27/02/2012 11:44 GMT | Updated 27/02/2012 11:47 GMT

More Teachers Quit Classroom Over Excessive Workload And Fear Of Ofsted

Almost 9,000 teachers took early retirement last year, a figure which one union has attributed to excessive workloads and a fear of Ofsted as main reasons for staff quitting the classroom.

In total, 8,880 state school teachers chose to retire in 2010-11 before the pension age rose - the highest number since the 90s, according to statistics published by the Department for Education.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) blamed "excessive workload, a restrictive curriculum and the intense worry and fear regarding Ofsted inspections" as the reasons.

The report shows a considerable increase since last year:

Teachers Retiring Prematurely

The statistics also reveal that before 2010/11, the last time a higher number of teachers retired before retirement age was in 1997-98 when 11,350 left early.

Changes made to the teachers' pension scheme from the end of August 1997 meant that many more teachers took early retirement that year than in previous years, the DfE report says.

Under the current system, the teachers' pension age is 65, whereas before 2007 teachers could receive their pension at 60.

"The teaching profession comes under almost daily attack and criticism from government and Ofsted," Blower continued. "In too many schools, planning and assessment requirements have become formulaic burdens which have become the bane of teachers’ lives, add to that pay freezes and threats to pensions.

"This government is turning one of the best jobs possible into a very pressured and difficult one. This will be reflected in recruitment as well as early retirement."

But the DfE insisted the statistics were "good news".

"The number of teachers overall leaving state schools is at its lowest level for a decade," a spokesperson for the department said.

"No clear single reason why premature retirements have increased and likely to be through a combination of factors."

Chris McGovern, a former headteacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, told The Telegraph the figures were a "tragic waste of talent".

"For many teachers, it's like working in a factory. The obsession with league tables and targets means that managers of schools are putting more and more pressure on teachers to get good results at all costs," he told the paper on Sunday.

The DfE cited demographics as a "major factor" and added the increase in premature retirements was "not necessarily a negative thing".

"The individuals are not necessarily lost to the profession - they can choose to return to teaching in a different or lesser capacity and continue to receive their pension."