I am currently reading a lot and writing a little about teacher retention. Having used the 2015 NFER report ‘Should I stay or should I go? to underpin chapter 2 of my book ‘The Elephant in the Staffroom,‘ yesterday’s NFER report on the state of the teaching workforce was fascinating reading. It was published the day before Halloween and the headline stats will certainly give a few nightmares to those responsible for staffing institutions. There is a perfect storm in terms of teacher numbers, particularly in secondary education: Rising Pupil numbers, (19% in next decade) a shortfall in trainee teachers (about 80% of target recruited) and increasing numbers of working age teachers leaving.
Beneath the headline there are a number of other interesting statistics which caught my eye and may have been missed in the small print
- Retention – around 12% now leave profession each year – it was 8-10%. In addition 10% move schools each year SO total staff change in an average school is around 20% of teaching staff each year (excluding retirements)
- The percentage of staff leaving teaching (12%) is higher than those leaving nursing (9.9%) and the police. (7.7%) Given that I would consider both of these professions equally if not more demanding than teaching, this is an interesting finding. Is the slightly earlier retirement in the police force a factor?
- Age and years experience are the most important predictors of why people leave teaching. Lack of experience in the first 5 years where around 40% leave the profession. The authors cite a parallel study on nursing where nurses come out of university enthusiastic but find the front line tough – there may be evidence that this is also the case in teaching. How do we prepare people for the intensity and rigours?
- Age becomes a factor the older people get. We are losing older teachers. In 2010 23% of teachers were over 50; this is now 17%. Of those who leave teaching after 50, 60% retire early. The idea that teachers will eventually work well into their sixties seems almost laughable.
- Part time workers – particularly in secondary schools are more likely to leave teaching (18%) than full timers (12%) Part time teachers are not accommodated as well as they are in primary schools. However, and here is the twist, part time work may be a way of saving struggling teachers (22% teachers WOULD if given the option go part time for less pay as opposed to 14% nurses, 9% police) The report also discusses other options for flexible working such as compressed working and working from home. Education is not as flexible as other industries
- A key reason teachers leave is lack of job satisfaction. Here is another tension, job satisfaction is actually high (80% teachers) yet those teachers who leave are not satisfied. Why not? At first it may seem to be to do with workload and long hours.
- Teachers work just over 50 hours a week on average – but work more intensively across fewer weeks. (police 44 hours , nurses 39 hours) This is still higher than the other 2 professions if holidays are averaged out – teachers would still work an average of 45 hours per week. Teachers also report that they are more dissatisfied with their leisure time than other professions. (40% teachers – 25% police, nurses) Yet working hours doesn’t affect leaving rates- those who work longer hours are slightly more likely to stay! So working hours is NOT a proxy for workload. Workload feeling unmanageable is the reason for leaving. Hence we have to do what we can to make work manageable but also address the very real feelings that high workload bring.
- The quality of school leadership, a sense of autonomy, feeling supported and valued, and whether workload is manageable are all important factors within job satisfaction – there is low job satisfaction where some or all of these are absent
- It’s not about the money – when teachers leave, their pay is on average 10% less than when they were teaching. So higher pay would help but action on workload is far more important in terms of improving retention. However there has been a 12% decline in pay in real terms since 2010 – The average police officer now earns more than the average teacher per hour actually worked (but this is largely because teachers on average as a profession are younger.) so it may be that some teachers feel that their pay does not justify the considerable effort expended.
- Finally Ofsted – of those leaving the profession. the rate is 12% leaving outstanding and good schools, 14% and 17% RI and Inadequate respectively. For those moving schools the rates are 8% leaving outstanding schools, 9% good, 12% RI and 15% inadequate. An inadequate school could lose 1/3 of its staff each year!
Hope the above thoughts are useful and that those wiser and more practical than myself can turn them into useful actions to prevent the worst excesses of the storm.