Reduced workload and better support for wellbeing key to retaining teachers

Our latest research identifies and explores possible solutions to education’s ongoing retention and recruitment crisis

A quarter of senior school leaders across the UK (27%) have said they don’t expect to be working in education beyond the next one to two years. At the same time, an overwhelming majority (79%) say a reduction in workload could positively influence them to stay, according to startling new figures released on Friday 24 February. 

Responding to questions commissioned by us as part of a YouGov TeacherTrack survey, only 7% of primary and secondary teachers and leaders said that ‘nothing’ would positively influence them or others to stay in the profession.

Over a third of all 865 teachers and school leaders surveyed (44%) said they don’t expect to be working in the sector beyond five years, but as stress levels in the sector soar, the vast majority identified lessening workload and better support in the workplace as top positive influencing factors to keeping them in the job:

  • 44% of respondents said better workplace support for their personal wellbeing could help keep them in the profession; 
  • 36% said greater job flexibility, including options to work part-time, job shares and flexible hours would be a positive factor to stay;
  • Interestingly, 41% of the survey’s respondents also stated that a more positive public perception of what it is like to work in education (better public recognition, media stories and national teaching awards) might also influence them to stay, suggesting that some external social factors might also influence how they feel as much as government and school policy.

 

The findings come amidst mounting pressures on school leaders and teachers to deliver more with less resource, as school budgets are squeezed and expectations of staff grow. Victoria, a head of Geography in a secondary school is typical of many teachers we speak to. She had reached a crisis when she called our helpline. She told us:   

“I was teaching Geography, History and ICT at KS4 and Humanities at KS3. The workload was constant. I just couldn’t meet the expectations in the time available each week, both in and out of working hours. Despite asking for support to identify where I could cut it down, I received no guidance. It carried on like this for two years. I was having anxiety attacks and broke down at school. Without help I would never have stayed in teaching. ”

The survey forms the latest stage of a national consultation we launched last January with the aim of identifying what some of the solutions might be to solving the recruitment and retention crisis. The feedback garnered then formed part of our #NotQuittingTeaching campaign, designed in response to the overwhelmingly negative backdrop the sector finds itself set against with a view to supporting existing and attracting more new teachers to the profession by working together.

The findings also reflect analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research[1] last autumn which identified that being well-supported was a key factor associated with the successful retention of teachers.  Their research published last autumn found that while the majority of teachers aren’t thinking of leaving, this figure is growing but there is a strong relationship between retention and teacher engagement and ultimately wellbeing. 

YouGov: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 865 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the UK teaching population by phase and region.

[1] National Foundation for Educational Research report Engaging Teachers – NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention was published 09.09.16