New ‘flagship’ study to solve why teachers leave

A new five-year study of 15,000 teachers will assess why staff drop out of the profession, the impact of Covid-19 and changing working conditions.

The Department for Education says the longitudinal study will serve as its “flagship workforce research vehicle” and “fill key evidence gaps on a long-term basis”.

In particular, the study will help officials understand the “key drivers” that influence teacher retention and recruitment through a “focus on exploring teacher career journeys”.

Crucially, it will follow teachers who leave the profession, helping policymakers plug retention problems.

The overall proportion of teachers who leave has fallen slightly from 9.6 per cent in 2018 to 9.2 per cent last year. However, the five-year retention rate has dropped to 67.4 per cent, compared with 68 per cent in the previous year.

The tender for the contract states: “Despite the importance of understanding the teacher labour market, there exists no longitudinal study of teachers in England… [The study] will fill key evidence gaps on a long-term basis, provide sustained support to work coming out from the recruitment and retention strategy, and inform and support further reforms to improve the supply and quality of our teacher workforce.”

It adds the study will “collect evidence on the factors underlying teachers’ career decisions over time, from joining through to leaving the profession and beyond”. It will do so by collecting a “combination of management information and evidence relating to the attitudes and experiences of teachers across different subject matter”.

It will also monitor change across other policy areas to provide benchmarking data. This includes staff pay and workload, teacher wellbeing and diversity.

The survey will also “collect evidence to monitor the medium and longer term impacts of coronavirus (Covid-19) on the teaching workforce”.

The first wave will be treated as a pilot and, if successful, will run for a minimum of five years, subject to annual review.

James Zuccollo, the director of school workforce at the Education Policy Institute, said teacher recruitment and retention remained one of the most significant challenges facing schools.

“There is an urgent need to better understand teachers’ career paths and why so many are choosing to leave.

“The department’s plans to collect annual data from teachers could provide a valuable and much-needed source of information to help tackle these issues. We look forward to following the development of this study.”

Wave 1, which will start next year, will reach a minimum sample of 15,000 teachers and middle and senior leaders across primary, secondary and special schools.

It seems the survey, alongside a new wellbeing charter, will fulfil the government’s commitment to monitoring how happy school staff are.

The long-awaited findings of the first annual longitudinal survey to measure teacher workload, published in 2017, found teachers worked nearly 11 hours a day.

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  1. Lisa Farley

    The study seems flawed.
    1. If you mainly use management data, you will not find the true reason that teachers leave. Nobody tells management they left because the head had no people skills or the MAT had an academic only vision.

    2. You need to look at teacher training and motivation before starting.
    E.g. did the person always dream of teaching and go into the job to work with children or did they choose it after say a geography degree and couldn’t find a job?

    3. Did the person have enough knowledge to do the job at the start?
    A. …By having a 4 year teaching degree with a huge child development focus and gradually built up teaching practices.
    B. … By doing another degree, and then a ONE YEAR PGCE to gain QTS and forever play catch-up because they are neither prepared or committed?
    Readiness to start and motivation to do the job are key.
    Those who Want to teach will only move schools when the job doesn’t match their vision.

    • Agree about the flawed nature of the study – this is possibly intentional unfortunately or another case of research being ‘inflicted’ on teachers.

      Unsure why you think that PGCE students are not committed? It is an intense course but many have just completed an undergraduate degree and so are used to hard work and research. They bring a deep passion for their undergraduate subject and in my experience (5 years as a teacher educator and 18 years teaching in inner city schools) they are deeply reflective individuals who have a broad and enhancing view of education.
      Let’s not do our teacher trainees down!