Burnout more likely to see teachers quit than at any time in almost 40 years

Meta-analysis examining 24 studies from across the globe concludes that the risk of teacher attrition from burnout is on the rise

Teachers experiencing burnout are more likely to leave the profession than at any time in the past 35 years.

That is the key finding from meta-analysis conducted by psychology lecturers at York St John University and the University of York.

Dr Daniel Madigan and Dr Lisa Kim examined 24 studies published across the globe – 10 specifically focused on teacher burnout – going back almost four decades.

They found that burnout is one of – if not the – key predictor of teachers’ intentions to walk away from the profession. And, while attrition is a problem in the majority of occupations, none have such a high rate of leavers as teaching; some estimates point to more than a third of new recruits quitting the profession within five years.

“We sought to understand why teachers leave the profession at such alarming rates,” said Dr Madigan. “Most notably, we found that teacher burnout increased the chance of teachers intending to leave their jobs.

“Significantly we found that the strength of this relationship, and therefore risk of teacher attrition from burnout, is increasing over time.”

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Burnout in teachers has been found to consist of three factors:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalisation
  • Reduced accomplishment


Madigan and Kim’s combined analysis of information from nearly 4,000 teachers found that burnout is associated with lower levels of job satisfaction and waning physical and mental health.

We may fairly expect that the issue has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which fell outside the timescale of their research.

“The teaching profession is an important and valuable profession,” said Dr Kim. “Yet, our findings indicate that burnout is a significant reason as to why they may be considering leaving the profession.

“We need to find ways to encourage them to stay; and preventing and tackling burnout may be an important way to do this.”

The study will be published in the September 2021 issue of Teaching and Teacher Education. It follows a survey in April which found that almost half of independent school teachers are considering quitting the profession.

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