There are many concerns for the education system in the UK, such as the rise of academies and the lack of school funding. One of the most pressing issues though is with teacher retention and well-being.

Now more than ever it is becoming increasingly difficult for schools and other educational institutions to hold onto their teachers, primarily as a result of low wages and lack of funding.

Schools in the UK haven’t received adequate funding in past years, and this has paved the way for all sorts of current educational issues. The school funding crisis is very real, and its effects can be seen at all levels of the education system in the UK.

The lack of investment has resulted in some subjects, particularly foreign languages, being removed from curricula. But arguably the bigger issue at stake here is that many teachers don’t feel like they are being well compensated for their efforts in and outside of the classroom.

This means that there are many unsatisfied educators who feel underappreciated and don’t have much incentive to stay in their jobs. This of course has a knock-on impact on teacher well being, which is something that needs to be addressed going forwards.

The Issue of Teacher Retention

Teacher pointing
There’s no doubt that right now teacher retention is a very real issue with growing discontentment in the ranks

Education unions across the country have suggested that many teachers are contemplating stepping down from their positions in schools.

The issue of teacher retention is one of the biggest issues in education today, and concerns over pay have left many teachers wondering whether it’s best to leave the profession.

The National Education Union carried out a survey of well over 25,000 educators in January 2020, which brought to light some sobering truths. In this survey, 63% of teachers interviewed suggested that they have thought about stepping down as a result of wage concerns.

One of the main issues amongst teachers in the UK is surrounding pay progression, and how there are limitations and restrictions.

Lack of Incentive

From the perspective of teachers, the biggest issue is arguably lack of incentive.

With major concerns around pay and pay progression, and large workloads, many teachers find themselves struggling to justify staying in the profession and understandably so.

While anyone can find satisfaction in the work they do, feeling like you’re undervalued in your work can decrease motivation substantially and lead to issues of stress and affect overall well being.

With the tempting alternative options for teachers such as becoming a private tutor or working online directly with students of all ages, it makes sense that many would reconsider their positions at schools.

Those who aspire to one day become teachers will surely be discouraged by the low pay and high workload that seems to come with working in schools in the UK these days.

As you can imagine, the issue of teacher retention is like a series of falling dominos which not only affects those currently in the profession but also those working towards it.

Why work towards a career in which many of those who work in it claim to be dissatisfied and on the edge of leaving?

There needs to be a real injection of funds from the government and restructuring of teacher pay if this issue is to be resolved.

This is an issue so great that it could affect the future of education in the UK, so it’s imperative that it is addressed sooner rather than later.

Pay Rise Demands

One potential solution has been proposed by the National Education Union which is to implement a pay increase of approximately 7% for teachers.

There needs to be more financial incentive to stay in the profession, otherwise the issue of teacher retention will only get worse, and the position of school teacher in the UK will become one of the least desirable jobs.

This is just one suggestion to address the issues with teacher pay that date all the way back to 2010.

This union as well as several others make the compelling case that teachers do a lot to shape the futures of the younger generations, and deserve the government’s full support to do so.

It’s one thing for a few disgruntled teachers to bemoan the large workloads and stress levels, but it's quite another to have more than 60% of 25,000 teachers claim in a survey that they have considered leaving the profession.

If pay rise demands aren’t met by the government, then we might see more teachers leave their positions and pursue other careers, leaving the education system worse off.

Teacher Well-Being

Man with post it notes
Many teachers are overwhelmed with stress with growing responsibilities

The other issue closely tied to the teacher retention crisis and the school funding crisis is that of teacher well being.

It is often thought by those who’ve never worked in education that the life of a teacher is an easy one.

All that’s required is that the teacher show up, read a textbook to a group of impeccably behaved children, and then go home at 2 or 3pm and be finished for the day.

This obviously isn’t the case, and many people grossly underestimate how much work goes into being a teacher.

Yes, the summer holidays are nice, but the day to day workload and stress of the average day at school for a teacher can be a lot to deal with.

Large Workloads

These days teachers are dealing with increasingly large workloads that they inevitably have to take home with them.

Perhaps the worst part of being a teacher is that there isn’t necessarily a time when the work day finishes.

Once home, the teacher has to go to work planning classes and trips, marking homework, and generally getting organised for the next day at school.

Being responsible for many students comes with a large number of responsibilities, including being available at all hours to address student and parent concerns.

This can take a toll on overall well being, since it can seem like there’s a never ending amount of work which more often than not snowballs heading into the weekend and creates sleepless nights and unusual work hours.

These large workloads are mainly the result of the funding crisis, since there are more pupils than ever yet most schools don’t have the finances to hire more teachers.

The concerns around pay exacerbate these workloads, as does the lack of investment in time-saving technology, make many teachers wonder whether it’s all worth it.

There’s also issues surrounding the mental health of teachers, many of which don’t have anyone they can turn to or any kind of support system to rely upon when the stress is overwhelming.

Potential Solutions

While a pay rise and a fairer system of pay progression would certainly help many teachers stay motivated, money isn’t always the answer when it comes to improving well being.

It’s definitely the best place to start though, since it will make it far easier for the dissatisfied teachers to feel more appreciated in the work that they do.

With the funds to hire more teachers and invest in technology that takes some of the burden of organisation from the teacher, there would likely be a boost to teacher morale.

On top of addressing the pay concerns, there are a few other ways to address and potentially improve teacher well being.

Coordination and Communication

The first is making sure that everyone in the education system is operating on the same wavelength and moving in the same direction.

If there is a lack of communication or transparency between teachers and schools, then dissatisfaction is inevitable when targets aren’t met academically or otherwise.

By coordinating the efforts of the boards and the teachers, a lot can be achieved, and teachers will feel like they are contributing to a common meaningful goal.

This will make it easier for teachers to help each other out and will remove doubt as to their performance in the classroom and confusion surrounding what they need to be doing.

Positive reinforcement, and critical analysis are crucial for keeping everyone on track in the workplace, and the school should be no exception.

Some schools seem to be made up of many individually-minded teachers, rather than a coordinated team of educators, which can prove to be an issue.

Support Systems for Teachers

friends together
Support from colleagues could be vital for teacher well being

Another potential way to boost teacher well being and the retention rate is to offer a solid support system to ensure everybody is doing okay.

Whether it’s as simple as a weekly check-in with each teacher or a group session once a month, it would be helpful for many teachers to be recognised for their individual efforts inside and outside the classroom.

If the teachers can work together with better communication, then issues with student behaviour, and workloads can be more easily addressed with a coordinated approach.

When everything seems to be going wrong and motivation is at an all-time low, teachers need to have a safety net in place which can catch them and assist if necessary.

Being detached or disconnected is a surefire way to feel isolated in your job, so some kind of support system for teachers could help ensure nobody falls through the cracks.

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Samuel

Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.