Why are teachers in UK younger than in other countries?
Analysis: Older, more experienced staff are leaving the classroom in high numbers due to heavy workloads, says Eleanor Busby
But why are UK’s teachers so young? One of the key reasons why the average age of teachers is low is because fewer teachers are staying on in the profession due to heavy workloads.
Despite the government’s recent efforts to tackle the issue, many teachers who enter the classroom in British schools still find it very difficult to achieve a reasonable work-life balance.
Education unions say this has been worsened by funding cuts that schools have faced as teachers have been left with longer hours, greater responsibilities and more children to look after.
The report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also found that Britain is one of the few countries that have seen class sizes increase since 2005.
Managing poor behaviour among pupils is one of the key drivers for teachers quitting the profession and larger class sizes are likely to have made the job harder for some members of staff.
In addition, teachers’ salaries in England and Scotland have declined in recent years amid austerity measures – which has prompted experienced staff to look elsewhere for jobs with more money.
Recent statistics show a third of teachers in England leave within five years of qualifying so it is not that surprising that the UK has a less experienced, more youthful workforce than other countries.
In recent years, the government has attempted to boost the recruitment of university graduates into the classroom to counteract the low retention rates among teachers.
Government bursaries and graduate schemes, like Teach First, have helped to fill shortages in schools with younger teachers – who often come fresh from university with high ambitions and high energy.
But the reality of the day-to-day can be shocking to those who have limited experience of schools. Especially if their own education was vastly different to some of the more challenging schools.
Is a younger workforce a bad thing? It is true that they will have less experience but they are also likely to have more energy to work the long hours associated with the job. They may also be more up-to-date in the latest teaching styles, government reforms and technology.
However, a better balance of youth and experience can only be a good thing in schools. The government has announced plans to finally improve teachers’ salaries but it will take a lot more to stop older, more experienced teachers from leaving the profession in droves.