10 Jan 2023
By Mark Richards,
In recent years, schools have faced an exodus of older teachers. It cannot be stressed enough just how damaging this is to schools. It is draining schools of invaluable expertise. The quality of teaching will undoubtedly suffer as experienced educators can really help younger teachers to develop their practice.
In many ways, teacher is like a career-long apprenticeship. A major part of its success is the way that experienced colleagues can pass on their best practice to new, younger recruits.
Why are experienced teachers leaving the profession?
Unfortunately, retention of teachers in schools has become an issue at all levels. It’s often the fact the newly qualified teachers don’t stay in the profession for more than a few years that grabs all the headlines. However, the loss of the experienced ‘old guard’ in schools may well prove to be even more costly overall.
Many experienced colleagues feel beaten down by the constant data-crunching in schools and feel forced to deliver lessons focused on rote-learning. Many feel it leaves the students uninspired. Not only that, it leaves the teacher feeling uninspired too. The burden of workload takes it toll too. The result is that experienced teachers are voting with their feet and deciding to leave the profession.
What is the impact of replacing older, experienced teachers?
The impact of schools needing to replace their older, experienced teachers with younger and more inexperienced teachers is difficult to measure. Of course, in purely financial terms, it saves schools money. Sadly, with so much pressure on school budgets these days, this is possibly why schools don’t do more to hang on to their more experienced members of staff.
However, the true cost of the loss of experienced teachers is far more difficult to quantify. One thing is sure – pupils, younger teachers, and the wider profession are all being affected.
The result is an experience vacuum. It means that younger teachers can no longer be mentored, or simply draw on the well of expertise and knowledge that older practitioners bring to the table. Even more worryingly, it often means that inexperienced staff who are ill-equipped to take on such roles are promoted to senior management positions before they are really ready for these positions.
What should schools do?
Of course, newly qualified teachers have many strengths. They bring much-needed energy and enthusiasm to the staff room and the classroom alike. They show an adaptability that is important. They
are the future of the profession. However – crucially – they are not the finished article just yet. Regardless of how intensive teacher training programmes are, they don’t really prepare individuals for what lies ahead.
In reality, becoming a confident and excellent teacher takes years. A big part of that learning process is the way that newly qualified teachers can take in and absorb the experience they see around them in the staff room. Many younger teachers rely on the advice they are given from older colleagues.
If those experienced colleagues aren’t there, it leaves a large gap in the development of younger teachers and a big gaping hole in the profession overall.
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