Revealed: The ‘sausage-machine schools’ pushing new teachers out the profession

Revealed: The 'sausage-machine schools' pushing new teachers out the profession

More than 100 “sausage-machine schools” which recruit and lose high numbers of newly-qualified teachers in a “cycle of grinding down new recruits” are pushing teachers out of the profession, a new study has found.

About 130 “sausage-machine schools”, which are characterised by an unusually high number of NQTs being recruited and replaced each year, have been identified by think tank Education Datalab as having a disproportionate impact on teacher retention.

If the number of new trainees who leave these schools could be brought in line with the national average, then 538 fewer NQTs would have left the profession over 2010 to 2015.

This is a quarter of the existing recruitment deficit, and would also have saved £12.3 million on teacher training, the researchers told delegates at the Festival of Education today.

“We need to look at publishing teacher turnover figures, in particular how good schools are at keeping NQTs,” said Dr Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab.

The schools which then flagged up cause for concern could be investigated by Ofsted, and trainees would know to avoid getting a job there.

Whereas only about four per cent of teachers at any given time are NQTs, “sausage-machine schools” can be spotted as those which tend to employ NQTs as 20 to 30 per cent of their workforce, in effect “over-using” them to fill staff posts, said Allen.

By looking at the proportion of NQT contracts at schools compared to their staff size over a five-year period, the researchers identified 131 schools spread evenly across the country with unusually high numbers of NQTs that leave the school for somewhere else.

Separately, about 122 schools also have unusually high numbers of NQTs who leave the profession altogether – dubbed the most damaging kind of “sausage-machine school”.

Such schools should not be allowed to employ new trainees because they’d proven themselves “inadequate for showing them how to learn their craft,” said Sam Sims, research associate at Education Datalab.

Instead, the best and most experienced teachers should be recruited to those schools to help turn them around – a tactic many multi-academy trusts were already using.

It comes as the School Workforce Census released today shows the number of new teachers entering the profession has dropped to its lowest rate in five years – while vacancy rates continue to rise.

Further analysis of the census by Education Datalab found a tenth of all NQTs left in their first year, and after three years a third of them will have left. This was particularly worrying since teachers become their most effective for pupils after three years, said Sims.

Although there are just over 100 such schools in the country, they have a disproportionate impact on other schools because they can single-handedly cause about 15 teachers to leave the profession over five years – “enough to staff a whole other school” in the area, he said.

Stress, lack of support from experienced staff and high pressure from senior leaders were likely to be key features of the schools, said Allen.

The schools were also more likely to be found in disadvantaged areas, although exactly what effect this was having on the school’s leadership style was not yet clear.

“We need to think about having requirements for people who want to become aspiring leaders to spend time in these sausage-machine schools,” said Allen.

Datalab has not named the “sausage-machine schools”, but it is expected names of some of the schools along with detailed case studies will be published in a book on the topic due to be published later this year.