New study looks at why leaving rates are higher among Science, Maths and Computing teachers

News Release

Wednesday 27 November 2019

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has today published a new report exploring why the teacher supply challenge is particularly acute in science, mathematics, and computing (SMC).

Commissioned by The Royal Society, this new research, undertaken in March 2019, sheds more light on the reasons why rates of teachers leaving the profession are higher among SMC teachers compared to non-SMC teachers.

Using data from the OECD’s TALIS international teacher survey, NFER researchers found that science and maths teachers have lower levels of self-efficacy (belief in their own ability) in engaging their students in learning. Lower self-efficacy among science and maths teachers seems to explain a small part of the reason why their satisfaction with teaching is slightly lower than among non-SMC teachers.

Self-efficacy could be one of the factors that explains differences in teacher retention between subjects, as poor self-efficacy could have an impact on self-confidence, which, in turn, could affect teachers’ job satisfaction and result in them being more likely to leave teaching. However, other factors are likely to be more important for explaining why SMC leaving rates are higher compared to non-SMC teachers, such as having higher-paid options outside teaching.

Workload remains the most important factor for explaining why teachers leave the profession generally: a recent survey of ex-teachers conducted by the Department for Education found that workload was the most-cited reason for having left among both science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and non-STEM teachers

Co-author of the report Jack Worth said, “The number of secondary school pupils is forecast to rise by 15% over the next decade, presenting a huge challenge for teacher supply. The Government needs to increase secondary teacher numbers to meet this demand, which is especially challenging in shortage subjects such as science, maths and computing. Focusing on ways to retain more teachers in shortage subjects is as important for teacher supply as ensuring sufficient numbers of future teachers are entering training.”

For more key findings, download the full ‘Retaining Science, Mathematics and Computing teachers’ report here.