Big MATs have highest teacher turnover, EPI finds

Large trusts have highest levels of teacher turnover and are better-off, report reveals

Large trusts have highest levels of teacher turnover and are better-off, report reveals

16 Apr 2024, 0:01

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The Education Committee has heard from a panel of experts on how to solve specialist teacher shortages

Schools in the largest multi-academy trusts have higher levels of teacher turnover than other schools, new research has found.  

The Education Policy Institute’s latest research into effective school groups, published this morning, follows the release of a study last month on pupil inclusion and attainment. 

Today’s report found that large trusts have the highest turnover rates, particularly so in secondary academies. 

Analysis also suggested that academy trust tend to be in a better financial position that others, as they post healthier in-year balances. However the data is from 2019.

Louis Hodge, EPI’s associate director for school system and performance, said “our understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different [school] groups has, to date, been patchy and inconclusive”. 

“We hope [our research] will enable informed conversations across the education sector about the features of effective school groups and how school groups can be supported to improve their performance.”  

Turnover highest in MATs …

Drawing on school workforce census figures from between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the EPI found MATs “have higher rates of workforce turnover than local authorities”. 

The difference is starkest among secondaries, with annual turnover rates standing at 16.9 per cent in academies, compared to 14.4 per cent in council-run schools. 

Daniel Kebede
Daniel Kebede

For larger MATs with 10 or more schools, this rose to 19.5 per cent.

However big trusts are more likely to take over failing schools, have larger numbers of disadvantaged pupils and may have more schools in urban areas – which could all have an impact.

Meanwhile, 37.4 per cent of teachers working in secondary academies in 2016-17 left their positions by the end of 2019-20. The figure local authority-maintained schools stood at 32.7 per cent. 

National Education Union general secretary Daniel Kebede said it does students “no good to be taught by three different teachers in a given subject within the space of a year”.

“There has been a fundamental failure by successive Conservative governments to make teaching attractive and paid well enough for people to stay. The expansion of academies has been at the heart of this failure.”

… but it’s ‘not necessarily bad’

The research suggested that outcomes are lower overall where turnover is higher.

However, disadvantaged children tended to “achieve similar progress” in schools where staff movement was high. And there was no such correlation found with turnover and outcomes in primary schools.

Leora Cruddas
Leora Cruddas

EPI also added that low staff turnover could “limit opportunities for progression and lead to higher wage bills at a school level”. In some cases, it is also “essential to resolve poor job matching”. 

Confederation of School Trusts CEO Leora Cruddas, whose organisation is the sector body for academies, also noted the data doesn’t take into account teaching staff employed by trust central teams who work across groups.

She added that the findings show “correlations but not causation” and that it “does not immediately follow that those schools are doing something wrong”.

Higher rates of teacher turnover were also associated with improved levels of financial efficiency.

EPI said this highlights “teacher turnover isn’t necessarily a bad outcome, if for example schools are adept at identifying and retaining only high-quality” employees. 

Trusts also better-off

The study also showed academies seem to be in a better financial position than local authority-maintained schools. 

Not only are MATs “more likely” to in-year surpluses, but when they do, their balances “tend to be … larger as a fraction of expenditure”. 

Almost 50 per cent of trusts that responded to an EPI survey reported that the reserves from one of their schools had been used to aid another in their chain. 

However, the research unearthed a “higher degree of variation in the level of in-year balances amongst trusts compared to other group types”. 

The report said: “At primary, local authorities have in-year balances between -2.5 per cent and +2 per cent, whilst trusts have balances ranging between -8 per cent and 23 per cent of expenditure.”

No comparisons between MAT and LA central teams 

But the EPI struggled to make comparisons between the ways in which MAT central teams and local authorities top-slice and re-distribute grant income. 

Pepe DiIasio

It believes the government should order councils to collect the income and expenditure of their education teams in a similar way to academy chains to remedy this. 

Alongside the report, the EPI has today unveiled the completed version of its online benchmarking tool. 

It is designed to compare the performance of individual academy trusts, local authorities, federations and dioceses across four key indicators – pupil attainment, inclusion, workforce sustainability and financial management. 

Pepe Di’Iasio, the boss of school leaders’ union ASCL, hopes it “serves as a pointer to the government to improve the information it provides to parents and communities”. 

Reacting to the report’s findings, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “As the report highlights, there are also positive drivers to teacher turnover.

“To ensure we recruit and retain high-quality teachers, we have undertaken the biggest reform of training and development in a generation, and last summer, teachers received the largest pay award in over thirty years.”

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