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How to Make Teaching an Attractive Career Choice

Date posted : 26 April 2024

The teacher recruitment crisis is a priority for school leaders across the country. In the 2021–22 academic year, 4000 teachers retired, and 9% of the teaching workforce resigned, marking the highest numbers since data collection began.

Schools in England have long faced a teacher supply issue. Government research indicates that teacher numbers have failed to keep pace with pupil numbers since 2011, with the issue being most severe in secondary schools. Education Policy Institute (EPI) findings show that secondary school pupil numbers are projected to rise, intensifying existing pressures. Attracting talented teachers to a career in schools remains a pressing concern, particularly for schools with rising pupil enrolments or staff approaching retirement age.

While the government tries to address areas of teacher recruitment through bursaries and scholarships, many believe more can be done to make teaching an attractive career choice for graduates and career changers.

A Prospects Luminate survey questioned students and graduates about what puts them off teaching as a career and what might make it more appealing. Half (51%) indicated that they had considered a teaching career but were deterred for these reasons:

  1. challenging student behaviour
  2. a lack of enjoyment for the role
  3. the heavy workload that teachers have

Just under one in ten (9%) cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a deterrent, feeling teachers weren’t adequately supported during this period.

Strategies for attention

How can schools make teaching an attractive career choice? Schools employ various strategies to make teaching an attractive profession. Many aim to support teacher wellbeing and improve job satisfaction. These could include:

Technology and tools

Investing in technology and teaching resources can create an engaging classroom environment for educators and learners. Tools including Quizlet, Google Forms, and Diagnostic Questions can save teachers time and reduce workload. A McKinsey report suggests that technology could handle up to 40% of teacher tasks, freeing up more time for direct engagement with students.

Workload

The government has noted workload as “the most frequently cited reason for teachers wanting to leave the profession” and has stated that it “is too high and must be reduced.” In 2018, the Government published a Workload Reduction Toolkit. The online resources included advice, tools, and case studies for school leaders to alleviate workload burdens.

The second 2023 Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) review looked at approaches to managing workload, emphasising its importance in making teaching attractive. The report states that teachers in schools with workload reduction strategies were more likely to express positivity about workload, autonomy, and job satisfaction. Addressing this issue and improving work-life balance can make teaching more attractive.

Beyond workload

Reducing teacher workload alone does not reduce turnover (Cohen 2005; See et al. 2020). Some studies highlight school environment factors, with school leadership often viewed as influential in determining the school ethos and working conditions.

Working environment

Improving the school working environment is one way to make teaching attractive. A positive working environment promotes teachers’ job satisfaction. Collaborative practices can reduce feelings of isolation and increase job satisfaction:

  • peer coaching
  • mentoring
  • collaborative activities

Teachers who are satisfied with their jobs are less susceptible to stress and burnout (Kyriacou 2001). This contributes to teacher wellbeing, and enhanced status of teaching (Toropova, Myrberg & Johansson 2021).

Wellbeing

Stress and burnout contribute to absenteeism and resignations. An indicator of a healthy work environment is low absenteeism. This can be addressed at school level by implementing strategies to promote mental and physical health.

In England, teacher wellbeing and mental health are education policy priorities in the Education Staff and Wellbeing Charter in 2021. It pledged to support teachers’ wellbeing by addressing workload and embedding wellbeing in teacher training.

Leadership support

Related to school working conditions are school leaders’ practices and administrative support. US studies on working conditions (Johnson, Kraft & Papay 2012) show the role of leadership support in influencing the school's working environment. They set the tone, culture, and ethos of the school.

The third Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) review, explores evidence based on school leadership for teacher retention. Effective leadership strategies to motivate teachers include:

  • prioritising teacher development
  • building a support system
  • promoting collegiality
  • maintaining a positive school climate a supportive and collaborative work environment

Regular check-ins, mentorship programmes, and a culture that values staff wellbeing can make a significant difference.

Work-Life balance

Teachers need time to recharge. Schools can introduce flexible working, reduce unnecessary admin, and ensure workloads are manageable. It can encourage a healthier work-life balance.

Flexible teaching

In 2023, three reports published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) explored flexible working, workload, leadership and culture as part of their 2023 research on teacher recruitment and retention. The first report claims that flexible working could improve teacher retention. Part-time or flexible working arrangements help make teaching an attractive career choice. Flexibility assists with wellbeing and helps create a diverse and inclusive workplace. It enables more people to teach.

Support staff

Teaching assistants (TAs) provide support to teachers and pupils. Besides helping reduce teacher workload they:

Supply teachers are also a vital resource for schools to fill teacher shortages, absences, and vacancies.

Tutors and tutoring programmes

Tutors give pupils individual attention they won’t get in a classroom. For disadvantaged pupils who cannot afford private tutoring, this helps raise attainment. Programmes like the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) can alleviate teacher workload; knowing there is support for learners who need it can help make teaching an attractive career choice.

Salaries and benefits

Offering competitive salaries is fundamental. Beyond that, providing comprehensive benefits packages, including pensions, healthcare, and opportunities for professional development, makes teaching more appealing.

Career progression and continuous professional development (CPD)

Teachers need ample opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills. CPD helps teachers grow in their careers and stay updated in education. Clear pathways for career advancement help attract teachers. Today’s educators need to know their careers can grow through:

  • leadership roles
  • subject specialisms
  • study opportunities
  • pursuing advanced degrees
  • attending workshops

Opportunities for non-teaching staff and teaching assistants to move into teaching roles are also beneficial. Greenleas Primary School in Leighton Buzzard has an inspiring story where Rebecca Clarke worked her way up from dinner lady to headteacher. This is a testament to the school’s commitment to career progression and a supportive work environment.

Teaching must be competitive with other occupations in attracting talented and motivated people. It is not a matter of having enough teachers; it is the quality of those teachers. Attracting the best educators and leaders, motivating them throughout their teaching careers and enabling them to use their skills is what makes a successful education system.

These examples show how schools help make teaching more attractive. In the quest to inspire the next generation, schools play a role in shaping the future of education. Headteachers and educational leaders must cultivate a work environment that attracts and retains top teaching talent.

Are you looking to begin, or expand your career in teaching? To help transform the lives of pupils nationwide, register here.

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