New teachers happier, but feel hard work 'isn't appreciated'

Newly qualified teachers are happier than other graduates, but are more likely to say their hard work is unrewarded, new research has found.

Researchers at the UCL Institute of Education found that, on average, new teachers work nine hours more every week than other graduates.

Professor John Jerrim, lead author of the report, said it is “little wonder why many end up choosing to leave the profession” if they are expected to work long hours and “do not feel that their effort is appreciated”.

“This is of particular concern because not only are teachers feeling undervalued, many school teachers and heads are saying this is directly affecting and harming the quality of education pupils receive.”

The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and published in the British Journal of Educational Studies, analysed data from the Next Steps cohort study, which follows the lives of around 16,000 people born in 1989-90.

Overall, teachers reported higher levels of life satisfaction and showed no evidence of worse mental health or less active social lives, when compared to others in the cohort.

For example, 37 per cent of teachers said they were ‘very satisfied’ at ages 20 and 26, whereas 34 per cent of those in office jobs said they were ‘very satisfied’ at age 20 compared to 25 per cent at age 26.

However just 30 per cent of teachers agreed that hard work is rewarded, compared to 45 per cent of all graduates.

Jerrim added: “More work needs to be done to understand exactly why young teachers feel this way, and education policymakers and school leaders need to make greater efforts to show junior teachers that their hard work and dedication to the job is highly valued and sincerely appreciated.”

The findings also showed that compared to all graduates, teachers are paid around £22 more per week. However, teachers received £54 per week less than their peers working in health and £71 less than those in office jobs.

An Education Policy Institute report this week found schools in the most disadvantaged areas face having to make further cuts to meet the sharp rise in salaries for new teachers. Secondary schools are expecting a rise in pupil numbers of as much as ten per cent between 2019 and 2023.

Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said the findings on wellbeing were “reassuring”. But she added: “New, returning and more experienced teachers have a vital role to play in education and it is important that we build a better understanding of how we can better attract and retain teachers.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it is “hugely encouraging to see that young teachers are showing greater job satisfaction than their counterparts”.

“We want to ensure teachers are rewarded appropriately and we have set out proposals to increase starting salaries to £30,000 by 2022/23, alongside above-inflation increases to pay ranges for more experienced teachers and school leaders.”