Keeping Your Head: NFER Analysis of Headteacher Retention

Sarah Lynch, Jack Worth, Katy Theobald, Bobbie Mills

28 April 2017

This report follows NFER’s 2016 research, Engaging Teachers: NFER analysis of teacher retention, which showed that increasing numbers of teachers are leaving the profession before retirement age. We now explore if the same is true for headteachers, who play a vital role in leading and sustaining good school performance. This research combines an analysis of School Workforce Census data between 2011 and 2015 and telephone interviews with headteachers.

Key Findings

  • More than 90 per cent of headteachers below retirement age are retained in headship each year.
  • But, retention rates have fallen since 2012.
  • Changes in headteacher or school characteristics over that time did not explain this downward trend in retention.
  • Higher retention is seen in:
    • primary schools
    • schools rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted
    • converter academies
    • single academy trusts
    • schools with higher attainment.
  • Lower retention is seen in:
    • secondary schools
    • schools rated as Inadequate by Ofsted (particularly in the first year following downgrade and if the head has been in post for two years or more at the time of downgrade)
    • sponsored academies (again particularly at the point of sponsorship and if the head has been in post two years or more at the time of sponsorship)
    • larger Multi-Academy Trusts
    • schools with low levels of attainment.
  • More needs to be understood about why different school contexts are more or less likely to retain leaders in headship.

Related Titles

Keeping Your Head , Keeping Your Head , Should I stay or should I go? NFER analysis of teachers joining and leaving the profession , Engaging teachers

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