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The Guardian view on teachers: blame years of cuts for shortages | Editorial

Like the NHS, schools face a workforce crisis. It won’t get any better if ministers won’t negotiate on pay

The Danish film Druk, released in English last year under the title Another Round, is more of a cautionary tale than a guide to schooling. The story concerns four teachers who run a dangerous experiment based on drinking alcohol at work. But in one sense the film offers an illuminating contrast, and that is the way these middle-aged men treat teaching as a career – and not a staging post. To the enormous discredit of successive Conservative governments, this view of teaching as a lifelong commitment has become a rarity in the UK (and even rarer among men: at the last count, 75.5% of teachers in England were female).

Recruitment and retention of staff is recognised as a problem by policymakers, as it is in the health and care sectors. But with teachers in Scotland already on strike, and the results of other strike ballots awaited, the sense of crisis is mounting. Figures obtained by Labour show that of the 270,000 teachers who qualified in England between 2011 and 2020, 81,000 have already left the profession. One consequence of this high dropout rate is that the average age of teachers in England is much lower than in comparable countries. Just 18% are over 50; the average figure across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is 34%.

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