The teaching crisis is ongoing, and despite the fact we’re all fully aware of the issues in play the only progress we seem to be making is on developing new statistics which further cement the woes and hardships our current teachers are facing - we are no closer to resolving the issues at hand.
However, in the midst of all the disheartening statistics, there was one that stood out as it seemed to shed some light on how the government could start making steps to resolve this crisis. £555m is spent having to train new teachers to make up for the amount of teachers leaving the profession, while only £91k is spent on retention.
What this statistic tells us, is that our efforts are misguided and that it’s perhaps the lack of attention we’re paying to retaining our current teachers that is leading us further down the rabbit hole of the crisis. If we were to put more money into retention, the impact it could have on our schools could be huge.
Skilled teachers who have been in the profession for a substantial amount of time have tried and tested techniques that help students to achieve their potential. In addition to this, the benefits of students having regular teachers are massive - part and parcel of discovering what works best for individual students is building relationships with them, finding what teaching style is best suited to their learning needs and creating a bond which allows students to put their trust in teachers, and this trust is something that extends beyond the walls of the classroom.
Teachers have been, and will continue to be, an authority figure that students can confide in - whether that’s problems at home, troubles in school or coming to terms with personal issues, students feel comfortable talking to their teachers if they have fostered this bond. If we want the best for our students academically and personally, we need to be doing all that we can to help foster these relationships.
What’s more is that focusing our efforts on retention will directly impact teachers’ wellbeing. If the biggest barrier to retention is teacher workload and money was being spent on solutions that have been proven to address this, this would over time help to improve teachers’ work-life balance and alleviate stress. Or, even if money was directly focused on improving teachers’ wellbeing by investing in initiatives that were aimed at increasing staff happiness, there would be more of an incentive for teachers to remain in their positions.
The thought process behind spending more money on training new teachers to start work in an environment that veteran teachers are having to leave seems absurd. If we’re sending new teachers into a sinking ship they are of course going to jump overboard, which is what we’ve seen with 4 in 10 NQTs quitting within the first year of work. In order to create a working environment in which new teachers are willing to stay and progress, we first need to address the existing issues, one of the most crucial being teacher wellbeing.
Of course, these solutions are always easier to type than they are to put into practice. However, if we talk collectively about these issues and bring these statistics and facts to the forefront of people's minds we can help to create discussion and raise awareness. Even without the government’s input we can start to focus on the wellbeing of teachers in a bid to increase retention and reduce teacher stress such as encouraging the practice of mindfulness, training teachers on more time-effective ways of providing feedback and as always, leading by example.