The truth about teacher attrition.


Teaching enables joy and fulfilment of a purpose bigger than the individual. (Marg L)

Guiding children’s learning through the stages of development is a unique privilege. (Ken Mc)

I have found that the smaller successes – such as when a student finally “gets” a concept … or when a student overcomes a conceptual or technical roadblock with which s/he has been struggling … are often as exciting as the larger ones. These are the little experiences which provide an overwhelming cumulative personal joy and professional satisfaction. (Ann L)


To the almost 2500 new teaching graduates who gained registration at the end of last year, and the 1500 teachers from interstate and overseas who have recently registered, I’d like to welcome you to this most valuable profession in Queensland.

Experienced teachers, like those quoted above, speak about their work with students as providing the most rewards.

However, in recent years there has been an increasing commentary around teachers who leave the profession early, with some stating that their work with students was overtaken by administration and demands from outside the classroom. I discussed these issues in a number of blogs towards the latter end of 2018.

However, I want to caution you about what is often an overwhelming negative sentiment – and what is too often based on anecdote and not data. Queensland College of Teachers’ (QCT) survey data has indicated that attrition in Queensland, at 14-15 per cent over a five-year period, is significantly less than sensationalised numbers. This is far from the 50 per cent attrition figure which often appears in media statements. The QCT (2013) report also suggested that this does not appear to be higher than in other professions. Following a detailed examination of attrition figures cited in various reports, and the processes used to gather them, Weldon (2018) concluded that “In reality, there is no robust Australian evidence, and figures do not agree. What evidence there is, nationally and internationally, suggests that attrition is dynamic, varies by school level and location, and is not always negative and not always due to the school environment. In the absence of Australian evidence, articles should be more cautious about figures cited, and about causation” (p. 61).

The biggest challenges for early career teachers are often related to short term contract and casual employment. This hampers their ability to receive adequate induction and mentoring, which is so critical in the early years (QCT, 2013). A recent article in The Conversation by Suzanne Hudson and colleagues “Six ways to support new teachers to stay in the profession“, emphasises the importance of strategic mentoring support for beginning teachers. They discuss roles for universities in partnership with schools; a planned orientation with a collegial welcome program; the value of a mentor for each beginning teacher; provision of a community of mentors within each school; an ongoing induction program (which continues after the first week or term); and a regular review of the induction and mentoring program. These strategies for early career teacher support are also cited in the QCT (2013) report, and include:

  • structured induction
  • mentoring by trained mentors who have been given sufficient time to undertake this role
  • reduced workloads
  • not being placed in difficult locations, and/or allocated challenging classes
  • a collegial, supportive school environment.

These suggestions are directed at systems; however, I encourage beginning teachers to reach out within their school and request mentoring support, and indeed develop support and mentoring within groups of colleagues.

I would welcome hearing from beginning teachers about the experiences which have helped them as they begin their teaching careers.

Additional reading

Queensland College of Teachers. (2013). Attrition of recent Queensland graduate teachers.

Weldon, P. (2018). Early career teacher attrition in Australia: Evidence, definition, classification and measurement. Australian Journal of Education, 62(1) 61–78.


Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton Chair of QCT Board


This entry was posted in Beginning Teaching, Research, Support, Systems, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The truth about teacher attrition.

  1. Jude Keyse says:

    The most helpful factors for me in my first year (2018) were: 1. The YXL program run by Liam Exelby which my school signed us all up for and allocated the bulk of their new and beginning teacher budget to. 2. Candice March, my fellow newbie and the most enthusiastic and hilarious science teacher I know. 3. Adam Warren and Jess Malcolm, the two most experienced teachers in our staff room and an endless source of patient advice and support. 4. The collegial atmosphere at Glenala SHS with a principal who cares. Excited to return in 2020 after maternity leave! Challenges definitely include administration (mostly OneSchool) as the biggest issue causing me stress.


  2. El Paso says:

    Staff room bullies, often unionists of some 30 years standing, judgement rather than constructive support, in a context of some extremely difficult classes (some that had several teachers before me) … the list goes on. At my first school, they didn’t even know I was a first-year teacher until 2nd term and then a senior teacher who doesn’t like Grad.Dip.teachers hauled me into the deputy’s office to grill me. It led to ostracism and social difficulties in a town where I had no social support. I worked 16 hour days with planning, observations, all sorts of after school meetings. The only person who acknowledged me was another contract teacher and a supply teacher. When I quit the school and went home, a deputy came up to me and acknowledged they had made many mistakes but they had learned from them. I did not consider that to be an adequate response. BTW, They wanted me to start on the Monday, they offered me the job on the previous Wednesday and I made the 7 hour trek over the weekend after finding accommodation in a studio in another teacher’s garage. No induction. Straight into marking drafts, exams, reports and Parent Teacher Interviews, which I did without complaint or problem. And no one said boo!


  3. JIM MEYERS says:

    I enjoyed reading the report and I think the research is very helpful to the profession. The lack of accurate data is a problem and I doubt the real attrition rate is as low as the report states. I left teaching as a profession after four very difficult years but I have maintained my BTR/QCT registration for over 30 years since then just in case I needed/need to return. I think there are many registered teachers like me who left teaching early but maintained registration. Looking back I remember there were times I enjoyed some moments of job satisfaction when I was teaching, like the “small successes” mentioned in the article above. However, those moments were far outweighed by the onerous and stressful student behaviour management issues, lack of support from school management and peers, poor facilities, always being allocated grade 8 and 9 classes with larger numbers and more behavior problems, being required to teach subjects I was not trained to teach and the many hours at night and on weekends spent marking student work and preparing lessons and materials. To those of you who stayed and who still have some passion for teaching and get some satisfaction from your work you have my great admiration.


    • PAUL BLOMME says:

      I agree with Jim. The research is outdated and showing only averages for the profession and standard deviation. Some State Schools have very high turnover of staff including Principals. I also doubt the real attrition rate is as low as the report states having worked for different Qld Independent and Schools since 2002.

      Paul Blomme


  4. Anonymous says:

    Problem with my first year was unrealistic standards of performance of first year teachers and poor administration communication. I moved schools halfway through first year to an extremely supportive school who provided real support and mentoring. I now have been able to show leadership potential along with improving student outcomes significantly.


  5. Anonymous says:

    I am in my first year and only lasted 7 weeks before burning out and jabe taken almost 4 weeks sock leave. This was due to working long 12 to 16 hours a day as well as weekends, I was given a full load, difficult classes with major behaviour managment issues and little ongoing support and I just couldn’t keep going. I didnt have time or energy for my own children and family. When I drew the line and said I am not working all weekend I would end up sitting up until between 1 to 2 am in sunday night to prepare for monday, then this was repeated most week nights There was absolutely no balance. I am incredibly worried about my future ability to get back into a classroom after this terrible experience. I scared of a little hard work but the expectations on a beginning teacher were beyond reasonable and I am now out of work and worried about my and my families financial future. There needs to be a realistic time to continue learning from day 1 as a teacher. We can not learn all the skills in the beginning teacher education. What other professions expect the same of someone with no real in the job experience and others with uears of experience. The non contact hours for beginning teachers needs to be looked at to start with. The are so many admisistrative tasks a teacher is expected to do and there is no time to do them.
    Disappointed. I thought I could make a difference but now I don’t know how.


  6. Paul says:

    Administration does not care a hoot. They see the numbers and that’s all they are concerned about.


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