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Young teachers lack support, so they leave

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It's a hard life being a young teacher, your employment is insecure, you get little support and as a consequence, many throw their hands up and leave for a different profession.

Slipping through the cracks: teachers who miss out on early career support looks into the phenomenon and is surprisingly, or maybe not come to think of it, the first investigation of the issue.

Lead author Dr Nick Kelly of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), said that early career teachers in casual or insecure employment were most likely to report missing out on formal support such as mentoring, orientation programs and reduced workload.

Things are getting better, if only slightly. The report was based on nationally representative data from the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey covering 1,863 early career teachers across Australia in 2007, and 2,477 in 2010. In 2007, about one in six beginning teachers were unsupported. This portion dropped to one in 10 by 2010, suggesting some improvement. The portion of beginning teachers in insecure employment who received no support also dropped, from 23% in 2007 to 16% in 2010.

An absence of support was associated with lower job satisfaction, and lower satisfaction with professional opportunities and relationships with other teachers. Young teachers with low satisfaction in these areas were more likely to express an intention to leave the profession, which is a precursor to actually leaving.

The study is the first to investigate on a national level which Australian teachers are effectively “unsupported” and missing out on all forms of support during their first five years in the profession.

“Too many beginning teachers are slipping through the cracks and missing out on professional support,” said Dr Kelly. “We have many good teachers leaving the profession before they've established themselves, and ensuring that all teachers receive quality support regardless of their employment status is a good way to start addressing that.”

Dr Kelly’s study, co-authored with Assoc Prof Cheryl Sim and Dr Michael Ireland, considered five kinds of support for beginning teachers: mentoring programs, orientation programs, structured opportunity for reflection, reduction in workload, and follow-up from their place of study.

Dr Kelly says, “Many, and in some states most, beginning teachers are in casual or temporary employment. We need to do a better job of targeting these teachers for formal support to stop them from slipping through the cracks.”

“One way to address early career teacher attrition would be to improve the base-level of support available to all teachers and to place more of a focus on professional wellbeing.”


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