest loss being between training and employment. Indeed, of the 63 postgraduates that completed training only 47 will be teaching in publicly-funded schools a year after training, along with 12 of the 17 undergraduate completers.

So, is this loss of around a quarter immediately after training a matter for concern? Much may depend upon whether during the period of the DfE analysis too many teachers were being trained. Hopefully, some decided after completing the course that teaching wasn’t the career for them. Other students, especially mature students, may be tied to a particular location, and just haven’t seen a job in their subject advertised yet.

Indeed, since HMCI Annual Reports in recent years have said how good new teachers are, it seems a little odd to suggest there might have been a dip in quality recently. HMCI cannot have his cake and eat it. Either he repudiates publicly the work of his predecessors or he explains what evidence he had to use for his speech to the North of England Education Conference.

Personally, in the new world where many schools sail alone, I think it is important to ensure adequate professional development for new teachers. The audit trail will quickly reveal whether it is during training or afterwards that problems arise. What is more important is for the evidence of any systemic weakness during training to be fed back into consideration of how teacher preparation might evolve. For instance, more time in the classroom might not improve classroom management outcomes unless it is associated with the time spent on the theory and techniques of behaviour management, and the part played by good subject knowledge and an understanding of young people. If, as a result, HMCI decides to tell the government that the present one-year course, especially for new primary schools teachers needs a complete overhaul, I would be delighted.

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