Teacher Retention and Turnover Research - Research Update 3: Is the Grass Greener Beyond Teaching?

Jack Worth , Susan Bamford

07 December 2017

What happens to teachers who leave the profession after they leave? What can their destinations tell us about how schools and policymakers might better retain teachers? In this third Research Update, we use data from the Understanding Society survey to track teachers for several years after they leave.

Our analysis shows that, on average, teachers’ pay does not increase after they leave, suggesting leavers are not primarily motivated by increased pay. Instead, leavers appear to be more motivated by improved job satisfaction, reduced working hours and more opportunities for flexible working.

Key Findings

  • Teachers’ job satisfaction improves after leaving. The job satisfaction of teachers who leave teaching for another job increases considerably after they leave. Teachers’ job satisfaction had been declining in the years before they left teaching, suggesting that low job satisfaction was an important factor contributing to their decision to leave.
  • Teachers do not leave for higher-paid jobs. The monthly pay of teachers who leave teaching and take up a new job is, on average, ten per cent less than it was as a teacher. This does not necessarily imply that increasing teachers’ pay will have no impact on teacher retention, but policy responses need to consider pay alongside other factors.
  • Leavers’ working hours decrease and many secondary leavers take up part-time positions. Among secondary teachers who leave, the proportion working part-time increases by twenty percentage points after leaving, suggesting that secondary schools are less good than primary schools at accommodating part-time working. Government and other secondary-sector stakeholders need to urgently look at ways of accommodating more part-time working in secondary schools, to retain teachers who are at risk of leaving.

This NFER Research Update ‘Is the Grass Greener Beyond Teaching’ is the fourth publication in a series that form part of a major new research project – funded by the Nuffield Foundation – to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics within the teacher workforce in England.

See more information about the project on teacher workforce dynamics.

Also, see NFER’s other research on the teacher workforce.