Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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#TMWellbeingIcons 2019

I’m so excited to be organising the first Teach Meet Wellbeing Icons and sharing what will be a magnificent day.

Keep reading to find out more…
Are you interested in teacher wellbeing, mental health and workload reduction?

Join the TeachMeet Icons team for a day of inspiring speakers, networking and a few laughs.

Aimed at teachers and school leaders across the spectrum of contexts, everyone is welcome. VISIT EVENTBRITE FOR TICKETS.

The day comprises of two fantastic keynote speakers and a series of short Teachmeet style presentations of 3,5 and 10 minutes long. If you are interested in presenting at the event, please fill in the form here.


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Mrs Humanities shares… 8 reasons why I love to teach.

After all my recent anxieties, the first day was fine. I’m sure tomorrow will be too, Wednesday the same…

Anyway, I’d like to share some positivity around teaching so here are a few reasons why I love teaching. Would love to hear your reasons, feel free to add them in the comments.

1 // Learning is awesome. Seeing my students engaged, enjoying their learning is a fabulous feeling. I love it when a class is fully engaged and I can step back and see the learning taking place.

2 // Planning learning is also awesome. It’s great sitting down and planning the process in which my students will participate to learn what they need to learn. It’s a beautiful moment when it all comes together and you know the kids will love it.

3 // Students teach me as much as I teach them. Whether it’s pedagogical, subject based or something a little more personal like something about them, I love that I learn from my students. One of my favourites is when students take our learning in a different direction due to their curiosity, it’s inevitable that I will learn something too.

4 // Students help me to forget my worries. Teaching takes me out of my mind, the best distraction possible. My students make me want to be happy, to want to be the best possible me. They deserve that so I strive for it. That includes taking charge of my wellbeing, to be the best teacher possible we need to be healthy, rested and present.

5 // Developing lifelong learners. Knowing that the skills, knowledge and understanding my students develop in my classroom they will take forward into their futures is empowering. I want them to be the best possible version of themselves now and in the future.

6 // Responsible citizens. In the last 7 years I’ve seen a huge shift in the attitude of young people. In general they are more politically engaged, more open-minded and more emphatic to the experiences of others. When the world is becoming increasing fractionned, the rise of the far-right is evident and leaders aren’t exactly the best, it’s a relief to see that young people want to see change. Our job is to empower then to engage and be work towards that change. I love it when students start to be the change they want to see.

7 // Teachers are great people. Generally speaking, most are caring, supportive and helpful. Sometimes that means we are taken advantage of but it also means there are some incredible people who’ll have your back.

8 // Teaching is like a jar of jelly beans. It’s fun, full of variety, colour and flavour. Every handful is different, so is every day in the classroom. Embrace it.

Why do you love teaching?


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Starting the conversation… #PedagooHampshire2018

PedagooHampshire2018

This week I’ve had to take some time away from twitter. My anxiety surrounding returning to work has been growing and growing for the last 2 -3 weeks and reached an unbearable level at the beginning of this week.

You see recently I’ve been spontaneously emotional to the point that I’ve burst into tears twice just in the street with no obvious reason. I’ve had palpitations, restless night sleeps and hours of not doing anything because the anxiety I’m experiencing feels debilitating.

My anxieties aren’t so much about going back to school, I’m really looking forward to it but about whether I will be able to manage my mental health, wellbeing and work-life balance as well now that I’m not longer on medication.

As I pondered about the world, my thoughts turned to the anxiety and the causes. It’s partly the fact that I’m no longer of anti-depressant medication but also the fact that I surround myself in education for too much of the day. I realised I was spending 5 or 10 minutes here and there on Twitter reading notifications, browsing my twitter feed and following links to interesting articles and blogs. I was continuing to surround myself in education when what I really need is a break. As a result I decided to sign out of twitter on Tuesday 28th August and didn’t sign in again until Friday 31st August.

The break has helped, I’ve managed to put things into perspective and consequently I’ve also decided to no longer have twitter signed in on my phone to stop the incessant desire to check it.

You might be wondering the relevance of this; well on Saturday 15th September I will be attending and speaking at Pedagoo Hampshire for the 3rd time running.

My first session was on Less is More: Marking with a Purpose, my second Less is More: Strategies to Reduce Workload and this year I’m going to share something a little more personal, Less is More: A motto to live by.

In my session, I’ll be sharing my journey with mental health from breakdown to recovery and the 5 strategies I try to live by to maintain a work-life balance; it’ll be part self-help, part pedagogy.

The whole signing out of twitter isn’t one of the 5 strategies, so you’ll have to attend to find them out.

But what I want to share is how having gone through a breakdown as a result of work-related stress, I’ve developed the ability to see patterns, to identify characteristics and too hopefully take measures to step back and recoup. That there is importance in understanding yourself.

(Note: However I can only say this though because people remind me that I do, that I have done over the past two years and that even now that I have come off of medication I can and will).

The other thing I want to highlight is that its okay to not be okay. I have the knowledge now that if I need to there are people to help; I’ve opened up the dialogue and can continue it whenever I need. I can go back on medication if I need to. I can get through stress and anxiety; I’ve shown that already. Relapses are not a sign of weakness.

The reason I’ll be sharing my experience is because too many others are experiencing similar circumstances in the workplace; pressure, accountability and high levels of stress. But there are also those going through depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health issues as a consequence of work. But no matter your experiences with mental and physical health in schools, I want people to know they are not alone. That there is help and support available.

We can insist on change, we can implement change and we can create change in our schools.

I look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones in the Library at 11:15.

Until the 15th, best wishes for the new school year.

Mrs Humanities

p.s. For some reason I can’t get this to flow right, I hope it makes sense.


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The What if… of mental health.

It is the week before we go back to school. 5 weeks have passed. I’ve relaxed, rested and written the majority of a book.

I’ve also been off of anti-depressents now for 3 full weeks. By the end of July I’d made it down to 1 a week. End of June 2 a week. End of May 3 a week. You get the idea I’m sure. There were a few hiccups when I’d forgotten a dose and had a few side effects but on the whole it was a relatively okay process.

Anyway, the longer between doses the more my thoughts have invaded the space in my mind that has been clear for the last two years. My thoughts have turned back to sudden thoughts of possible dangers, thoughts of worst case scenarios and just general worries.

Now I’ve always suffered from some sort of anxiety or stress, uni was a particularly prominent time for instance but it wasn’t until I started taking anti-depressents that I realised just how much I worried about things.

When I started taking medication, I experienced for the first time in as long as I can remember what it felt like to just have a clear mind. To not be continuously worrying about this or that. To have a thought come into my mind and have the ability to decide whether to continue with it or shut it down. I felt like I’d become more productive and alot happier.

As I started to come off of the medication, I maintained the ability to abolish those thoughts that plagued me; to switch them off. But as the time has progressed and the level of medication in my system declined I’ve found my thoughts returning to old patterns. The school holidays have certainly not helped; no routine, time to think.

As we’ve gotten closer to the beginning of September the more I’ve started to worry about going back. Worrying about the anxiety returning. Worrying about managing my workload. Worrying that I won’t be the best teacher I can be for my students. Worrying about worrying.

It’s gotten so bad I’ve had to detach myself from all things education for a few days, including Twitter.

I’m not the only one to be experiencing such fears I’m sure but I feel like I made such headway in the last two years, I’ve implemented strategies that have reduced my workload. I’ve developed a system for working that works for me. I’ve learnt to put myself before my work and to look after my wellbeing so I can be on top form for my students.

Yet still the fear is there. What if I can’t cope. What if I fall back into old routines. What if I stop saying no. What if… I burnout and breakdown again?


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Resource – Be the IDEAL Geographer

At the start of the academic year, in the first lesson I like to give a brief introduction of myself to my classes, a little about me and my expectations of them. The register is taken and then straight on with setting them up for learning.

One of the things I go through in my introductions are expectations, those I have of them and that they should have of themselves.

I haven’t changed my introduction for the last 2 years so thought I’d change things a little, thus came up with ‘Be the IDEAL Geographer’. I’m figuring that across the key stages I can make reference to it regularly, are you being an IDEAL Geographer?

Be IDEAL.PNG

Any way, it’s one of those resources that can easily be amended to suit your school or other disciplines, scientist, historian, mathematician etc. So here is an editable version for you. Click on the image below to download it.

download here

Please do share your recreations of it via twitter or share a link to it in the comments.

(Note: The comment on inquiry questions is associated with the IB curriculum. More info on ACE discussions/questionning here)

Mrs Humanities

 


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Resource – Road to Aspiration

A little idea for form time to get students considering where they want to go this year, to question there aspirations and goals and to consider how they will get there.

Image

The road to aspiration resource can be used in a variety of ways from verbal discussion to reflective journal. I’ve not thought that far ahead yet, so can’t tell you how I’ll be using it just yet but thought I’d share in case if inspires others.

Hope you like it, if you’re inspired to create something similar, please share your creations. Always love to see and share them.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 10 fantastic displays for the Humanities

mrs humanities shares

Twitter has been alive with incredible display material this August. To some degree it scares me that people are working so hard during the break but then I remember what I was like the first few years and my concerns turn to ensuring these people don’t burn out.

Since so many of them are sending lots of people direct messages or replies with links in, I thought one way to help would be to collate some of the incredible display material in one place.

All the credit goes to the creators mentioned.

In no particular order then

1 // Stretch and Challenge Geography Display from @mrsrgeog

Nice little display piece to develop geographical thinking. Could easily be adapted for other Humanities subjects. Resources can be downloaded from here

be a better geographer

2 // 100 Women from @sehartsmith 

Influenced by September 2018’s edition of BBC History Magazine, Sarah decided to create a display on ‘100 Women Who Changed The World’. Here’s a link to her initial inspiration https://www.historyextra.com/100-women/

100-women-4.jpg

Sarah has used @missgeog92 ‘s idea of the ‘Hello, my name is…’ badges to create the display. For all the resources visit Sarah’s blog S E HARTSMITH HISTORY.

100 women

3 // Histagram classroom display template and significance task from @MrJPteach 

A neat little display of ‘histagrams’ to challenge or extend students. The resources provide a template to create your own as well as ready-to-go ‘histragrams’. You can download the resources here.

histogram

Also check out Jack’s other display materials here.

4 // Extra Reading from @EduCaiti 

A great little idea, inspired by @Jennnnnn_x. An idea that can be easily adapted to any subject. This one has been put up in the corridor to help tackle corridor misdemeanours.

extra reading

You might also fancy these ideas from @EduCaiti for inspiration

5 // Geography Menus from @MsGallagher92 

Not quite a display but material that can be displayed. Gina has produced support menus for her students. They can be downloaded from here.

6 // Geography Case Studies from @siddons_r

It has never occurred to me to use a display board for case study content. Here’s a way to say you some work if you’re a Geographer or to inspire your subject content displays in other subjects. Resources can be found here

case-study-2.jpg

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7 // Support for Success Tabletop Displays from @Mrs_Educate 

Inspired by the work of others Laura has created a set of table top displays to support literacy and extended writing tasks. Her resources are created for the RE classroom but again are easily adaptable. You can download her resources here.

8 // Wonders of the World from @mrsgeogs

Create some awe and wonder in the classroom with @mrsgeogs display. Resources can be found here.

where in the worldKeeping with the worldly theme with her golden globes reward display. 

golden globe

9 // GCSE Command Terms from @Jennnnnn_x

Although from Geography, these lovelies can be easily amended to other humanities subjects (and further afield). You can download the resources here.

command-terms.png

Photo – @Jennnnnn_x

Here’s a close up from @GeoBlogs 

command

10 // Plenary Cards from @MissKDeighan

Great for a finished board for any subject area. 45 plenary task cards for you to download and use. You can download the resources here.

plenary cards

And here are some of mine you might also find useful

‘Help yourself’ display and station

I wanted to get this post finished after trying to get it done for several days, so I decided I’m adding mine. It is simple, students help themselves to the resources as and when they need them. I don’t have a photo of my current displays unfortunately (will update in the new school year).

GCSE display

You can download my help yourself resources here

Finished Board

I’ve categorised the tasks into those that extend learning, assess learning or encourage reflection on the learning process.  Along with other ideas such as the roll a plenary and peer assessment support. This is an old display and it has since been updated and improved but you can download the resources here. Scroll to the bottom of the post.

plenary display board

Hope there is something of use to you here to inspire you this new academic year.

(I hope to add more as people respond to messages)

Mrs Humanities


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Resource – Assessment for Learning Booklet AQA Geography

I’ve previously shared with you all the AfL grids my department and I use with our GCSE students which our students use to assess their understanding of the content before and after the topic. They also enable students to track their progress.

We make use of ‘PPQs’ also known as past paper questions. These are mostly taken from the AQA sample papers but we have also used a number of relevant questions from past papers.

Rather than printing off each set of PPQs as and when required, this year to help our students to become more independent in the learning process I’ve created an assessment for learning booklet.

These booklets contain both the AfL grids and the PPQs which will be completed over the course. Some times PPQs are completed in class, other times for homework.

booklet pages

My plan is that as we cover the content, students can start to answer the PPQs when they are ready to do so. A deadline for submitting the PPQs will be set as we undertake the topic so students have a deadline to work to.

You can download a copy of it by clicking the button below.

download here

Feedback welcomed.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 reasons to stay in teaching

mrs humanities shares

Teaching is an incredible job, yet so many of us are leaving or considering leaving the profession. The following post is a counterargument to my recent post on why teachers are leaving the profession. So here goes…

1 // The future needs responsible citizens

Somebody has to teach young people how to care for others, the planet and themselves. It seems that this has fallen on teachers more and more in the current political climate.

Fewer programmes and schemes are developed for young people outside of school to support their social development and greater emphasis is being placed on schools as the source of such knowledge and developments.

Over the past few years I’ve seen increasing numbers of young people engage in politics. The referendum to leave the EU seemed to be the initial introduction many of my former students needed to spark their interest. Since then the change in political powers and the rise of Trumpism and other forms of Nationalism has got the backs up of many students I never would have expected to be so concerned (even though they should be).

We need more young people to be the change they want to see in the world. We need to give them the knowledge and skills to be critical, to analyse and to think for themselves. To take action and to be proactive. I knew very little about the power of protest when I was in high school (yes, that’s what secondary was called in Wales), over the years that has changed with the influence of technology. We need to teach young people how to use activism and technology to change the world for the good, for they will be the future leaders.

If we can support this in schools, think of the world they might have at our age?

2 // Every day is different

I’m sure you’ve seen those cheesy ads for teaching with the sayings ‘no day is the same’ and ‘every day is different’. As cheesy as it is, it really is the truth. I expect one thing out of the day and I get something completely different. I go into a lesson with the plan in my head, inevitably something happens that changes the course of the lesson I had planned out. Students surprise you. They make you laugh. They make you cry. They make you angry and frustrated. They make you happy and joyful. A day never turns out how I might expect.

The old saying ‘variety is the spice of life’ is too true when it comes to teaching. Embrace every day and what it throws at you.

Will other careers give you this much variety on a day-to-day basis?

3 // The “ah I get it” moments

I love that moment when a student struggles and struggles some more, then all of a sudden it falls into place. They get it. They see the big picture and all the puzzle pieces that make it up. They understand. They feel accomplishment. They feel success.

Who doesn’t love those moments? Do you get those in other careers?

4 // Learning is fun

As lame as that sounds, I know I wouldn’t have continued to learn as much if I weren’t a teacher. Being a teacher keeps you learning. It provides the perfect opportunity to continue your professional and subject development.

I originally went into teaching with the aim to get a PGCE qualification in order to return to environmental education. My knowledge development I’m sure would have remained in that sector. Through teaching I’ve developed pedagogical knowledge, geographical knowledge, historical knowledge, computing knowledge and the list goes on…

You never stop learning as a teacher. You’re a learner for life.

5 // You can be a rebel, you can start the rebellion

Too many teachers feel they have little say in the day to day running of the school. True but you can have an impact in your classroom. Every little action is a step along the way. Take a stand. Be brave enough to say no if you feel it won’t benefit your learners.

The more people that stand up, the more noise we make. The more noise we make, the hard it is for leaders not to listen (this seems so applicable to wider society as well as the moment).

Don’t do things just because you feel you have to; unions are there to support you. We are adults, we are educated and we have the right to fight for what we believe in.

That goes to the leaders of schools as well. Stand up to the politicians, the so called “Ofsted want to see” and be brave enough to put your staff and students first.

What would you add to the list?

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 reasons teachers are leaving the profession

mrs humanities sharesThis is a post I’ve had on my mind for a while but haven’t wanted to write but then I decided that actually I would as I’d also do a post to counteract it with 5 reasons to stay in teaching.

We need more teachers; teachers are leaving the profession and few are being replaced. The numbers of teachers in secondary schools has fallen whilst the number of teachers leaving for reasons other than retirement has increased by 34,910 between 2011 and 2016. Yet the number of students is set to increase by 19.4% between 2017 and 2025.

So why are teachers leaving?

The following five reasons are based on my experiences and those of many teachers I have spoken to over the years.

1 // Accountability

Current accountability structures were introduced originally in 1988 as part of the Education Reform Act with the introduction of Ofsted and league tables yet it’s been Gove’s legacy that has had the most significant impact on teacher and school accountability in my opinion.

Accountability is important to maintain sufficient standards of education for all but it’s the way it has been implemented more recently and combined with performance related pay that has impacted teachers the most.

Ofsted and league tables already have a widespread impact on teacher workload, wellbeing and stress. In my first two schools, I feel as though I heard the word Ofsted more than I heard the word student; yet we are in our schools for the benefit of our students. Everything we do should be for them, not for Ofsted, not for the LA, not for the MAT boss making big bucks but for the students in our care. There are many examples from schools across the country whereby strategies have been implemented not for the benefit of students but to tick box in preparation for Ofsted. Strategies that have had little to no benefit for the students; so why were we doing them in the first place? It takes a brave and honourable leader to stand up and say ‘other schools maybe doing it, but we are not because it doesn’t impact on learning’.

But the introduction of performance related pay for something with so many external influences is damming.

In 2013, the DofE released details on how schools will be able to link teachers’ pay to performance allowing them to pay good teachers more. By that September schools had to revise their pay and appraisal policies to outline how pay progression would be linked to teacher’s performance. The advice suggested schools assess teachers’ on their performance in some of the following

  • impact on pupil progress
  • impact on wider outcomes for pupils
  • contribution to improvements in other areas (eg pupils’ behaviour or lesson planning)
  • professional and career development
  • wider contribution to the work of the school, for instance their involvement in school business outside the classroom

For many this meant setting specific targets for pupil progress and specific targets for performance in observations and scrutinises of different kinds.

For me, one of my appraisal targets looked something like this…

PM v2

These targets were set by the school. The lack of autonomy in the PM process for many and the implementation of specific targets, some of which are impossible to achieve due to external factors has massively increased the stress experienced by teachers to perform whilst also leading to a great deal of micro-management in order to help others to meet their targets. It’s been crazy for many, stressful for others and downright impossible for some.

2 // Unnecessary Workload

Resulting from the introduction of greater accountability and new performance management measures, teachers have also been finding their workload increase exponentially over the last 5 years or so. Often the workload has been associated with either doing it to cover ones back or to tick boxes for Ofsted, Mocksted, parents or performance management. Too often workload has increased not a benefit to learners but merely to say it is being done.

Take class profiles for instance; in my first school class profiles were introduced to give to any observers. These outlined the class, their achievement, progress, concerns etc.; imagine doing every term for 12 or more groups of students. I never felt this helped me to improve my students learning; instead just a tick box exercise of justifications.

profiles

In my opinion the unnecessary tasks that distract from the assessing of learning and planning of progress are the biggest distractions to improving education in our schools.

3 // Constant change

Along with unnecessary workload, another major influence on teacher wellbeing and the workload crisis is the impact of constant change. So far, I’ve been through just two governments in my teaching career, yet it feels like many more as a result of the political input into the UK’s education system. Each time there’s a change of Secretary of State for Education there are new policies and changes to implement; that’s 4 to date for me and despite the name change of the role, others have seen many more ‘in charge’ of education in the UK.

Along with changing ministers, comes changing examinations.

I started my teaching career in 2010; just as Gove become the Education Secretary and since then I’ve taught the following GCSE exam specifications

WJEC (1 year)
Edexcel A (1.5 years)
Edexcel B (2.5 years)
AQA IGCSE (1 year)
AQA 1-9 (2 years)

I’ve taught with levels and without levels. I’ve taught with the national curriculum and without it.

I’ve taught in a comprehensive converting to an academy, an academy, a MAT and a free school. All within 6 years. Some of this was chosen change, others were enforced change all of which those increased workload as it wasn’t possible to just ‘transfer’ resources from one situation to another. Each school their own way of doing things; each exam spec was different; each had new implemented strategies that had been noted in another school as good practice and thus we had to implement just in case.

The change to qualifications, curriculum and testing has probably had one of the largest impacts on workload, in my eyes especially for those teachers in schools teaching both GCSE and A-Levels. The introduction of new testing; the removal of levels and new qualifications have meant a lot of change all at once for schools, subjects and teams to implement alongside dwindling resources and money. All of which has increased workload, stress and poor mental health of teachers.

4 // Limited Autonomy and Micro-Management

Tom Rogers shared this on twitter just the other day

A fine example of micro-management and poor leadership. Limited autonomy has a huge impact on teachers; imagine being faced with a school leader that tells you what you can and can’t do in your classroom; that tells you to do things you damn well know will have little to no impact on your students; that tells you to follow me and you’ll be outstanding; that doesn’t let your own way shine through. Imagine how uninspired you’d feel, how your enthusiasm would drain; how ticking boxes to please that person rather than to benefit your students becomes your norm. No thank you.

Yet too many people have experienced this. The list of non-negotiables. The do it this way or take the highway out of here routine. Or worse still the you’re with us or against us, so we’ll put you on PM measures that mean you’ll hate working here and we can soon get rid of you approach. This micro-managing and in some instances, bullying is driving teachers out of the classroom.

We train to teach because we want to teach. We want to give something to our students. We want them to take knowledge away. We want them to develop skills. We want them to be life-long learners. We want them to enjoy and be happy in school and life. If we’re not allowed to do that; our souls become drained. Our happiness withers. Our love for the profession dwindles. We leave.

5 // Societal Opinion

Ever had the kid turn around and say, “my mum says you’re just a teacher, so I don’t have to listen to you’? Thankfully it’s happened just the once; but who has the right to say that? No one is ‘just a….’. We work hard in our jobs, whatever job you do whether a truck driver or dentist, teacher or neurosurgeon you’ve worked hard to get where you are. You’ve put time and effort into your job and/or career. Everybody is worthy.

Just because we’ve chosen to be teachers doesn’t mean we couldn’t have been something else if we wanted to. Teaching is incredible, every day is different, every student is different. We learn as much from the kids as they learn from us; what we learn is just slightly different.

Yet people envisage that we have 13 weeks paid holiday where we go galivanting around the world, sunning ourselves and relaxing. When in reality the majority of us spend much of our time working over the holidays or recuperating after the last slog of several weeks of hard and tiring work.

A recent survey by the Education Support Partnership found that teachers expect to work eight days over the holidays up from six days in in 2013 and that’s just from the 811 surveyed.

I’ve been guilty of working far more days in the summer than 6-8; as I know others have been. Fortunately, I’ve now I’m working in a school that considers workload and have developed my own strategies for reducing my workload meaning I’m sure I can limit my time working to less than 8 days.

Teachers work hard for their students and those that don’t are few and far between. Teaching as a profession needs higher recognition in the UK simple as. Greater recognition for our professional status, greater emphasis on professional development and efforts to retain rather than recruit will help to maintain numbers.

Conclusion

There are so many other reasons teachers are leaving teaching other than those above. What would you add to the discussion? Feel free to leave comments.

// Useful Links

Teacher recruitment and retention in England

Factors affecting teacher retention: qualitative investigation

Teacher workforce statistics and analysis

Teacher Retention and Turnover Research

// Posts from teachers that have left teaching

Why I left teaching – Philip Duncalfe

Why I’m leaving teaching – Annabeth Orton

Mrs Humanities