‘Quick, the Curriculum for Excellence advisors are right behind us!’
Under the headline:
‘Workload, stress and pay blamed for exodus of teachers at Scottish schools.’
‘A significant proportion of more experienced teachers have left the profession in Scotland since 2010. Schools have faced an exodus of their most experienced teachers over the past seven years at a time of unprecedented upheaval in the sector. Analysis of statistics from the Scottish Government show there has been a 21 per cent reduction in the number of teachers aged 45 and over since 2010 – accounting for some 5000 members of school staff.’
Once more, a deliberately (?) misleading headline and deliberate or confused use of statistics to try to construct a crisis out of nothing.
First, 21% of teachers over 45, leaving in 7 years is equivalent to around 3% per year – natural turnover or an exodus? The former I think. There are 51 500 teachers in Scottish schools. If we didn’t have that kind of retirement rate, what would be the point in training new teachers? Second, ‘exodus of teachers’ is used in the headline to imply teachers of all ages and experience when in fact we are only talking about older teachers. Third, to talk of ‘unprecedented upheaval’ is to reveal a lack of knowledge of the history of education in Scotland over the last 50 years. I remember well the very same melodramatic reaction to curriculum change in the 80s and 90s. Fourth, are younger teachers commonly less effective than older ones? I spent 30 years in teacher-training and, in visits to schools, met many highly-skilled, energetic and enthusiastic younger teachers who, also, were up-to-date with curriculum change and approved of it. I also met a few older teachers who had become negative, unenthusiastic and who were resistant to change, any change.
Finally, ‘workload and stress’ – Scottish schools are far better-staffed than those in England. The teacher-pupil ratio in Secondary schools is particularly generous.
There are now 543 more teachers in Scottish schools. In 2017, only 631 P1 pupils were taught in classes of more than 26 compared to 16 845 in 2006 at the end of the Lab/Lib Dem coalition.
There are 51 500 teachers in Scottish schools and the pupil/teacher ratio is now 13.6 pupils per teacher, down from (better than) 13.7 in 2016. This ratio is an important indicator of the time teachers have to engage with pupils and is likely to have played a major part in narrowing attainment gaps.
In England, there were 457 300 teachers in 2016, up by 400 from 2015. The pupil/teacher ratio in 2016 was 17.6 pupils per teacher. England’s population is almost exactly ten times that of Scotland, so you might have expected there to be around 515 000 teachers there. The increase of 400 teachers, in England, from 2015 to 2016, is small when compared with the Scottish Government’s increase of 543 between 2016 and 2017 in a country with a tenth of the population.
So, the pupil/teacher ratio in Scotland is significantly better than that in England. That must translate into more manageable workloads and reduced stress. I don’t deny the possibility that some are feeling over-worked and stressed but given the many positive factors in the job compared to many others in the economy, I seriously doubt an exodus. Have a word with nurses, cleaners, GPs, social workers and ask how many would like better conditions and get the same answers, or even more negative ones, as you would from teachers.