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'I am getting out before it kills me': Two in five teachers plan to quit within five years, union warns

Schools are “haemorrhaging” staff with two in five teachers planning to quit the profession within the next five years because of their unbearable workloads, a major union has warned.

Despite government efforts to tackle the issue, the majority of teachers (56 per cent) say their work-life balance has worsened over the past year, a survey for the National Education Union (NEU) has found.

Teachers said that funding cuts had led to increased hours and greater responsibilities. One said he no longer has time for autistic pupils in his class after 21 members of support staff were cut.

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Another teacher said she also had to get rid of nits from children, on top of an already “unbearable” workload, as the school nurse has vanished.

Helen Reeder, who works in a primary school in Portsmouth, added: “I am suffering from sleep deprivation. The stress has meant some nights I will only have three hours of sleep.”

One member, who works 70 hours a week, told the NEU: “I am getting out before the job kills me.”

More than a quarter (26 per cent) of teachers with just two to five years’ experience intend to leave education in the next five years, according to the survey of more than 8,600 school staff.

Henry Emoni, a maths teacher in Essex, said only four of 30 people from his teacher training course six years ago are still teaching in classrooms in England. “I think about leaving on a daily basis,” he said.

Two in five respondents predict they will no longer be working in education by 2024 – and almost one fifth (18 per cent) of all respondents expect to have left the profession within two years. 

More than 200,000 teachers in the UK could quit in five years, the survey suggests, as there are more than 500,000 teachers working in UK state schools. 

Amanda Martin, a teacher and vice president of NEU, said restructures in schools amid funding cuts had increased the workload on staff, as well as accountability pressures.  

She warned: “We are haemorrhaging from every single area of the profession, from leadership to teachers that are 10 years in.”

The survey findings were released ahead of a motion on teacher workload at the NEU’s annual conference in Liverpool on Tuesday.

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Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The government is doing a far better job of driving teachers out of the profession than they are solving the issue of excessive workload.

“Damian Hinds has made many of the right noises about fixing the problem, but he and his predecessors have achieved very little.”

Mr Courtney added: “We need drastic action and a major rethink from government if we are to stop the haemorrhaging of good teachers from the profession.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The education secretary has set out his determination to help teachers and school leaders reduce their workload and we have taken a range of actions to do this. It is an important element of our recently published recruitment and retention strategy.

“We have worked with school leaders and teachers to create a workload reduction toolkit, which provides practical advice and resources that schools can use rather than creating new ones from scratch.

“We are also tackling excessive data burdens in schools; simplifying the accountability system to target the associated burdens and working with Ofsted to ensure staff workload is considered as part of a school’s inspection judgement.”

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