A third of those who train as teachers leave the profession within five years, according to Department for Education (DfE) figures for England, and fewer teachers are staying on until retirement. Why are teachers abandoning their chosen and hard-won careers? That’s the discussion and challenge currently facing policymakers and keeping headteachers awake at night.
According to the DfE, teacher workload is most often cited as the reason; long hours and a heavy admin burden can make teaching feel unsustainable. In England, the government has launched its Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy to tackle the problem, with recommendations to reduce workload, especially for new teachers, and to invest in ongoing professional development.
From SMART’s work with ITELab (Initial Teachers Education Lab), a knowledge-sharing project between higher education institutions and industry on initial teacher education, and our 30 years’ experience working with schools, we know that the edtech sector can support these recommendations, and more.
Technology reduces workload
No one enters teaching for the marking. And while it’s a necessary part of the job, many teachers feel that much of the admin they are required to do is not. Technology can be a part of the solution; a McKinsey survey found that existing and emerging technology like AI could help teachers reallocate 20–30% of their time toward activities that support student learning, across tasks such as preparation, evaluation and feedback, and administration.
A good example of how existing tech can reduce admin is formative assessment software, which automates the process of gauging student understanding during or after a lesson, helping teachers determine whether concepts have been absorbed or need to be reviewed. Not only does this reduce marking time, but it can also give immediate feedback, so any topics that need more explanation can be tackled straight away.
Another example is lesson planning. It takes up a significant amount of teachers’ time and teachers are too often expected to resource lessons from scratch. Technology provides teachers with the ability to easily share and replicate classroom resources, using and adapting those created by others, rather than having to constantly re-invent the wheel.
“It’s hard to get students excited by dense textbooks in a multimedia world, so schools that provide the right tech tools can make it easier for teachers to win their students over”
Technology and teacher wellbeing
Having more time and less admin will increase teacher wellbeing, but technology can help in a more fundamental way too. It’s hard to get students excited by dense textbooks in a multimedia world, so schools that provide the right tech tools can make it easier for teachers to win their students over. Students are used to rich, interactive content in their home lives, so using this type of content in the classroom can increase engagement and enjoyment for all. We know anecdotally that teachers who use interactive technology in lessons are less likely to move to schools that don’t – they see it as a benefit that they wouldn’t want to give up.
Technology and professional development
Teachers are preparing students for their future in a digital world, but too often the teaching environment is analogue. A Teaching and Learning International study showed that only 56% of teachers reported receiving training in ICT for teaching, and less than half felt well prepared to use ICT when they completed their initial teacher training. These teachers are being denied the benefits of using these innovative tools, and there’s a risk they could feel the sector is being left behind.
Teacher retention and recruitment are complex challenges. Schools can’t solve this problem without significant support from government, and from edtech providers, too. Edtech has the potential to automate admin tasks, to deliver better learning outcomes, to make teaching more enjoyable, to help teachers stick with – and thrive in – the careers they always wanted.
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