A poll of teachers in England has found that four out of five say they have considered quitting the profession over the past year because of the heavy workload that they have to endure.
More than 80% of respondents to a question circulated by the National Education Union (NEU) said that they were thinking about other careers because of the long hours now required of classroom teachers.
About 40% of those polled said they spent more than 21 hours a week working at home during evenings and weekends, to keep pace with the demands of their schools.
The NEU survey’s findings tallied with those of a similar poll by the country’s other major teaching union, the NASUWT. It found 65% of respondents said they had seriously considered leaving the profession in the past 12 months.
Teachers said the heavy workload was putting a strain on their health as well as on their marriage or families.
“I don’t know how I can change how I work, I don’t know how long I can maintain it, and the impact that it’s having on my family is horrific,” one teacher said in answer to the survey.
Another responded: “We are not trusted to get on and do our job. We are accountable at every level, which creates more stress and paperwork. We are exhausted, and great teachers are being driven out of the profession.”
Teachers leaving because of workload could contribute to teacher shortages that are forecast, especially in secondary schools and in specialist subjects such as maths, foreign languages and computing.
“If the government does not act decisively and soon, the recruitment and retention crisis will seriously damage our children and young people’s education,” said Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU.
Damian Hinds, the education secretary, has said tackling teacher workload is one of his top priorities. In his first major speech last month, Hinds promised to put an end to what he described as pointless tasks and to allow classroom teachers to “focus on what actually matters”.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There are no great schools without great teachers and the record numbers choosing to work in our classrooms shows how desirable a career it continues to be.
“Earlier this month the education secretary made clear that his priority was to work with the profession and ensure that remains the case by getting back to the heart of successful teaching, stripping away the workload that doesn’t add value to education and looking at other ways to help recruit and retain the brightest and best.”