Let’s set aside the reasons why teachers give up teaching and ask those who don’t why

A chemistry teacher showing a high school class a model of buckminster fullerene

Source: © SolStock/Getty Images

Let’s celebrate the aspects of teaching that make you smile and keep you in the profession

In recent years, there have been many reports and much discussion about the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching. Since joining EiC almost five years ago, I’ve pored over oodles of data about the number of teachers leaving the profession and read numerous studies on why they’re leaving. The reasons always include workload, stress and pay.

Among the most recent reports are the frankly, scary figures in the latest workforce data from the Department for Education for the teaching population in 2022. Schools Week has quite rightly and understandably picked over the content; I’m not going to do so here.

What interests me is not why teachers leave, but why those who are still teaching stay. Surely, finding out why the teachers still in the classroom and lab stay is just as interesting, insightful and potentially more useful?

And this is what the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has done in its latest report. It looks at the crisis from a different angle, assessing how financial incentives and reducing workload could help teacher recruitment and retention. Alongside this reporty, the EEF announced evidence reviews into practices that would support recruitment and retention, such as leadership and flexible working.

Should I stay or should I go?

While I feel there can’t be many workers who would turn down a higher salary, or reject the idea of a decreased workload, I’m intrigued about what else keeps teachers teaching. What is it about teaching youngsters that keeps thousands of people returning every new academic year? What is it about the profession that means when you hang up your lab coat for the summer holidays, you’ll already be thinking about next year’s classes?

I admit while pondering this I’m indulging in a spot of self-reflection myself, wondering what keeps me working on EiC. It turns out I have two reasons: one selfish, and one not. The selfish one is I enjoy it. The other? Well, the knowledge and hope that EiC, and the wider RSC Education team’s work, makes a difference to teachers.

So what keeps you helping 11 year-olds to understand atoms and teens to grasp electrochemistry? You’re certainly making a difference to young people’s lives, so maybe it’s about giving back and caring for the next generation. I hope also that one reason is you enjoy it. You like giving kids an understanding of science and you love sharing your passion for your subject. Whether I’m totally off-beam or absolutely spot-on, please tell me. Email eic@rsc.org or find us on social media: Twitter and Facebook.