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Kind heads win loyalty of staff

HEADTEACHERS who are kind and supportive, praise staff and talk nicely to them can find their efforts repaid with the loyalty of teachers, research shows.

The study of more than 2,800 teachers in seven education authorities says schools can make a difference in retaining staff, even in areas of high turnover. However, no single initiative on retention is effective on its own, said researchers Jacinta Dalgety, Merryn Hutchings and Alistair Ross, from London Metropolitan University.

They looked at what made teachers stay in their jobs, even in high-cost areas such as London.

Good colleagues were the biggest incentive to stay in a school, teachers said. School ethos, convenience of travel to work, the quality of staff relations, and line managers were the next most important factors.

When asked directly about school management, 87 per cent said the most important quality for a manager was to be able to communicate effectively with their staff, followed by being supportive (70 per cent), approachable (65 per cent), and fair and consistent (59 per cent).

Less than half of respondents cited effective behaviour and pay policies as critical to retention, although these were of greater concern to secondary teachers.

Teachers said managers should recognise them as individuals, value their contribution, be more understanding of personal circumstances such as family commitments and give credit for extra (voluntary) work.

One admitted taking a pay cut to work in a school with "exceptionally good management (the best!)".

There was a clear awareness of what was beyond the control of school leaders. "(Governors and the head) already attend to matters such as good staff relations, support etc. We are under-staffed and stressed. The issue is funding salaries," said another.

Angeles Walford, head of Priory Church of England primary, in Merton, south London, said supportive management was important. But, even if this were in place, she said there was no escaping the impact of high housing costs.

"New teachers want the experience of living and working in London, and will stay for two years. But after that, they want to own something, and it's impossible to get on the property ladder - even with the new pay scales for London," she said.

WHAT MAKES YOU STAY

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is a strong incentive to remain

Colleagues 1.5

School ethos 1.8

Travel convenience 2.1

Staff relations 2.1

Yeardepartment managers 2.1

Support staff 2.1

School reputation 2.1

Senior management 2.2

Behaviour policy 2.2

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