There was a time when being a teacher, like a priest or a nun, a nurse or a doctor, and several other examples, was regarded as a vocation, an occupation to which a person was specially drawn and believed themselves particularly suited to. It was more than just a job or even a career, it was a calling, and once you were in it, you were in it for good.

That may remain the case with some vocations but it appears that increasing numbers of teachers, in the UK at least, are stepping out from behind their desks and walking away. Or if they’re not getting out entirely some are moving abroad to continue their vital work.

Both newly qualified and hugely experienced teachers are feeling the pressure, which seems to be mounting with each passing academic year. Many reasons are given for the discontent and disillusionment felt by those in the profession, including unacceptable and unreasonably high workload, the low net pay compared to many other skilled professions, lack of support, and ever-increasing student numbers within the classroom. 

The pressures of the covid pandemic and coping with lockdowns also added their detrimental effect. And while teachers are trained and urged to be constantly vigilant in looking for signs of mental health issues amongst their students, many claim that their own mental health problems can be overlooked.

Some say that while they must remain strong for their students, increasingly, they are unable to be strong for themselves. Many have admitted to suffering panic attacks while in the classroom, with one telling a YouGov and Teacher Track survey carried out for the wellbeing charity Education Support: “Stressed teachers make stressed students. The atmosphere in lessons
can become negative and it impacts on teacher/pupil relationships.” 

There is also the growing influence of social media, with students at times posting inappropriate and dangerous accusations against teachers that, for one reason or another, they do not like. A Tik-Tok “teacher-bashing” craze in Scotland saw students make derogatory comments about staff, including falsely labelling teachers as adulterers and paedophiles.

These incidents are not confined to Scotland and have seen some teachers quit their jobs to pursue different careers or move abroad to escape the stress of working in British schools. The crisis is particularly severe at secondary level. 

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, said in an interview: “There is systematic overworking, with teachers routinely working 55 hours a week, and a vicious accountability system, which means that teachers are not given the time and support to get better at what they do.”

Each year thousands of teachers are moving abroad to join international schools, and numbers are expected to grow considerably over the next ten years. Many of those who have already made the move say they will never return to the British education system. They reckon that other countries exercise much more trust in their teachers, enabling them to concentrate on what’s most important. Teaching. 


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