As a school leader, great teachers are your most important asset. But we all know that teachers are notoriously under-compensated and underappreciated. While the work is incredibly rewarding, it can also require more than a 40-hour workweek and excessive workloads, meaning great teachers are choosing to leave for professions that pay more and demand less. In fact in 2015 social media was buzzing with the news that more than 50% of teachers in England 'plan to quit in the next two years'.
As a result, schools and school leaders are having to work hard at replacing, attracting, and retaining excellent educators. Here are five ways to make your school the kind of place that great teachers want to stay in:
1. Provide plenty of opportunities to learn
Lots of teachers don't want to become head teachers or senior leaders but they do want to learn and grow. Providing them with plenty of opportunities to do this has been shown to increase retention, as well as motivation, happiness and performance. For instance, you could:
- Encourage self-reflection: Give teachers the means to video themselves teaching and watch it back privately in order to reflect on their practice and learn how they can improve.
- Help them to see other teachers in action: Teachers love watching other teachers teach. It helps them to gain new ideas and see strategies in action, in a real classroom.
- Offer them feedback, coaching and mentoring: Other industries like sports and sales, use coaching to refine their skills: why shouldn't teachers do the same?
2. Choose quality over quantity
The quality of the opportunities that you offer your teachers is important. Research has proven that a one-size-fits-all approach, which doesn't account for the existing knowledge, experience or needs of individual teachers, has very little impact on pupil outcomes. So, hold back on the expensive external courses and look for more bespoke ways you can tailor professional learning opportunities to individual staff needs; like using video for self-reflection. To learn more about how to quality assure the CPD you offer download our free guide >
3. Seek teachers’ feedback and use it in decision-making
No reform will work unless you have the people who are actually responsible for implementing it at the table, so seeking feedback and including them in the decision-making is essential. One way to do this could be to have a representative teacher at all school board meetings, as well as seeking teachers' feedback on all curriculum decisions, changes and plans.
4. Cultivate collaboration
In the past, teaching has been an isolating experience. We know now that not only do student outcomes improve when teachers are part of professional learning communities, but also when teachers are given the opportunity to take ownership of whole school improvement. When this happens, teachers are encouraged and valued for their contributions, making them feel empowered, motivated, inspired, needed and respected. All of these feelings lead to greater job satisfaction and therefore retention.
5. Plan for a better work/life balance
Balancing a demanding work environment with a personal life is challenging for teachers, and can leave them struggling to find the time to do simple things like pick up their dry cleaning or get their car fixed. Some schools try to address this issue by giving teachers one late-start morning or early-dismissal afternoon each week, or distributing school-wide duties amongst all staff and not just between classroom teachers.
There is no one magic bullet for retaining teachers but we can try to make schools comfortable, creative, refreshing and exciting learning environments. Hopefully this will keep our nation’s best teachers in the classroom, providing the highest quality education possible.