10 SES 12 E, Research on Teacher Induction and Early Career Teachers
The retention of staff within the teaching profession in both the UK and internationally has become a matter of considerable concern with national statistics providing alarming support for these concerns For example, a NFER report on teacher retention shows that for early career teachers, figures indicate that 85% of those entering teaching remained in the profession after the first year of teaching, a figure that declined to 73% after three years and further worsened to 67% after five years (Worth et al 2018). This reflects not only a considerable loss of potentially gifted teachers but also a very poor return on the investment inherent in the training of these teachers.
Overall, there appears to be a decline in the attractiveness of the teaching profession across Europe, which is impacting on recruitment and retention (European Union, 2013). Edge et.al, (2017) refers to the fact that teacher supply is a pressing issue for policy-makers across the globe. In England, key policies focusing on attracting individuals into the profession and supporting them in the early stages of their career (DfE, 2019) have been implemented. This paper focuses on issues raised by Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in England, but the researchers suggest that their conclusions could be transferable to entry into the teaching profession across Europe, with reference to early teacher support.
The stimulus for this research project arose when the retention crisis became a reality for colleagues within the field of Initial Teacher Education (ITE). Two colleagues, both working at the same Higher Education Institution (HEI), but teaching on different campuses and on different courses, were contacted by former students, who were NQTs, and were seeking support as they were struggling in their first teaching jobs. It became clear that some were contemplating leaving the profession within their first year of teaching, or had already submitted their resignations.
The National Audit Office (NAO 2017) offers an explanation for this attrition, suggesting that workload issues are a significant barrier to teacher retention, with teachers being subjected to relentless bureaucratic demands surrounding planning and assessment The work of
Smithers and Robinson (2003) emphasised the significance of workload issues in retention, alongside a further four key factors (school situation, salary, personal circumstances and new challenges), a broader framework of explanatory factors which seems to offer a more nuanced picture of a complex issue, rather than relying on a single causal factor
The main purpose of this paper is to interrogate the factors that current NQTs see as being significant in having a successful NQT year, through listening to their voices. The paper then sets out the key factors gained from an analysis of the collected stories; the data challenges the perceived view that reducing teacher workload alone will improve both recruitment and retention of NQTs.
The main framework of this paper is drawn from an interpretivist paradigm and seeks to ascertain from a small, focussed, sample the reasons why NQTs who had successfully met the Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2011) appeared to be struggling in their first year of teaching. This builds on the work of Ewing and Manuel (2005), who indicated that Early Career Teachers’ stories can ‘unpack experiences and yield new insights’ into emerging practice. This paper sets out to go beyond what was happening, to address why it was happening and, further, to ascertain how the individuals concerned made sense of their experiences (Cousins 2009). The intention was that the research, having elicited some key factors affecting NQTs, would promote the development of practice in terms of how NQTs can be best prepared for, and supported, during their early career development.
Central to this qualitative piece of research was the desire to seek the authentic voice of the NQTs, thus recognising the significance of the notion of ‘insider epistemology’ (Tangen 2008). This was achieved by gathering narrative stories from the participants. The research sought to ‘conceive, capture and convey the stories and experiences of individuals.’ (Savin–Baden M. & Major, C.H. 2013, p231). Narrative stories is a tool which allows for data to be viewed holistically and which can provide a lens for exploring how individuals make sense of their experiences (Cousins, 2009). The researchers contacted former students from their 2015-16 finalist cohorts and then set up meetings with those who were willing to participate. As a result, sixteen ‘meetings’ were arranged in total from the two ITE programmes. The sample was multi variant as it was composed of students who had studied on different campuses, who came to the HEI as undergraduates or postgraduates, who varied in age, who came from varied geographical locations, and who followed course with different structures but which both led to the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The research sample included more female than male (NQTs), which is in line with the original cohorts. The meetings with participants took place in a variety of forms; face to face, skype and telephone conversations all of which were recorded. The research process began with the question, ‘How is it going?’ which allowed participants to be able to share the stories, events and issues which had shaped their NQT year as they chose. Participants were able to lead the story and the researchers listened in order to gain insight. It was considered that by asking a non-value driven question, an authentic and genuine voice would be heard. This enabled the research to adhere to the principle of narrative enquiry ‘The only general rule across all contexts is to listen more than to speak’ (Cousins, 2009, p100.) The narrative stories were analysed using a framework adapted from the work of Savin-Baden (2004). This enabled an interactionist-interpretivist approach to be utilised, which drew on not just what was said but how it was said, revealing subtexts within the data. Ethical deliberation was followed throughout; the ethical guidelines of the researchers’ HEI were followed. Informed consent was obtained from all participants.
Initial analysis of data seems to suggest that there are a number of factors crucial to the successful completion of the NQT year. This goes beyond the current emphasis on the importance of workload reduction (DfE, 2018) for the recruitment and retention of NQTs. Whilst workload was mentioned, and was seen as a key factor, it was only one of several factors that emerged from the data. In total, eight key factors within school cultures emerged, with NQTs referring to the importance of: trust, support, disposition, leadership, values, relationships, workload and philosophy of education. Trust, or the lack of it, was seen to be important, particularly for those students who were disillusioned in their posts. The NQTs perceived that the lack of reciprocate trust led them to lose confidence in their autonomy as teachers. Support for the NQT, another identified factor, could be largely attributed to the effectiveness of the NQT mentor. The role of leadership, another factor, was related to this, as schools providing effective mentoring were often, but not always, the ones where school leadership ensured that the choice of mentor and the time given to mentoring were prioritised. Relationships with staff, pupils and the wider community were also cited as important to the NQTs. Both values and the philosophy of education were potential areas of tension and disconnect for many NQTs. This perhaps reflects a perception that workload tension is not just about the amount of work having to be done but the type of work which arose from differing philosophical approaches. In summary, it is suggested that the ability to retain NQTS in the workforce goes beyond the largely cited factor of teacher workload; to address this, governments need to address the wider factors that impact upon the culture of the school which the NQT enters.
Cousins, G. (2009) Researching Learning in Higher Education: an introduction to contemporary methods and approaches, Oxon: Routledge. DfE, (2011) Teachers’ Standards, London: Crown. DfE, (2018) Addressing teacher workload in Initial Teacher Education (ITE), Advice for ITE providers, London: Crown DfE. (2019) Early Career Framework London : Crown Edge, K. et al (2017) Securing the 21st Century Teacher Workforce: Global perspectives on teachers' motivation and retention. Available at: https://www.wiseqatar.org/sites/default/files/asset/document/rr132017ucl2.pdf (Accessed: 24/1/19). European Union, (2013) Study on Policy Measures to improve the Attractiveness of the Teaching Profession in Europe, Vol 2, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European office. Ewing, R. & Manual, J. (2005). Retaining Early Career Teachers in the Profession: New Teacher Narratives. Change: Transformations in Education, 8, 1-16. National Audit Office. (2017) Retaining and developing the teaching workforce, Available at:https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Retaining-and-developing-the-teaching-workforce.pdf (Accessed: 18/1/19). Parliament. House of Commons (2018) Teacher Recruitment and Retention in England, Briefing Paper, number 7222, London: The Stationery Office Savin–Baden, M. (2004) Achieving reflexivity: moving researchers from analysis to interpretation in collaborative inquiry. Journal of Social Work practice, 18(3), November 1-14 Savin-Baden, M. & Major, C.H., (2013) Qualitative research: the essential guide to theory and practice, Abingdon ; New York: Routledge. Smither and Robinson (2003) Factors affecting teachers' decisions to leave the profession London:DfES Tangen, R. (2008) Listening to Children's Voices in Educational Research: Some Theoretical and Methodological Problems, European Journal of Special Needs Education, Vol 23 (2), p.157-166. Worth, J., De Lazzari, G., and Hillary, J. (2017). Teacher Retention and Turnover Research: Interim Report. Slough: NFER
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