Ambitious teachers are deserting schools in challenging areas in favour of jobs in higher-performing schools to increase their job satisfaction, a study shows.
Professor Alan Smithers said teachers wanted to be in schools that had a clear sense of purpose and where they felt valued and supported.
"Teachers are looking at league tables and inspection reports when deciding which school is going to help advance their careers," he said. "However, there remains a strong sub-group of teachers who find it rewarding to work in challenging schools."
Teachers are looking at exam results as a guide to how keen children are to learn. Inspectors' views of a school's leadership is also a pulling point, as is whether, in the case of secondaries, there is a sixth form.
Professor Smithers said: "The problem in England is the uneveness of the education system. Staff turnover varies enormously from one school to another. One primary school had a 200 per cent turnover in one year. In areas such as London, teachers have a choice of schools and will go to one where there is an appreciation of what they are teaching."
He said the Government was right to try to tackle the issue of pupil behaviour. Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, has set up a task force to deal with the problem (see page 5). But Professor Smithers said: "Making brave sounds will not be enough."
The report by the University of Buckingham's centre for education, for the Department for Education and Skills, shows that 12.5 per cent of secondary teachers left their jobs in 2004, with 5.3 per cent of those moving school and 7.2 per cent leaving the profession altogether. In primary schools the turnover was 14.7 per cent, of which 10 per cent was wastage and 4.7 per cent movement.
The biggest exodus was among headteachers. A third of secondary heads who left their jobs in 2004 took early retirement compared with 29 per cent in 2002.
Among primary heads, more than 36.3 per cent retired early last year, compared with 23.3 per cent two years previously. Professor Smithers said the answer to this problem might be to merge more primaries into multi-campus institutions under the leadership of one head.
The peak age for changing jobs was 25 to 29, during which time teachers are twice as likely to switch schools. From 45 onwards movement declined sharply.
Teacher turnover, wastage and movement between schools, by Professor Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson