Factors Affecting Teachers’
Decisions to Leave the
Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson
Centre for Education and Employment Research University of Liverpool
Factors Affecting Teachers’
Decisions to Leave the Profession
Reasons for Leaving
The investigation had six main aims:
• To quantify the relative importance of the factors influencing teachers’ decisions to
leave the profession.
• To identify the destinations of those leaving.
• To analyse the characteristics of teachers leaving the profession. • To explore any geographical variation.
• To explore what factors might influence teachers’ decisions to stay.
• To identify what factors might encourage those who have left the profession to
return to teaching.
The research was commissioned against a background of increasing concern both in England and abroad about recruiting and retaining teachers. The study focused on exits from the profession. Previous monitoring by the DfES and the Employers’ Organisation for Local Government has provided a statistical description of how many teachers were leaving schools (turnover) and leaving the maintained sector (wastage). There have also been some quantitative and qualitative studies which have contributed some understanding of the reasons and destinations, both nationally and locally.
A three-layered approach was adopted with a schools survey followed by a leavers survey and interviews. In addition, a follow-up survey was conducted in January 2003 of those who had left in the spring and summer of 2002. Response rates were very good, at least 75 per cent in the schools surveys. From among those schools responding on all three occasions, structured samples of primary schools (N=1,349), middle schools (N=30), and secondary schools (N=316) were constructed to reflect the populations in terms of region and size, and region only in the case of special schools (N=87). The samples also corresponded closely with the other national distributions which were available. The schools listed all teachers leaving them during 2002 from which we compiled a dataset of resignations (N=5,245). Questionnaires were sent, via the schools, to those leavers who were not going on to a full-time or part-time post in a maintained school, taking maternity leave or who had reached normal-age retirement. From their responses we compiled a leavers dataset (N=1,066). A sub-sample of 306 leavers was interviewed. Spring and summer leavers who provided their names were sent a further questionnaire in January 2003 to create a follow-up dataset (N=395).
Trends, Turnover and Wastage: Turnover and wastage of full-time teachers from primary and secondary (including middle) schools in 2002 were estimated at, respectively, 14.1 per cent and 7.9 per cent. The nearest equivalent comparisons suggest that these are lower than in 2001, which had seen sharp increases in the previous four years. Reasons for Leaving: Five main factors were found to underpin reasons for leaving: workload, new challenge, the school situation, salary and personal circumstances. Of these, workload was by far the most important, and salary the least. Relatively few of the teachers were being tempted away by better career prospects or being offered a higher salary elsewhere. Leavers from secondary schools were more likely to cite the school situation, particularly poor pupil behaviour, than leavers from...
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