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Why the teacher retention crisis could become a school leadership crisis

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

It seems that you are never too far away from a media story reporting on the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching. Statistics show that approximately 30% of all new teachers left the classroom in the last five years.

In fact, roughly one in five NQTs expect to leave the profession within just two years.

Meanwhile, other research reveals that two-fifths of all school employees – from school leaders to support staff – want to quit within the next five years. The reasons for the recruitment and retention crisis remain the same Generally speaking, the official recruitment and retention figures have shown little improvement in the last few years.

Indeed, they’ve actually got worse.

All this despite various ‘recruitment drives’ and concerted government campaigns to address the crisis. What’s more, the reasons for the recruitment and retention crisis have remained largely unchanged in recent years as well. Workload, government policy and Ofsted top most surveys of reasons why teachers are looking to leave the classroom.

Workload has been labelled ‘out of control’.

Accountability has been described as ‘excessive’. And these are not new problems or recent complaints.

But this is not another article discussing the reasons for the crisis either.

Instead, let’s look at the potential knock-on effects of the continued recruitment and retention problems. One of the major concerns is that the teacher retention crisis could well become a school leadership crisis. NQTs leaving the profession creates a void in skills The fact that so many newly qualified teachers want to leave the profession so swiftly grabs the headlines because it really is a shocking statistic.

It shows what teaching has become.

From being a profession that people would stay in for decades, it is now a job that one in five jumps ship from within two years.

But the knock-on effects are catastrophic.

Teachers are leaving at all stages of their careers, but as the more experienced staff leave it creates a leadership vacuum.

In normal circumstances, the next crop of education leaders will be ready to step into these leadership roles as they naturally become available.

However, with so many teachers not staying in the classroom, fewer are developing the skills and gaining the experience necessary to successfully move into those roles. Are the leaders of tomorrow equipped to lead? The number of years in the job does not guarantee that you will be effective as a school leader.

Indeed, one of the issues with leadership in schools is that it’s often the best teachers that get promoted into middle leadership roles and beyond not the best leaders and managers– and classroom teaching and leadership/management require a very different skill set. However, although exceptional individuals will naturally rise to the top quicker than most – and there’s little wrong with that if they show the potential and the ability – in the normal scheme of things you cannot put a price on experience. Having a range of experiences can equip you for a leadership role.

The retention crisis could have a detrimental effect on the calibre of future leaders in school because so many will lack experience.


1- How to boost teacher recruitment and retention

2- Do we ask too much of trainee teachers?

3- School spending on CPD plummets- What does the future holds?

4- Teaching professionals staffing crisis in our schools

5- Fixing the teacher recruitment crisis