The teaching profession needs to hang on to more of its bright newly qualified teachers (NQTs), as well as to ensure that all staff remain motivated and committed to their careers. Headteacher Anne Clarke outlines how it’s done.

Research tells us that around a third of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) leave the teaching profession during their first three years. At Benton Park we have been very impressed with the quality of young teachers entering the profession. So how do schools nurture this talent and keep teachers in the classroom?

Reasons for leaving
It is important to ask the question: ‘What are the reasons for new recruits leaving the profession so soon?’ Then perhaps we can be proactive in stemming the tide of departure. We are told that money is not a factor. Qualified teachers now earn over £19,000 on entering the profession, which may not be as high a salary as in other walks of life, but does not fall behind all professions. As far as conditions are concerned, one cannot deny that the holidays are a bonus, whichever way you look at it. If money is not a factor, then what is?

One factor cited, by some recruits, is the poor behaviour of pupils. Schools need to have systems in place to support NQTs during their first years of teaching, and help with behavioural issues is paramount. If there is a clear discipline policy in place, understood by the pupils, and adhered to by all the staff, then all teachers’ lives should be more bearable. A new teacher experiencing disruptive pupils decimating their well-prepared lessons and undermining their hard work can feel helpless and downhearted. The role of the head of department is vital in supporting new staff and helping them to understand that many teachers experience teething problems until they are established. This will help confidence to grow and will encourage new teachers to stay in the profession.

‘The major factor in encouraging young teachers to leave the profession appears to be the lack of a “work-life” balance’

‘Work-life’ balance The major factor in encouraging young teachers to leave the profession appears to be the lack of a ‘work-life’ balance. I have spoken to young people who have left the profession after three or four years and this is the reason they have given. After a day in the classroom, they want to go home to relax, not to mark books and prepare lessons all evening. In helping teachers to develop a ‘work-life’ balance, the ‘workforce reform’ initiative should help. At Benton Park we have moved swiftly along the path of ‘workforce reform’, feeling it has many benefits in improving the teachers’ working day and, as a spin-off, their evenings.

Hopefully, the moves (listed below) to make the life of the teacher run more smoothly will help to keep young teachers in the profession, by helping them to complete most of their work during the day and thus allowing them to develop a life away from school. We have:

  • given staff 10% PPA (preparation, planning and assessment) time, a year ahead of the statutory deadline
  • employed two full-time and two part-time cover supervisors to enable us to meet the requirement that staff do not have to do more than 38 hours of cover a year
  • taken on external invigilators to avoid staff having to pace up and down a sports hall or similar examination venue
  • employed reprographics officers to photocopy work for staff and to help them to prepare resources
  • appointed a behaviour officer to take over some of the pastoral duties
  • shortened the school day – we now finish at 2.45 pm, when it used to be 4pm, but with an earlier start
  • reduced the number of reports issued a year, whilst still ensuring that we meet statutory guidelines
  • put parents’ evenings on straight after school, so that staff still have some of their evening left.

If new recruits join a school with this level of support, hopefully they can plan the demands of the job sufficiently to give themselves quality time in the evenings.

Being proactive – CPD Today, with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), National College for School Leadership (NCSL) and their tailored leadership programmes of Fast Track for qualified teachers, Leading from the Middle (LftM) for middle leaders, and the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) for senior staff, there has been a move to encourage teachers to think of the future, to plan their careers, and to provide them with the leadership programmes to enable them to reach headship, if that is their desired goal.

Even if staff choose to stop at head of department level or at deputy headship, they will still have benefited from having followed these leadership programmes, and so will their institutions. They will have had the chance to follow bespoke courses, to have had access to tailor-made resources, to have trained with like-minded people, and to feel motivated by feeling part of an institution that cares enough to put them through these programmes.

CPD and the NQTs On 9 June 2005 changes to the Fast Track teaching programme were announced. The programme is to be refocused as a leadership development programme and will no longer recruit teacher trainees. We engaged with the programme because it provides a wide range of tailored opportunities for teachers to broaden their experience of leadership in schools and it will still continue to do that.

Two years ago in order to motivate our excellent new staff, the deputy head (personnel) encouraged them to apply for the then fairly new Fast Track programme. Two of them were successful in their applications and have thoroughly enjoyed their involvement with the programme. They have particularly appreciated networking with other Fast Track teachers and have found the quality of the courses excellent. According to the Fast Track website (www.fasttrackteaching.gov.uk) ‘evaluation shows that Fast Track is having a positive effect and that qualified teachers can have a significant leadership impact within a year of joining the programme’. This has certainly been our experience. One of our Fast Track teachers has gained an internal promotion to head of department, and the other has been promoted to head of year at another school. We may not have retained her at Benton Park, but maybe we have kept her in the profession.

Fast Track is not the only way in which we have supported our NQTs. Another of them has been accepted on the National Teacher Research Panel. The panel acts as an expert voice on teacher research in many contexts and this work also makes a substantial contribution to panel members’ own professional learning. The ‘Graduate Teacher Programme’ has also been successful in bringing good graduates into the profession. We have employed all the GTPs who have trained with us, with the exception of one who was snapped up elsewhere. Our loss, their gain!

‘If staff are to feel part of a developing institution then they need to see that staff at the “top of the tree” are still motivated and interested in CPD’

CPD and the ‘Middle Leaders’ If our new staff feel well supported and see a career path opening up before their eyes, then it is imperative that they do not suddenly feel in a cul-de-sac, and that those staff who join us at middle leadership level, or are promoted to that level, can see a career progression.

For this reason we have become involved in the NCSL’s Leading from the Middle (LftM) programme. As head, I am a tutor on the programme. We have deputy heads and assistant heads, who have themselves completed NPQH, and who are coaches, three staff who have completed the course, and eleven who have started the programme. Once again, participants have access to quality training materials, have the chance to train with colleagues from other schools, and to develop an aspect of their work back at their own institution. Staff who can add ‘LftM’ to their list of qualifications are in a better position to make successful applications for both internal and external promotions.

CPD and enhanced career opportunities If staff are to feel part of a developing institution then they need to see that staff at the ‘top of the tree’ are still motivated and interested in CPD. As head, I am a tutor on the NPQH programme, and have encouraged all the members of the leadership group to take the qualification. They have now all graduated, and there is now a senior teacher completing the ‘Access Stage’, and two more senior staff about to apply. They are excellent role models for the less experienced staff, and are putting their experience back into the system by being coaches on the ‘LftM’ programme.

All this training, appreciated for its intrinsic value, should enhance career opportunities either internally or externally. At Benton Park with the investment that we have placed on training, we have seen the benefits in terms of promotions. The following analysis speaks for itself:

An increase in investment in CPD has quite clearly doubled both the number of internal and external promotions and has impacted on both the retention and motivation of staff.

Can we be too good at retaining staff?
There can be a downside for staff who stay too long in the same school. Details for job applications, more often than not, require a person to have worked in more than one school, while career paths within a school might be blocked because those above are not moving. Some long-serving staff may therefore become frustrated. However, those who use training opportunities, keep themselves fresh and motivated, and ‘deliver the goods in the classroom’, are still an asset to the school.

Creating the right balance
Schools can aim to keep the excellent NQTs in the profession by supporting their teaching, and by providing them with supportive CPD opportunities. To keep staff motivated, so that pupils get the best they deserve, these CPD opportunities need to continue within a developing institution. The school itself needs to be moving forward with an ambitious School Development Plan, and with a CPD programme that supports both this and the individual. However, for staff who are ambitious, it is important that they do not stay too long in the same school, in case this prevents them from going as far as they want to go in their career.

As with anything, there has to be a balance. For the school, it is good to have a turnover of staff to bring in fresh ideas, but not so huge a change that it shatters continuity. Individuals need support to move schools, if that is their wish, or the opportunity of training or internal promotions, if they want to stay. It is then up to the individual to make that choice. At some point, no matter how supportive an institution is, people have to take some responsibility for their own future.

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