School strikes: Young teachers 'abandoning' the profession over workload and pay

Sharp End Presenter Rob Osborne speaks to a teacher ready to strike and a recruiter struggling to fill vacancies

Young teachers are "abandoning the profession" due to workload and pay, a recruiter has said ahead of planned walk-outs by education staff.

Teachers in Wales are due to strike in February and March with one union rep describing pressures as "100 miles an hour every day".

And recruiters are struggling to get new teachers in the door and staying in post, with around a quarter of teachers leaving within their first five years of qualifying, according to the NEU.

One union rep described the pressures facing teachers as "100 miles an hour every day". Credit: PA

Hayley Steel, a teacher in Swansea, and National Education Union (NEU) district secretary, says pupil behaviour has changed since Covid and the teaching profession has changed "significantly" in her 20-year career.

She told ITV Wales' Sharp End: "There used to be lighter times in the school calendar and now it is 100 miles an hour every single day. The workload is massive and the pressures are huge. There aren't enough hours in the day."

'Not respected as a profession'

On a typical day, Ms Steel arrives at school at 7.30am and is "kicked out with the cleaners" at about 5.45pm. She says that's not even enough time for marking and lesson planning, often working from home until as late as 11.30pm.

"We're not respected as a profession any more and our pay is reflected in that," she said.

"In Wales, we used to be a well paid profession. We're not anymore. I can go and get a job somewhere else with a comparable salary and far less stress and workload. It's not the job it once was and it's not just about the pay - it's about the profession - and teachers are leaving in their droves because the pay doesn't reflect the workload and the workload is far too great.

"We've got one in three teachers leaving within the first five years of teaching. There aren't enough teachers out there at the moment. If the government don't fully fund our salary that just gets worse."

These strikes come amid a wave of industrial action from other public sector workers, including nurses and ambulance staff. Credit: PA Images

Ms Steel says the Welsh Government needs to think about its priorities in order to avoid strike action.

"There are teachers out there who can't afford to pay their bills right now," she said.

"But this is about education as a whole. We care about our pupils, that's why we're in this job. It's not a profession you come into lightly. It's not an easy profession. If people can't afford to come into this job, then where does our staffing come from?

"The education minister needs to start valuing education and listening to the teachers. We want to teach but we can only do that if we are given the right opportunities to do that."

Education Minister Jeremy Miles hopes to avert strike action by teachers. Credit: Sharp End

Education Minister Jeremy Miles wants to avert the strikes and find a resolution.

He said: "I'm hearing the strength of feeling that has been expressed through the ballots.

"We started discussions last week with teaching unions, head unions and local authorities to look at ways we can resolve this. I was able to make an offer in that discussion but there is a lot more for us to talk about."

So far, teachers have been offered a one-off payment by the Welsh Government.

Mr Miles added: "When teachers were not getting pay rises in England, we were able to make increases in Wales. Last year is a good example of that. We didn't get any consequential funding from Westminster because there was a pay freeze in England and in Wales we did not have that - we found the money to give an increase.

"Where we've had control of the levers to do that, it's pretty clear how we've spent that money."

But a former Carmarthenshire headteacher, who now runs an education agency, says there need to be a redoubling of efforts to retain young teachers within the sector.

Teaching recruitment consultant Julian Jones, said: "When I started teaching, we had to concentrate on the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic, that was our brief.

"The three Rs should be applied today but in a different way. It should be: recruitment, retention and also requirements."

Mr Jones says student teachers have abandoned the profession before they've even started.

He added: "After three years, three teaching practises maybe, they've decided they don't want this.

"If things don't change it'll be bleak. I worry about education for the next 2-3 years, let alone the next 5 or 10."

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