In the largest independent study into the driving forces behind staff retention in England, 40% of academy staff — and 46% of teachers — said that they have considered resigning from their current post in the past three months.
These results add to the findings from the Department for Education, which state that over 20% of new teachers leave the profession within their first two years of teaching, and 33% leave within their first five years*. As the retention problem grows, we are also starting to see more targeted interventions such as the DfE’s new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. These are welcome steps in the right direction, but staff retention and wellbeing is a dynamic and multi-faceted issue so it’s critically important to gain deeper insights in how we can improve.
The survey, managed by technology startup Edurio, ran between October 2018 and April in an effort to investigate the factors that influence staff retention in schools, as well as to better understand the common challenges facing schools across the country. As of April 2019, 10,530 responses have been collected across 322 schools within 23 multi-academy trusts, becoming the largest independent study into staff retention in academies.
Designed by Edurio in collaboration with research experts at University College London Institute of Education, the survey asked respondents about six key factors shown to have the greatest influence on retention:
- Professional support
- Career development
- Leadership dynamics
- Staff relationships
- Student behaviour
Analysis showed that each of the six factors has a significant impact on whether or not a staff member is at risk of resigning. Leadership dynamics had the strongest link with staff retention, showing that retention is highest in schools where relationships with school leaders are based on fairness, respect and staff engagement.
Author of the research report and CEO of Edurio, Ernest Jenavs states that, “In the policy debate around staff retention, there is often a focus on narrow issues that deal with practical working conditions. While these are important, our research shows that the relationships that staff members have with leadership, fellow staff and students are as important for staff retention. However, they tend to be forgotten. Schools have so much to gain by developing a culture of openness and engagement with their staff members.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) writes: “This report highlights some potentially ground-breaking findings. It reinforces what other studies have told us about the impact of workload and we must work together to reduce unnecessary burdens on all staff. Interestingly though the report also highlights the significance to teacher retention of other working conditions such as professional support and career development. These are both areas within an employers’ control.
I was particularly taken with what the report tells us about the importance of leadership dynamics. Clearly where this is strong it has a positive impact, but unfortunately the reverse is also true. Understanding this and acting on it has the potential to be a game-changer. “
More report highlights include:
- Across the 322 participating schools, the percentage of staff at risk of resigning ranged from 0% in some schools to a staggering 84% in others. Although there were some differences between different types of schools, academy trusts and respondent groups, those were relatively minor and insufficient to explain the wide variation. This suggests that improving retention is within the control of each individual school.
- Factors linked with both working conditions and relationships show a strong correlation with staff risk of resigning. This highlights the danger with focusing all efforts to improve staff retention on one singular issue.
- Within leadership dynamics the lowest results were in questions asking staff members whether they felt their professional needs were understood by the leadership, whether they were consulted in decision-making, and whether their feedback to leadership had an impact.
- When asked how often they feel overworked, two thirds of teacher respondents answered “Constantly” or “Often”, while only 4% said “Rarely” or “Never”. Data input, administrative tasks, and marking and assessment all emerge as potential starting points for reducing teacher workload.
The full report can be downloaded at home.edurio.com/retention-report
* Department for Education (2018), School workforce in England: November 2017
Contact: Ernest Jenavs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 03300 011122