The percentage of teachers leaving their posts in English secondary schools is higher than in Wales, but the trend reverses when it comes to primary schools, a report says.
Researchers said their findings challenge their original assumption that the Welsh Government’s approach to policy-making was associated with generally lower rates of teachers quitting.
Looking specifically at classroom teachers, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that the attrition rate – known as the turnover rate – among secondary school teachers was 0.6 percentage point higher in England than in Wales.
For primary school teachers, the difference was also 0.6 percentage points, but this time with lower turnover in England, according to the NFER.
Overall, the results suggest that there is a more complex relationship between policy approaches, teacher workload, and attrition than implied by our original hypothesisReport of the National Foundation for Educational Research
The turnover rate was defined as the percentage of teachers leaving the government-funded sector between the academic year 2019/20 and the academic year 2020/21.
The report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, used teacher census data to compare rates in Wales to rates in schools in areas of England with similar economic and contextual characteristics, such as unemployment rates, out-of-school wage levels and levels of student deprivation.
Data is from the School Workforce Census measuring teacher churn rates in England and the School Workforce Annual Census (SWAC) measuring teacher churn rates in Wales.
Researchers say that since decentralization the Welsh Government’s education policy decisions have focused on a ‘producerist’ approach, aiming to give teachers more priority in overall decision-making.
In the report, they wanted to test their theory that this could result in a lighter workload for teachers – a reason most often cited by ex-teachers when asked why they left the profession – and therefore see lower attrition rates than in England.
Among the report’s conclusions is that a ‘more collaborative approach to policy making in Wales could mean slightly shorter working hours in Wales’.
However, it added that there may be other factors affecting the differences in teachers’ working hours in the two countries.
The report states: “Overall, the results suggest that there is a more complex relationship between policy approaches, teacher workload and attrition than implied by our initial hypothesis.
Given the ongoing challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers, this new study gives policymakers food for thoughtJosh Hillman, Nuffield Foundation
“While there may be underlying policy reasons contributing to differences in dropout rates, this may suggest that there are policy differences that affect primary and secondary schools differently, rather than a universal difference in the overall policy approach.”
Jack Worth, co-author of the report and head of the NFER school workforce, said: “Given the different approaches taken by education policymakers in England and Wales since decentralisation, we could reasonably assume that teacher retention rates in Wales could be higher than in England.
“However, newly available data that allow us to make robust comparisons of retention rates seem to indicate that it is much more complex.”
Josh Hillman, Director of Education, Nuffield Foundation, said: “As the challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers continue, this new study gives policymakers food for thought.
“By comparing England and Wales, the study also makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the different approaches to teacher recruitment and retention in the UK.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said more research is needed into why teachers leave the profession and why rates differ.
What is certain is that in both jurisdictions the main reasons for teacher turnover are similar – pay and workloadGeoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders
He said: “This is interesting research and the finding that teacher attrition rates are not consistent in one direction between England and Wales deserves further analysis to better understand the underlying reasons.
“What is certain, however, is that the main reasons for teacher turnover are similar in both jurisdictions – pay and workload.
“Teacher salaries have been eroded over the past decade by government-imposed wage premiums below inflation, which have made salaries increasingly uncompetitive.”
He said school funding was “grossly inadequate in both England and Wales and this means schools cannot afford the number of staff needed, which is affecting the workload” and called for both pay and School funding will also be improved “to promote recruitment and retention”.
The English Department of Education recognizes that more needs to be done to attract and retain good teachers and that steps are being taken to improve recruitment, retention and the quality of teaching.
A spokesman said the government had proposed the highest salary bonuses in a generation for new teachers and further salary bonuses for more experienced teachers and managers.
They said: “These proposed salary increases sit alongside fully funded, high-quality professional development available at every stage of a teacher’s career, and help elevate the status of the teaching profession and make it an attractive career.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “By adopting a social partnership approach, we support the teaching profession by ensuring their pay and working conditions are those that best match the profession here in Wales, and higher salaries and allowances for new and more provide more experienced teachers than in England.
“We will continue to take steps to support our invaluable employees so they can continue to provide the best education possible for students.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/teacher-quitting-rates-higher-in-english-secondaries-than-in-wales-report-shows-42005488.html Teacher quitting rates higher in English secondaries than in Wales, report shows