Teachers are changing careers – but where are they going?

Researchers want to hear from former teachers to find out why they left their jobs and what they are doing now.

Researchers hope the findings from a national study will provide a clearer picture of why people have left their teaching careers and what they have moved to in the next phase of their working lives.

Associate Professor Robyn Brandenburg from the Institute of Education, Arts and Community says the researchers want to understand more about the influences impacting the decision to leave teaching. She says the research could help inform universities, initial teacher education programs, governments, schools, principals, and other stakeholders engaged in education.

"This is an important project because there is already extensive research on teachers who intend to leave the profession. We know the reasons teachers say they want to leave include work intensification, salary, increasing levels of administration and a general lack of respect for the profession – there's a lot of research that has been done in this area," Associate Professor Brandenburg said.

"But we really need to hear from the people who have already left and find out why they left, what they are doing now, and whether they intend to return to teaching in the future."

Associate Professor Brandenburg is leading the study with researchers from the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney and the University of Southern Queensland. The research team hope to get responses to a wide-ranging survey from many former teachers.

"We also want to know how long they had been considering leaving the profession and did they maintain their teacher accreditation," Associate Professor Brandenburg said.

"There are many assumptions and hypotheses from many different people about where teachers are going, but if we can get a large evidence base of data that identifies some key trends, this will help inform practices and policies going forward.

"A common statement we hear is that half of all teachers leave within the first five years of graduating. This project is about capturing a longer period – the past seven years – to give us the information that we need."

Associate Professor Brandenburg says the pandemic has also prompted some teachers to reflect on their careers and leave teaching. She says the researchers will lean on current teachers to share the survey with those who have left their jobs and are no longer connected to teaching networks.

"We want to encourage as many as possible to participate and we'd love it to be a large national project so we can identify reliable trends. It's not just our profession, we need to connect to business, government, and the public service for example because many teachers have left and we'd love to know what they're doing," she said.

"They could have retired, they may have started a new business, they may be travelling around the world – we don't know what they are doing, but once we do know more, that knowledge will impact policy and practice."

The survey for the research study I left the teaching profession … and this is what I am doing now": A National Study can be completed here.

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