70pc of new teachers in Norfolk say they’re thinking of leaving profession

Education secretary Nicky Morgan. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Education secretary Nicky Morgan. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Norfolk's teacher recruitment crisis could be deepened by a growing number of teachers who are thinking of leaving the profession, an exclusive EDP survey has revealed.

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The online survey, carried out with teaching unions and which nearly 450 teachers completed, also highlighted the growth of mental health problems among staff and pupils, high levels of teachers feeling intimidated by parents, and an overwhelming lack of trust in the school inspectorate, Ofsted.

However, there was more positive signs in the 54pc of respondents who said they thought, overall, education in Norfolk was improving.

Teachers leaving


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Last year, Norfolk headteachers said that recruiting suitable staff was the biggest challenge facing education in the county.

Today's survey suggests the problem of attracting new staff could be exacerbated by large numbers of Norfolk's existing teachers thinking of leaving the classroom, at a time when pupil numbers are on the increase.

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Overall, 64pc of teachers said they were considering leaving the profession within the next three years.

Unsurprisingly, the figure was highest among those approaching retirement ago, but education leaders will be worried that the second highest figure – 69pc – was among those in just their second year of teaching.

Russell Hammond, of the NASUWT union, said: 'It's the newly-qualified teachers who are coming into the profession with significant debt, and they are finding it more and more difficult to get a house they can afford, and there has not been a significant rise in pay for a number of years.

'As the economy improves, there's that driver to look for work outside teaching.'

More than 60pc of teachers who completed the survey said they worked more than 50 hours in the average term-time week.

Chrissie Smith, of the NUT, said she had spoken to newly-qualified teachers who said they went home and cried 'most nights'.

Scott Lyons, also of the NUT, said: 'For parents, it's going to be a carousel of teachers in their child's lives, and larger classes and closing schools.'

Pressure to inflate results

There are fewer subjects more sensitive than suspicions that some schools or teachers may boost their pupils' results by underhand means.

It is a topic some teachers describe as an open secret but will not discuss publicly, but in the anonymity of the online survey, 45pc of teachers said they had been put under pressure to inflate the results of some assessments, coursework or exams.

More than half of primary school teachers who took part – 51pc – said they had experienced this pressure, while the figure for high school teachers was 41pc.

One teacher, who asked not to be named, said she had helped pupils rewrite their course work multiple times, up to the day before the deadline for submission.

She said: 'I did far more than I was supposed to do, and it was under duress. It was far more than the exam boards say you should do.

'The biggest problem that teachers have is when they realise other schools are cheating. If my kids are not getting better grades because they are not cheating, you feel you are letting them down.'

The EDP has heard allegations of teachers being told to increase predicted grades to make the school look good – and then being penalised when they pupils did not meet them, pupils putting pressure on a subject teacher to improve their grades because they knew a colleague in another class was 'cheating', and teachers who lost their jobs after they refused to cheat.

Binks Neate-Evans, chairman of the Norfolk Primary Heads' Association, said the situation was more complex than the headline figures suggested, but added the pressure to inflate grades could come from external pressure schools are under. She added: 'It's a really sad that schools have found themselves in that position and I think it's very sad that headteachers have found that they are in that position.'

Teachers facing intimidation

Of those who took the survey, 44pc of teachers said they had suffered intimidation from parents in the past year.

Binks Neate-Evans said: 'Certainly it exists, and I think it had been on the increase. I talk to a lot of heads and hear of a number of cases where leaders have felt under unbelievable amounts of pressure because of the way some parents are treating the school.

'On occasion, that's because families are not wanting to take responsibility for their child, and they find it easier to blame the school.'

Teaching union leaders said the finding echoed what they hear from their members, and said a lot of the increase was due to social media, and, especially, Facebook.

Individual cases they had seen included teachers who confiscated mobile phones from pupils being confronted by parents, on school grounds, within 15 minutes.

Bob Groome, of the ATL, said his union was investigating the legality of using technology to jam mobile phones in schools, while Scott Lyons, of the NUT, said he was going around schools to highlight the importance of eSafety issues.

Reasons the cheerful?

One note of optimism was struck by the finding that 54pc of teachers thought education in Norfolk is improving, with primary school teachers more positive than their high school counterparts.

Binks Neate-Evans said the other survey results 'should not deflect from the positive trajectory in Norfolk schools'. She added: 'There is a lot of very, very good work going on in Norfolk now, and it's an exciting time to join the workforce here.'

Ian Clayton, principal of Thorpe St Andrew School, said: 'Even on a bad day, it's still the best blinking job in the world.'

See tomorrow's EDP coverage for increasing reports of mental health problems in the classroom, a chairman of governors' call for more action to be taken, and education secretary Nicky Morgan's response to our survey.

Are you a teacher who has experienced any of these issues? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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