Teachers who quit make less money but are happier, research finds

Teachers earn 10 per cent less on average in new jobs, with many moving to part-time working

Helen Ward

News article image

Teachers who quit the state sector to take up a role elsewhere tend to see their pay cut – but work shorter hours and find more job satisfaction, according to new research from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

For non-retiring teachers, the monthly pay of those who left and took up a new job was on average 10 per cent less, the research found.

The report also underlines the impact of the long-hours culture informing their decisions to leave – with many secondary teachers quitting in order to move to part-time jobs.

It states: “Among secondary teachers who leave, the proportion working part-time increases by 20 percentage points after leaving, whereas there is no increase among primary leavers.

“This suggests that secondary teachers find it more difficult to arrange part-time working.”

The finding comes after the government launched its drive to persuade schools to offer more opportunities for flexible working opportunities.

Pay freeze

The report’s authors Susan Bamford and Jack Worth also stress that, while teachers are not generally leaving for higher-paid jobs, that does not imply that teachers’ pay is not a factor.

While teachers' assessment of their current financial situation worsens after leaving, the report adds: “The pay of leavers had been falling before they left. This is likely to be due to the public sector pay freeze, which may have also influenced their decision to leave."

The research Is the Grass Greener Beyond Teaching? uses data on 1,149 state school teachers who have been tracked over six years as part of the Understanding Society survey.

It found that, during this time, 366 teachers left their jobs in the state sector, of whom 29 per cent retired and a further 13 per cent were not working because they were looking after family, unemployed or sick.

But it added that 60 per cent of non-retiring leavers worked in the wider education sector in the year after they left, including 33 per cent who went to work as teachers in the independent sector or for private-sector supply agencies.

Low satisfaction

The report also adds that the job satisfaction of people who leave state-sector teaching for another job increases considerably after they leave – although they point out that teachers who leave have, in general, a lower level or job satisfaction before they left.

The NFER research, which is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, says that the findings suggest that the way to improve retention is to focus on improving job satisfaction – and tackling workload and long working hours.

They recommend that, as low job satisfaction could be an early warning sign of staff wanting to leave, school leaders could improve retention by regularly monitoring the job satisfaction of their staff and intervening to improve matters.

“Our research shows that most working-age teachers who leave are not leaving for higher paid jobs, but they are prioritising their job satisfaction and wellbeing,” Jack Worth, a senior economist at NFER, said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Teachers play an important role in our society, and there are now more teachers in our schools than ever before – 15,500 more since 2010.

“We are actively addressing the issues that teachers cite as reasons for leaving the profession, for example by supporting schools to remove unnecessary workload and publishing guidance on flexible working, to help head teachers identify ways of supporting their staff.”

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and Instagram, and like Tes on Facebook

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

Latest stories