More than half of Australian teachers surveyed are planning to quit the profession, with some describing their workload as excessive and unsustainable.
A Monash University study published last month in the Australian Journal of Education surveyed 2444 Australian primary and secondary school teachers across the country.
The report included an extensive questionnaire first conducted in 2019, before the pandemic, which was still ongoing.
It found that nearly 60 per cent of teachers plan to leave the profession.
The attrition rate is so high that up to half of teacher graduates will have left in their first five years – about as long as it takes to qualify as a teacher.
Workload pressure, burnout and wellbeing issues — as well as how they were portrayed in public debate — were the main reasons for wanting to quit.
Among teachers who intended to leave the profession, 62 per cent referred to workload pressures and its impact on their health and wellbeing as the top reason.
Lead author Fiona Longmuir said teachers routinely described their workload as “excessive”, “unrealistic” and “unsustainable”.
One teacher said they couldn’t keep up with the growing list of administrative tasks, to the detriment of teaching students.
“Administration requirements and the expected amount of time I spend doing school things outside of direct teaching … seems to increase. However, the number of hours in a day is finite,” the teacher said.
Teachers expressed frustration with what they saw as unnecessary paperwork, administration and reporting.
Exhaustion, stress and burnout were cited as other reasons for more than 20 per cent of the respondents who planned to quit.
Teachers also referred to feeling undervalued, under-appreciated and disrespected in public talk — especially in the media.
NSW teachers in particular have been vocal in their demands for better wages in recent months.
The researchers recommended reducing teachers workloads’ and increasing awareness of the complexity of set tasks to help stop the brain drain.
“Teachers don’t mind hard work. But they do feel overwhelmed by the ever-increasing administration and standardisation being thrust upon them, which is arguably not benefiting students,” Dr Longmuir said.
“If teachers feel that their work is appreciated and that the workload and emotional intensity of their work is being recognised, that might make them feel less inclined to walk away.”