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How to Get out of Teaching: A Guide to Leaving the National Teacher Service

From Jon, published on 30/06/2017 Blog > Tutoring > Advice for Tutors > Resigning from Teaching: How to Proceed?

Teaching is a career that has many rewards; aside from the long holidays and fairly short school days, it can be a very fulfilling career – you really can make a positive difference to a child’s life.

It can also be a rather exhausting one, which has traditionally been low paid. Just two of the reasons many teachers give for leaving.

What with report writing, marking, parents’ evenings and lesson planning, the behind the scenes so to speak, of being a teacher, the work life balance is not balanced at all but falls heavily on the work side of the scale.

Little wonder therefore that many teachers are unhappy in their choice of career and looking to retrain in a different field.

leaving teaching what next? Teachers are feeling increased pressure and stress in their profession. (Photo via Visualhunt.com)

Perhaps you are thinking about resigning from the National Teaching Service or perhaps you are already working through your notice period, whichever it is, you are certainly not alone in wanting to leave.

In 2014 there was a 10 year high in the UK, with nearly 50,000 teachers leaving the profession. 

Statistics released from the Department of Education show that this mass exodus equated to around 1 in 12 full time teachers, roughly 4,000 leaving for each month of the year.

Newly qualified teachers are faring no better; 40% leave within a year of qualifying and another study carried out by the Guardian last year, revealed that half of England’s teachers plan to leave teaching within the next 5 years.

This will do little to lighten the spirits of the already put upon, hard-working teachers who remain and with pupil numbers set to increase over the next few years if this trend continues then there will be a serious teacher shortage.

What Reasons do Teachers Cite for Leaving the Teaching Profession?

Poor pay, long hours and ever increasing workloads are generally to blame for teachers leaving the profession, along with the constant changes in curriculum and the huge amounts of data that teachers are now expected to collect and record for each pupil.

Stress is also a major reason for leaving the teaching profession, along with the unequal work/life balance.

There is also the ever-increasing levels of bad classroom behavior and lack of respect from both pupils and their parents alike. An interesting article in the Guardian is dedicated to the many reasons given for quitting teaching. Sometimes it just feels like an uphill battle.

Physically, working in a school can also be rather tedious. Sometimes it feels as if your life is ruled by a bell. The bell rings and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, you go running to where you need to be. There is no flexibility on time; you know exactly where you will be at what time, also what you will be doing. School life can make you feel rather institutionalized. Some people may like this aspect of teaching, while others may find it suffocating, making them feel a little like robots.

Before you resign however, you need to think about what exactly you are going to do for work. Do you have any savings and if so how long would they support you for if you were out of work? What financial commitments do you have? Do you need to find work immediately or can you afford to pick and choose?


leaving-teaching-learning-new-skills Training after teaching. Source: VisualHunt, Geralt

Obviously, if you are retiring then this is not necessary but if you are going to be looking for work then you need to think about what you would like to do and what is available.

Having a degree can lead to many opportunities in the business and marketing world and having teaching experience is viewed as a positive. Your area of particular knowledge will also have possibilities; instead of teaching English you could become a freelance writer for example or having been a science teacher you may find work easily in conservation.

How Do You Resign from teaching?

When you resign from tutoring jobs or elsewhere,  you will need to write a letter stating clearly that you are resigning and give the actual date of the resignation. It is important to know that there is a requirement of at least half a terms’ notice and that teachers are generally only permitted to resign from their posts at the end of a term, there is no right to leave at the end of a half term unless this is mutually agreed by the teacher and the school.

Therefore, for resignations and notice periods, the dates of the three school terms are:

  • 1 September to 31 December (inclusive) for the autumn term;
  • 1 January to 30 April (inclusive) for the spring term;
  • 1 May to 31 August (inclusive) for the summer term.

So, if you want to leave at the end of the school year (31 August), you need to give your notice in no later than 31 May.

Likewise, for leaving at the end of a calendar year (31 December), your resignation must be made by 31 October and to be able to leave by 30 April, the end of the spring term, you must hand your notice in by 28 February,

Head teachers are obliged to give three months’ notice for the autumn and spring terms and four months’ notice for the summer term.

If the deadline for notice is missed, it should be noted that teachers will not automatically have the right to leave before the end of the next term, unless a mutual agreement is made with the school. The same period of notice is also required for teachers who are on maternity leave and who no longer wish to return to work.

Make sure you know what severance pay you are entitled to, no matter the circumstances or reasons for leaving.

The Letter of Resignation

The tone you convey in your letter of resignation will very much depend upon the reason behind your leaving. If it is because you have alternative jobs for teachers in a different field then you can say that. If, however it is because you hate your job, you can no longer bear being a teacher or you can’t stand the head teacher or your head of department, it is probably better to keep these reasons to yourself.

You never know what might happen in the future, one day may wish to return to teaching or you might need a reference from said detested person, so there’s no use in burning your bridges so to speak. The best bet, according the the TES, is to keep the letter concise, formal and neutral. Ideally you wish to leave the head teacher with a positive view of you, so that in the future if you ever need a reference from them they will give you a good one.

Sometimes it may be necessary to say it how it is though this should only be done in exceptional circumstances, for instance if you are quitting the profession for good and cannot ever envisage needing a reference from the head. Offloading like this can be a positive experience for some people and may even draw attention to discrepancies and problems within the school and or profession, although it is best if it is not too personal.

When you hand the letter in, give it to the head teacher in person and pick a time when they are not about to rush off to a meeting so that you can talk with them a while. Again, this will convey a positive image of you in their mind.

leaving on good terms Leaving teaching on amicable terms. Source: Visual Hunt, franchiseopportunitiesphotos

At the end of the day, for whatever reasons you have decided to resign from the National Teaching Service and even if you have another job lined up and you are working through your notice period, counting the days until you can leave, try your utmost to be present at school every day and to do good work, your students at least, deserve it.

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