Flagship study to focus on what drives teacher retention


A leading five-year study is set to delve into the factors that influence why teachers stay and leave the profession, the Department for Education has revealed.

Involving 15,000 teachers, the longitudinal study will provide the ‘flagship workforce research vehicle’ for the department, potentially helping to shape future policy.

Alongside looking into why staff leave their roles, it will also focus on the impact of changing working conditions and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study is set to examine teacher career paths, with officials keen to know what influences staff retention so they can act accordingly to address the issues found.

The proportion of teachers leaving the profession declined between 2018 and 2019, dropping from 9.6% to 9.2%, although longer-term retention rates have not followed the same trend.

According to the tender for the new contract, a gap has been identified for a longitudinal study of teachers in England, which the study seeks to address.

Informing future decisions around teacher recruitment and retention

The tender states that 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 the teacher workforce”.

By understanding the factors which are “underlying teachers’ career decisions over time”, it is hoped the Department for Education will be able to paint a broader picture of the profession.

In addition to staff pay and teacher workload, the study will also monitor changes across several policy areas to create data to benchmark against.

Initially, the project will run as a pilot scheme, although it will be extended to run for at least five years if successful and will be reviewed each year.

Wave 1 will get underway in 2021 involving at least 15,000 staff from primary, secondary and special schools, including teachers and middle and senior leaders.

The director of school workforce at the Education Policy Institute, James Zuccollo, welcomed the study, describing teacher recruitment and retention as a key challenge that needs to be better understood.

“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,” he added.