It's no secret that teachers are challenged by many circumstances both inside and outside the classroom, and many may wonder about their long-term prospects in the profession.
Difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers can add pressures on existing staff, and classroom numbers, unruly pupil behaviour, Ofsted visits, and changes to the curriculum all take their toll on teacher wellbeing, which in turn can impact educational standards.
That said, teaching is still one of the most rewarding careers, in more ways than one: it provides the chance to inspire the next generation, contributes to the success of the wider school community, and is well compensated, with great benefits including a robust pension and several weeks' holiday each year.
Teachers switch schools or roles for a lot of reasons, but to understand the main motivations, we asked teachers why they would consider looking for pastures new:
Symptoms of burnout and feeling unsupported
Everyone deserves fair treatment and to feel valued at work. In the face of relentless pressures such as overwork, it can be challenging for even the most experienced of teachers to maintain professional standards and a positive attitude. A pay rise will not make ever-increasing workloads easier to bear, change workplace culture, or improve how you feel day-to-day.
If you have already raised your concerns with senior leaders, and how it’s affecting your abilities to do your job, it may be time to look for a new role at a school that demonstrates more commitment to teacher health and wellbeing. It’s important to note that stress and burnout can cloud our judgment, impact our decision-making, and make situations seem worse than they are. Before leaping, talk to a career coach, counsellor, or colleagues to help you gain clarity and perspective. They may have experiences, ideas, and solutions that may help resolve your most difficult issues. Prioritising your health trumps all but avoid making rash decisions.
Limited opportunities for career development
The job may be good, the school right, but career progression seems lacking. Promotion - or the experience needed to gain it – might lie elsewhere. While it's common for teachers to want to put down roots early on in their careers, a fresh start can bring fresh opportunities. Consider different types of schools that may provide a new challenge to hone your skills - could you learn more in an inner-city school than a rural one, broaden your experience at a school in special measures, or find more reward working in a SEND school? It could even just mean moving to a larger school with more students.
With all the pressures facing teachers across the sector, it can be tempting to stay put if colleagues and workplace culture are good. However, all teachers should be encouraged to spread their wings and engage in professional development, increasing skills in communication, classroom technology, behavior management, and listening. If there is resistance to your ideas to take on extracurricular responsibilities, such as organising clubs and societies, you may find more opportunities at another school. Similarly, suppose you have aspirations to become a headteacher but are not encouraged to advance in your career or don’t see any likelihood of promotion. In that case, it can help to research what other local schools have to offer before making a decision.
Have things become stagnant? Are you just going through the motions? Most teachers love inspiring and motivating students, but it's no reflection on your abilities if you find yourself less than eager to start your day as when you first began the job.
Teachers often end up going above and beyond, either through the general business of the school or through establishing, or overseeing, extra-curricular activity. Wider involvement in the school and helping to forge links with the local community is a big part of being a teacher. It not only serves the school and students but increases feelings of job satisfaction through a shared sense of belonging and goals. If these opportunities aren't available in your current role, it could be time to move on.
Remember, it’s impossible to love your job all the time. Could it be that you just need to try something new – perhaps exploring different teaching methods, collaborating with colleagues to shake up routine tasks, offering to mentor a new teacher learning the ropes, or undertaking PR activities to enhance the reputation of the school – perhaps through a school project or charity challenge.
If you feel you know your job inside out and have explored every avenue to retain your interest in the role, it may be time to consider options elsewhere. You may be many years into your time at a school or you might be disillusioned after only a few terms. Change can be scary but also exhilarating – and help you to fall in love with teaching again.
The school’s values don’t align with your own
It can be tough to work against your principles or in conditions that see you constantly at odds with senior leadership decisions. Cultural and philosophical alignment is crucial in teaching as it directly influences job satisfaction, professional fulfillment, and the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process. A school's culture encompasses its values, traditions, and overall atmosphere, while its educational philosophy outlines the principles guiding teaching methods and approaches.
Cultural alignment ensures a harmonious work environment. When educators share values and beliefs with their colleagues and the institution, it creates more cohesive teams, ultimately benefitting both teachers and students.
Alignment with the educational philosophy of a school is paramount for effective teaching. Teaching methods, assessment strategies, and the overall approach to education can vary widely between institutions. When educators resonate with a school's educational philosophy, they are more likely to feel supported and motivated to implement its practices. This alignment promotes a seamless integration of teaching strategies, creating a unified and effective learning experience for students.
Furthermore, cultural and philosophical alignment contributes to professional growth. Educators who share a common vision with their school are often more motivated to engage in professional development opportunities offered by the institution.
School leaders are resistant to innovation
Are you frustrated by the lack of interest to explore new technologies in school? Perhaps there’s a fear of AI that has lost senior leaders’ confidence in tech tools. Keeping a mindset of innovation in schools is crucial in order to meet the diverse needs of students and prepare them for the challenges of the future.
Innovation should be part of the school environment. It allows teachers to stay abreast of advancements in pedagogy and technology through new teaching methods and tools to enhance the learning experience, making lessons more engaging and relevant. Schools that encourage innovation often provide professional development opportunities, empowering teachers to experiment with novel approaches in the classroom.
Innovation can also improve teacher adaptability. With societal and technological changes influencing education, teachers must be equipped to adapt their methods, and be sure they are a step ahead of students who will be immersed in technology beyond the classroom. All teachers will feel undermined if they can’t answer children’s questions about existing technology or aren’t familiar with the social media platforms or other tools children use to communicate and learn. An innovative mindset encourages a willingness to experiment, learn from failures, and continuously refine teaching strategies to remain effective.
Feeling overwhelmed or under-challenged by the size of the school or classroom
Not every teacher is suited to a challenging environment, managing behavioural problems or large classroom sizes. By the same token, others will find a large school a positive test of their skills and character.
The size of a school or classroom plays a pivotal role in a teacher's happiness and effectiveness. Smaller class sizes allow for more personalised interactions, where teachers can better understand individual learning styles, address specific needs, and provide tailored support. This approach also helps teachers build stronger connections with their pupils.
Managing a smaller class often translates to fewer discipline issues. Teachers can devote more time to cultivating a positive and inclusive classroom culture, as they can address behavioural concerns promptly.
Likewise, smaller schools often offer more collaborative and close-knit communities. Teachers have increased opportunities to engage with colleagues, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. This sense of community can lead to a supportive network, facilitating the exchange of innovative teaching methods and best practices.
On the other hand, larger schools or classrooms may provide more diverse resources and extracurricular activities. However, the challenge lies in maintaining a sense of individual connection and addressing the unique needs of each student in a larger setting.
It's good to try different types of school environment if you are undecided, as this can make you a more rounded teacher, able to handle different situations such as classroom behaviour or making your voice heard in a large school. Every teacher has a different ideal and choosing the right school for you is an important factor in ensuring the best interests of pupils.
Looking for a fresh start in teaching? Working with a specialist recruiter can reignite your passion for teaching. We have lots of open roles and are top of the list when it comes to September recruitment. Speak to one of our specialist consultants today.