17th May 2021
It is no secret that teachers’ salaries do not reflect their work — many are primarily attracted to teaching for the love of the job, with a desire to make a real impact on the lives of others. But after the toughest school year, many teachers will have ever faced, the love for teaching may not be enough. During the pandemic, teachers have undergone an unprecedented amount of stress and have additional responsibilities that continue to mount. A recent poll by the National Education Union found that one in three teachers plan to quit.
Coupled with this, we need teachers more than ever. Students have suffered and high-quality teaching will help them enormously in the years that follow.
What will it take to keep teachers in a role that is so vital to our society? One answer is to prioritise professional development. Recent studies have shown that professional development is linked to a stronger intention to stay in teaching.
There are a number of benefits for continuing professional development, and in turn, these benefits can help to keep teachers in the profession.
The latest National Education Union survey found that of 10,000+ school and college staff polled, 95% of teachers are currently worried about the impact of teaching on their wellbeing. Associated with mental health, wellbeing is imperative. If teachers have a good sense of wellbeing, they are more likely to be resilient to any stress the job might bring, and therefore less likely to jump ship. Continued learning and development also provides a teacher with a sense of purpose and increases their confidence in their ability. This holds the potential to help with retention, with the teacher much happier in the role.
Becoming an expert in certain aspects of teaching, whether it is to support those with a learning disability or to focus on a specific subject area, can also serve to increase confidence, self-esteem and job satisfaction.
Teachers need to have their efforts recognised to encourage them to stay in the profession. Recognising and rewarding their expertise is crucial to this, making the teachers feel valued.
With any job role, there is a danger of feeling stagnant if there have been no opportunities for career development and this can lead to a lack of motivation, engagement and productivity. Teachers will be more engaged at work if they know they can grow within their role, rather than feeling that they’re constantly hitting their heads on the ceiling. Ensuring teaching staff progress and constantly strive to improve through professional development keeps teachers feeling fresh and up to date with the latest pedagogy research. As a bonus, if the staff are happy, the school will get a reputation for being a great place to work.
Even if a teacher isn’t in a management role within the school, teachers are leaders of their classrooms and need to progress and maintain their leadership skills through professional development. Schools can provide teachers with career opportunities by opening up leadership opportunities within the school and giving teachers something extra to stay motivated for. This approach will also allow teachers’ voices to be heard — they can have an input into what happens in their school.
The leadership roles do not have to be in the school office, they can be roles such as mentor, induction facilitator or peer observer, but they are all areas where professional development will be vital. There could even be a role for a professional development facilitator!
Teacher autonomy has been linked to a desire to stay in the profession. A teacher’s need for control over their own professional development goal setting is particularly important. A recent study by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that although teachers reported a high level of autonomy in the classroom, they felt they were lacking autonomy regarding their professional development goals.
This research provides an incentive for schools to review and prioritise professional development and to make certain that teaching staff are given a high level of autonomy over their professional development goal setting.
By providing professional development opportunities, you can retain teaching staff by ensuring that they are engaged, motivated and resilient to stress, while also attracting prospective teachers.
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