Reduced workload and better support for wellbeing key to retaining teachers | Education Support Partnership

Reduced workload and better support for wellbeing key to retaining teachers

24th February 2017

Latest research identifies and explores possible solutions to education’s ongoing retention and recruitment crisis

A quarter of senior school leaders across the UK (27%) have said they don’t expect to be working in education beyond the next one to two years. At the same time, an overwhelming majority (79%) say a reduction in workload could positively influence them to stay, according to startling new figures revealed today (Friday 24th February) by the charity Education Support Partnership.  

Responding to questions commissioned by the leading support charity as part of a YouGov TeacherTrack survey, only 7% of primary and secondary teachers and leaders said that ‘nothing’ would positively influence them or others to stay in the profession.

Over a third of all 865 teachers and school leaders surveyed (44%) said they don’t expect to be working in the sector beyond five years, but as stress levels in the sector soar, the vast majority identified lessening workload and better support in the workplace as top positive influencing factors to keeping them in the job:

  • 44% of respondents said better workplace support for their personal wellbeing could help keep them in the profession; 
  • 36% said greater job flexibility, including options to work part-time, job shares and flexible hours would be a positive factor to stay;
  • Interestingly, 41% of the survey’s respondents also stated that a more positive public perception of what it is like to work in education (better public recognition, media stories and national teaching awards) might also influence them to stay, suggesting that some external social factors might also influence how they feel as much as government and school policy.

The findings come amidst mounting pressures on school leaders and teachers to deliver more with less resource, as school budgets are squeezed and expectations of staff grow. Victoria, a head of Geography in a secondary school is typical of many teachers we speak to. She had reached a crisis when she called our helpline. She told us:  

“I was teaching Geography, History and ICT at KS4 and Humanities at KS3. The workload was constant. I just couldn’t meet the expectations in the time available each week, both in and out of working hours. Despite asking for support to identify where I could cut it down, I received no guidance. It carried on like this for two years. I was having anxiety attacks and broke down at school. Without help I would never have stayed in teaching. ”

The survey forms the latest stage of a national consultation launched by the Education Support Partnership last January with the aim of identifying what some of the solutions might be to solving the recruitment and retention crisis. The feedback garnered then formed part of the charity’s #NotQuittingTeaching campaign, designed in response to the overwhelmingly negative backdrop the sector finds itself set against with a view to supporting existing and attracting more new teachers to the profession by working together.

Commenting on the findings, Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership said:

“These findings bear out what so many tell us when they call in crisis: that many staff working at every level in schools are feeling overwhelmed. Particularly worrying is the evidence that, indicative of the pressures so many tell us they are experiencing, many senior leaders, those who are likely to have immense experience, are increasingly saying ‘enough is enough.’

“Pressure on teacher wellbeing is at an all-time high but despite this, teachers and school leaders are telling us yet again, that when properly supported, individuals are far more likely to stay. We need to stop seeing teachers as cogs in wheels.  These findings serve to highlight just how urgently we must address workload to improve retention. We must listen to teachers and school leaders to put clear support in place. Only when we do this will we have positive, resilient staff who in turn can produce happy, thriving schools, pupils and students.

“That’s why last year we launched our #NotQuittingTeachingCampaign, recognising the importance of actively supporting teacher wellbeing. The Prime Minister has recognised that mental health has been ‘dangerously disregarded’ as secondary to physical health and committed the Government to improving mental health services in the community, schools and workplaces. Action must be taken to demonstrate we value the great experience and talent of teachers, support staff and school leaders. If not, we risk losing them.”

The findings also reflect analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research[1] last autumn which identified that being well-supported was a key factor associated with the successful retention of teachers.  Their research published last autumn found that while the majority of teachers aren’t thinking of leaving, this figure is growing but there is a strong relationship between retention and teacher engagement and ultimately wellbeing. 


Notes to editors:

Education Support Partnership is a charity that was established 140 years ago to offer support and guidance specifically for those working in the education sector, from lunch time supervisor to teacher, from FE college tutor to University Professors and everyone in between.

We provide support regarding the emotional health, wellbeing of education staff as well as professional and organisational development. This includes a free, 24/7 helpline, telephone counselling, money management, grants, peer to peer support groups, coaching, employee assistance programmes, training, information and signposting to schools and colleges across the UK.

To get support call: 08000 562 561 or to find out visit our telephone support page

Tel 020 76972756/ out of hours 07814 515984 

YouGov: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 865 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the UK teaching population by phase and region.

[1] National Foundation for Educational Research report Engaging Teachers – NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention was published 09.09.16