Press release

Improve job satisfaction to stop teachers quitting the classroom

7 December 2017

New research indicates that improved job satisfaction is the main driver for teachers who leave the profession.

New insights from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), released today, show that teachers who leave teaching in a state-funded school have lower pay on average in their new job, but improved job satisfaction. Using data from the Understanding Society survey, the ground-breaking analysis suggests that a better salary is not teachers’ main motivation for leaving, but a chance to improve their job satisfaction and working hours.

The NFER research, titled: Is the Grass Greener Beyond Teaching?, which is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, urges policymakers aiming to increase teacher retention to focus on improving job satisfaction, and tackling workload and long working hours. Today’s research recommends that nurturing, supporting, and valuing teachers is also vital to keep their job satisfaction and engagement high and to improve their retention in the profession.

Jack Worth, a senior economist at NFER, said, “Data from the Understanding Society survey gives us rich and valuable insights on what motivates teachers to leave teaching, because we can see how their lives change after leaving and taking up a new job. Our research shows that most working-age teachers who leave are not leaving for higher paid jobs, but they are prioritising their job satisfaction and well-being.

“This does not necessarily imply that increasing teachers’ pay will have no impact on teacher retention, but policy responses that aim to increase teacher retention need to consider pay alongside other factors, such as teachers’ workload, working hours and job satisfaction.”

The NFER also advises school leaders, Government and Ofsted to work together to review the impact their actions are having on teacher workload, to identify practical actions that can be taken to reduce this. NFER welcomes the work the Department for Education (DfE) have started in this area and urges this focus should continue.

Is the Grass Greener Beyond Teaching? is the third Research Update in the Teacher Retention and Turnover Research series. The next Research Update on this project is planned to be published in the New Year.


For further information please contact: Sundip Gill 01753 637218 or Jane Parrack 01753 637245

Notes to Editors

  1. Bamford, S. and Worth, J. (2017). Teacher Retention and Turnover Research. Research Update 3: Is the Grass Greener Beyond Teaching? Slough: NFER.
  2. NFER is a leading independent provider of rigorous research and insights in education, working to create an excellent education for all children and young people. We are a not-for-profit organisation and our robust and innovative research, assessments and other services are widely known and used by key decision-makers. Any surplus generated is reinvested in projects to support our charitable purpose. @theNFER
  3. The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation is funding this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.
    More information is available at
  4. Understanding Society is an innovative and internationally important study following the lives of people living in the UK. It is the largest longitudinal study of its kind and provides crucial information for researchers and policy makers on the causes and consequences of change in people’s lives. Understanding Society is underpinned by world-leading methodological research. Researchers have access to high-quality designed and harvested data supported by innovative experimentation, development and testing.