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Attrition of mid-career teachers in a neoliberal world – why are experienced teachers leaving the profession?

Bilton, M. (2023) Attrition of mid-career teachers in a neoliberal world – why are experienced teachers leaving the profession? EdD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00112785


There is an international recruitment and retention crisis in teaching, yet there is an imbalance in research addressing why mid-career teachers are continuing to leave the profession prior to normal retirement age. Research and Government policy in the UK focuses on the retention of new and beginning teachers and overlooks the phenomenon of attrition of those with years of experience and expertise. This research was located in the interpretive paradigm and used an embedded mixed-methodology to gather data by conducting an online questionnaire (n=119) and subsequent semi-structured interviews with mid-career secondary school teachers (n=14). Thematic analysis was used to scrutinize the data from the interviews. Through the lens of Labour Process Theory it was possible to shed light on how mid-career teachers perceive their work to be conceptualised by Government and school leadership teams and exposed how their labour is utilized and managed. In doing so, it has been possible to gain a deeper understanding of how mid-career teachers position themselves in their profession and how this impacts their connection with the four key concepts of workload, stress, career and professional identity. Findings suggest that mid-career teachers feel dissatisfied with their work: a diminished sense of professional identity, lack of autonomy, limited opportunities to develop their career, lack of respect for their experience, and the pressure of being under surveillance which in turn, contributes to increased levels of dissatisfaction with their work. Crucially, participants shed light on the concept of ‘workload’ in a more nuanced way than simply hours worked or tasks 4 | P a g e undertaken. By re-framing the concept of workload, it is possible to acknowledge the role that senior leaders can play in the attrition of mid-career teachers. The concluding proposals to reform and reconceptualise the work teachers undertake (by reducing the gap between hierarchical decision making and the subordinate teacher), suggest that attrition could be reduced by giving teachers more autonomy and control over key aspects of their working lives. Furthermore, through a cessation of conceptualising experienced teachers as workers whose labour and often ‘surplus labour’ is owned by stakeholders, mid-career teachers could enjoy a longer and more manageable career in the profession.

Item Type:Thesis (EdD)
Thesis Supervisor:Foley, C. and Floyd, A.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:112785
Uncontrolled Keywords:Mid-career teacher, teacher workload, teacher career, stress, professional identity, autonomy, senior leadership teams
Date on Title Page:2022


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