'Teaching Could Be a Fantastic Job but …': Three Stories of Student Teacher Withdrawal from Initial Teacher Preparation Programmes in England

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 16, Issue 1, (February 2010),
pages 111 - 129.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Retention in initial teacher preparation (ITP) and the teaching profession, in England and elsewhere, has been the subject of numerous articles in academic and professional journals.
Whilst a number of common findings are beginning to emerge from research on this subject, notably on the causes of student teacher withdrawal, studies have tended to neglect the difficulties experienced by the individuals who have lived through the process of embarking upon and withdrawing from ITP programmes.

This article presents new findings that focus on the experiences of three (ex-)student teachers who did not complete their ITP.

Data generation and sampling
This paper reports findings, on the subject of student teacher withdrawal from initial teacher preparation (ITP) programmes, from the 'Becoming a Teacher' research project, a six-year (2003-2009) longitudinal study of beginner teachers' experiences of ITP and early career and professional development in England. Having conducted in-depth interviews, the authors attempt to understand the experiences, emotions and decisions of three people who committed themselves to ITP, invested much energy and time, but in the end withdrew.


All three were female. Two were in their early to mid forties, one in her mid to late twenties. One was seeking to teach in primary schools and the other two in secondary schools. All three had had sustained experience of other employment. All three were mature trainees who were also career changers.


The reasons for their decision to withdraw from ITP are numerous and complex.
These reasons relate to an individual's personal circumstances, their chosen ITP route, the schools to which they have been allocated, workload, support provided, and relationships with mentors and other school colleagues.


The following recommendations suggest some possible ways of addressing these issues.
Given the range of ITP routes available, providers should typically provide advice to potential trainees regarding the route most appropriate to their needs.

Greater acknowledgement should be given to the knowledge and skills that trainees, career changers in particular, bring to ITP.

Workload is clearly an issue for many student teachers. A longer ITP programme with longer school placements might provide more opportunity for problematic issues, both provider- and school-based, to be addressed, at a pace more suitable to the needs of the individual trainee.

Support and the perception that it is available and accessible are essential, not least given the very demanding workload, the short time available, the differences between schools and the importance of, and potential problems with, relationships between student teachers and their school-based mentors.

The three case studies of this paper provide some insights for teacher educators regarding the obstacles, both personal and course-related, that can impede successful completion of pre-service education and entry to the profession.

Updated: Sep. 19, 2010