What to glean from the Education Support’s report on Teacher Retention
What to glean from the Education Support’s report on Teacher Retention

What to glean from the Education Support’s report on Teacher Retention

About the report

In March 2023, the Education Support Commission was also able to negotiate an anonymised recruitment and retention dataset of a leading national Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).Public First then carried out a series of interviews, focus groups and roundtable discussions and lastly, between November 2022 and April 2023, Public First facilitated four full Commission meetings to tap into the Commissioners’ expertise and steer the research programme.

More than 1 in 5 (21 per cent) secondary school teachers surveyed for the Commission said they were unlikely to be in the profession in five years’ time.

Work-life balance, an erosion of status, “empty work”, a spiralling list of responsibilities, new challenges around pupil behaviour, antiquated working patterns and toxic school cultures.

…high-stakes accountability system was raised time and time.

ECF and the NPQs programmes came under scrutiny.

Unsurprisingly the recommendations target these observations. But as Jack Worth commented upon at ResearchEd and here in the report,

It’s not necessarily about the money… it’s about being compensated for the hours worked.

Jack Worth, Lead Economist at the National Foundation

Workload is clearly in the crosshairs of the report.

What of autonomy and flexibility?

The workplace has quite literally shifted. 44% of working adults in Britain working from home, at least for part of the week. This is not a viable opportunity for education, for teachers where “boots on the ground” are required. There are interesting flexible and 4-day models being explored however read the small print details and they very quickly become less and less flexible.

Attrition rates remain alarmingly high particularly for senior leaders and headteachers and these pressures are all too easily passed down the line. Of course, good people management and professional learning promote retention, however, these slow release proactive models, are often too slow (if wholesome) against and competing with the backdrop of high-stakes accountability, one word conclusions, and lauded phrases like “rapid change” and “turn-around school.”

…a profession constantly looking over its shoulder is not one that has the autonomy and confidence to implement much-needed change.

Evelyn Forde MBE

Of the ten recommendation – two standout for me.

4. The Department for Education (DfE) should be set new retention targets for the school workforce in England – including teachers, leaders and support staff – published annually.

If retaining our teachers, our workforce, our investment, was in focus, then policy decisions and proposed policy changes that impact upon the workforce would undoubtedly come under more intense scrutiny.

9. The accountability system is unbalanced and the negative impact on the profession is troubling.

Our solution: Our aim is to reinforce the status of our profession, promote teacher agency and well-being and in so doing, unlock the passion and discretionary effort that undoubtedly exists within our teachers. Our professional growth focus exists to ensure that our teachers are able to grow and flourish here at our school. In turn, this focus promotes and directly contributes to a wide range of organisational benefits and can be seen in improved outcomes for our pupils. 

Can we measure (or even know what to measure) the factors that contribute to effective teacher development? The formal and informal learning. The coaching, mentoring, wider reading, chance encounters, on-the-job experience…

Do we trust our teachers and leaders to invest in their own learning. Yes and to simple record their investment.

Do staff know where to focus their efforts, the best bets? Possibly, however their is a conversation to be had about their Professional Growth Plan with their line manager.

Agency – yes. Accountability – to oneself, to the plan. Not on the outcome of that plan.

We are looking to remove traditional ‘performance management’ and replace it with ‘professional growth’; a different perspective and a new direction designed to challenge thinking, promote deep reflection, collaboration and change for the better. Here progression is assigned to committed to the Growth Plan, not an arbitrary pupil attainment target or objective.

One final point to consider – if the workload issues of the professional are not reduced / addressed – if the dial on 47.7 hours per week fails to move? Who is responsible for an unfulfilled Professional Growth Plan?

More of the report here: 1970s working conditions in the 2020s: Modernising the professional lives of teachers for the 21st Century (educationsupport.org.uk).


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