And what can be done to resolve this

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Einstein

In the UK, the rate of teachers leaving the profession is higher than it has ever been. This is not just a troubling fact for schools and the government, but directly impacts on students, parents and our future. A decrease in the number of available teachers will ultimately lead to not enough teachers for the student population. This is even more concerning as the number of students in schools today continues to grow. It is expected that the pupil numbers at secondary schools will spike by more than 500,000 to 3.3 million by 2025.

Regardless of how good any single teacher is, they cannot educate and assist all students. The question now is why is this happening and how can schools and government assist with teacher recruitment and retention.

A different perspective

Teachers are often regarded as selfless workers due to their profession. Although this may be true to a very large extent, they too have needs, desires and expectations from their careers. In my opinion, there are 3 simple ways government and schools can adapt to deal with recruitment and retention.

How would Herzberg look at this problem? 

Herzberg’s Motivation and Hygiene Theory describes how just the presence of motivation factors, such as responsibility, the teacher’s passion towards students and teaching, the opportunity to better a students life, etc. are important, but this is not enough. Though these are the factors which motivate teachers, the absence of what Herzberg characterizes as Hygiene Factors (which include, salary, working conditions, fringe benefits, etc.) cause dissatisfaction which can lead to demotivation. 

Three Steps for Change

1. Improve Working Conditions

The working conditions for teachers in UK today are challenging. Teachers often use their vacation time on either marking or planning for the upcoming term. Many teachers feel that they work more than contractually obliged, and this is only increasing. The unreasonable workload is not the only problem, increasing bureaucracy and scrutiny alongside a need to compare school performance data is another headache which keeps teachers awake at night. Furthermore, teachers are often not provided with the essential “tool for the trade” such as appropriate technology, solutions and equipment which can make their job less complicated and more efficient.

What schools and government can do?

Working conditions can be classified as a Hygiene Factor. School authorities need to provide teachers with the equipment they need, the right technology, etc. But most importantly, they need to help reduce the stress levels of teachers. Schools can include programs to help teachers decrease stress and share experience.

2. Salary

Lower salaries can be classified as another big reason behind lack of interest in the teaching field. Considering the amount time, energy and effort teachers put into their job, they are hardly being paid enough. According to Herberg’s Motivation Theory, this is another Hygiene Factor, and absence of this has caused dissatisfaction among the teachers reducing retention rates.

What schools and government can do?

This solution can be implemented quickly with sooner effective results. For students to receive the best of the education, teachers need to feel motivated, valued as well as rewarded for their extra efforts. The rewards can come in various forms. Salary increases are an option, but also combining this with greater overall benefits can lead to a change in perceived rewards.

A better package combined with friendly working conditions will encourage the current teachers to stay in their jobs as well as motivate recent graduates to apply for teaching jobs.

3. Grading system

Teachers are extremely unsatisfied by the grading system used by schools. The school authorities fail to understand what Einstein described so simply

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Especially in the current age of new innovations, it should be acknowledged that every child is different with different capabilities. Measuring success through redundant grading systems does not give teachers the flexibility to help students in their fields of interest. With a better understanding of the needs of students, teachers can create more helpful and suitable curriculums.

As one former teacher, Zoe Brown, who quit last year, told The Independent: “In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all anymore. I prepare children for tests and, if I’m honest, I do it quite well. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, as it’s not as if I have provided my class with any transferable, real-life skills during the process. They’ve not enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it, but we’ve done it: one thing my children know how to do is answer test questions.”

What schools and government can do

Grading only on academic outcomes will not be enough. Schools should increase teaching in areas such as design, technology, art, music, drama and sports and make these more an integral part of school life. Having a range of fields to select from students will be able to choose better, perform better and ultimately succeed better in life. This further allows teachers to provide better attention to student improvement rather than just preparing them for academic grading. Teachers should be encouraged to build innovative methods of teaching; as well as increasing job satisfaction, this will create more engaged students, and lead to better outcomes for both students and teachers.

I found the following video on YouTube the other day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqTTojTija8), it resonates well; without the courage to make the necessary changes to the current system we may well find another 150 years pass with minimal innovation.

At Strategic Discourse, we provide our education clients with the assistance to recognise issues, develop sustainable change programmes which innovate, and – ultimately – provide both the student and the teacher with better outcomes.

Would you like to take the first step and step into the new future?