Survey on teacher careers – Results

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The survey findings indicate that, even though only a minority of teachers aspire to be school heads, most wish to pursue a classroom-based career that can be enriched with more opportunities, responsibilities and variety outside the classroom and with more support to develop their careers in this direction. Respondents felt that only a small percentage of the public view teaching as a desirable career choice, with most people being neutral or negative about it.

Despite a common understanding of the need for continued professional development, teacher careers are often seen as flat or one-dimensional, with few or no opportunities for progression – to expand, grow or move on. This perspective can have a negative impact on individual teachers’ long-term motivation and desire to develop as professionals. It raises challenges both for schools, as places of work, and for education systems, which not only want to keep teachers in the profession but want them to remain passionate about their work and motivated to lead change where it is needed. The evidence from the survey suggests that teachers’ career aspirations are very much based on remaining in the classroom, not becoming a head teacher. Efforts to motivate and retain teachers could therefore focus on valuing and enriching classroom practice, and on identifying and fast-tracking those who are interested in becoming school leaders.

All countries have some form of competence framework or set of expectations, which can help to define teacher education, set criteria for teacher recruitment and selection, and identify teacher professional development needs. All countries also have some form of support for teacher careers: training providers, mentors, online information and guidance, leadership schemes. But we know that there are differences between countries in what is available.

International surveys and research tell us a lot about the difficulties some teachers face in finding time and getting permission to attend courses and take part in projects that would help them with pedagogical tasks inside and outside of the classroom. They also tell us about the competences that some teachers feel they need more support in developing. Responses to the survey indicate that many teachers feel that there is a lack of support available to them for managing their career progression and that their performance as a teacher is not evaluated, making it difficult to identify professional development needs or career progression possibilities.

The survey on teaching careers was open on School Education Gateway from 3 February to 22 March and attracted a record number of respondents – 2,480 – of whom 87% are teachers or school heads.

Thank you for your interest and do please send your suggestions for future surveys.

Results (N=2480)

1. In your region, how would you describe the public attitude towards teacher careers?

Graph 1

Only about a quarter of respondents (27%) agreed that teaching is considered a desirable career choice in their region, and a similar percentage (29%) felt that the public does not regard teaching as a desirable career choice. The remaining respondents (44%) felt that, in their region, the public attitude towards teacher careers was neutral.

2. In your region, how realistic are the following opportunities for teachers within their schools or their wider community?

Graph 2

Not possible, but teachers would like to have this opportunity

Possible, and teachers already do it

Possible, but teachers don’t take the opportunity

According to the poll, the most realistic opportunity for teachers is to obtain a new position of responsibility, with 78% of respondents indicating this is possible, of whom 50% agreed that teachers are already taking advantage of this opportunity.

About a third of respondents consider it realistic for teachers to advise other schools (35%), become an educational inspector (37%), or become a cultural leader (36%). The least realistic opportunity for teachers, unsurprisingly, appears to be to become a ministry or regional authority advisor, with nearly half of the respondents (49%) indicating that it is impossible, although it is desirable.

3. Does your school or a school you know have transparent and regular teacher evaluations that lead to planning for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) or recommendations for career advancement?

Graph 3

A substantial 68% of participants indicated that teacher evaluations are carried out. However, only 22% reported that such evaluations are transparent, regular and conducive to CPD opportunities. Nearly a third of respondents (32%) stated that no regular evaluations are carried out.

4. Is there a lot of support available for teachers to plan and manage their career paths (e.g. a framework for competence development, information on roles and pathways, courses leading to new specialist qualifications)?

Graph 4

A large majority of respondents (63%) indicated that support for teachers regarding the planning and management of their career paths is available. Of these, 38% thought that teachers are unaware of it and 25% thought that teachers use it. According to 37%, most teachers feel that there is little or no support available to them for managing their career progression.

5. In your school or a school you know, is becoming a school head the ultimate career goal?

Graph 5

Only 13% of respondents thought that becoming a school head is the ultimate goal for teachers in their school or a school they know. For 48%, most important is increased responsibility or variety in addition to their classroom teaching, while 40% prefer to focus on classroom teaching.


According to the respondents, only a small percentage of the public view teaching as a desirable career choice, with the more common perspective being neutral or negative about it.

Although the survey suggests that certain opportunities for teachers to take on new roles exist, some are seen as more realistic than others, and most respondents consider a position of responsibility to be the most realistic prospect. Despite some opportunities being possible for teachers – such as advising other schools, or becoming an educational inspector or cultural leader – more than a third of respondents indicated that teachers do not take advantage of them.

This may be due to the lack of awareness of the support and guidance available to teachers: nearly 4 out of 10 participants are unaware of support available to them for career progression, and another 4 out of 10 feel that this support is non-existent. Or it may be because ambition is classroom-focused: only one in eight respondents agree that becoming a head teacher is the ultimate goal for teachers, with most wanting other responsibilities or variety in addition to teaching and 40% preferring to focus on classroom teaching.

Policymakers could bear in mind that progression to being a school head appeals only to a minority, and that measures to enrich job satisfaction in the classroom are likely to be welcomed by teachers, including some leadership responsibility. More could be done to raise the profile of the profession, promoting it as a positive and well-respected career path with diverse opportunities.

Annex: Role of respondents

Graph 6