Why Teachers Give Up: “I have friends up north who can’t pay their heating bills” | Education

Matthew Roberts, 44, is an English teacher at Green School for Boys, a state secondary school in Hounslow. But for the past few years he’s wondered if he should quit – and in 2019 wrote and performed a solo piece called To learn on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Each night he opened up about the bullying, pressure, stress and disillusionment teachers feel – then asked the audience if he should stop. Most of the time, he found that the public desperately wanted him to stay in teaching. And that, he says, gave him the strength to carry on.

But he understands exactly why many teachers choose to leave. “The first is the lack of agency and systematic nature of performance management. It’s very narrow,” he said.

He can only afford to rent a one-bedroom flat in London, and until he reached his early 40s he lived in a shared flat. “It’s supposed to be professional compensation. But I shop at Poundland and Lidl.

He has no way of supporting a family on his salary or buying a family home in London, and he can easily understand why men who have started families decide to quit. “I have friends who are teachers up north who are downsizing their homes because they have three kids and can’t pay their heating bills.”

Teachers, like NHS workers, deserve a pay rise for their work during the pandemic, he says. “We were at the coal face.”

But it’s not just about pay and conditions. He thinks another reason men are leaving the profession in droves, following the pandemic, is to see the world and have adventures. “Getting Covid puts your life in focus. If you haven’t seen a world beyond the classroom and you show it to people on Powerpoint, you feel a call to nature.

The lack of support for teachers is another big problem. He has changed schools several times over the past two decades and has nothing but praise for his current colleagues, but says: “If you feel like you are being bullied or harassed – if you’re in a toxic environment, or if you feel like you’re not valued – that kind of pressure can break you.

He admits that while he derives a great deal of professional satisfaction from his work as a teacher, if he could afford to quit and work full-time as a playwright, he would.

Instead, he lives very modestly and saves for a doctorate. “I’m very grateful to have an income, in these times.”

He contracted long Covid earlier this year – he now has tinnitus and severe hearing loss – but is back in class, teaching macbeth to teenagers and does his best to get through each day.

Despite all her reservations about teaching, her motivation for continuing is simple: “It’s about giving back.

Leave a Reply