Low pay, high workload and the testing regime have caused a crisis of recruitment and retention in education—and its having a huge impact on students and workers. The situation is so bad that 41 percent of teachers and 48 percent of support staff plan to quit and find a new job within five years.
Those are the findings of the NEU union’s state of education survey of almost 18,000 teachers, released during its conference in Harrogate this week. Teacher and delegate Annie told Socialist Worker, “Nobody wants to become a teacher anymore, it’s not a profession people hold their whole lives anymore.
“When you have a university degree that has put you into huge amounts of debt, why would you want to go into a low paid job? I wanted to become a teacher because I know the difference a good education can make, that’s what my colleagues say too,”
“We have had several people leave my school—especially teaching assistants—because the cost of trying to make that difference is too high.”
Since the pandemic 66 percent of teachers have seen an increase in the amount of staff leaving. Many have gone on to higher paid jobs as 85 percent of teachers have been forced to reduce home heating and a quarter of staff have skipped meals.
One teacher in the survey says, “The constant good will required in order to do the job is no longer viable. I feel like I’m constantly living on the edge of a breakdown, but I have no choice but to carry on. My wage no longer lasts the month and I am constantly overdrawn.”
Another added, “I regularly use food banks because my salary doesn’t cover my outgoings, including rent, electric and gas bills. It’s embarrassing that I’m a teacher, thought to be a respectable well-paid job, but I can’t afford to live.”
Annie said that the situation is a “vicious circle”. “When teachers leave, our workload goes up—that has a huge impact because more then want to leave,” she said. “What is sometimes overlooked by the media and press when members talk about retention is the impact on children. Less staff means children don’t receive the quality of education that they deserve.”
Alongside workload and the impact on mental health, 39 percent of teachers say pay is a factor forcing them to leave. One in five education workers have taken on a second job to make ends meet. But not everyone has the time to take on a second job. The additional responsibilities in schools tend to be taken up by women, black and young teachers.
This survey highlights the importance of the NEU strikes for a fully funded government pay rise—and escalating them to win.
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