TEACHERS, long-standing enemies of league tables, have discovered one set of figures that could provide an acceptable means of categorising schools.
Staff turnover figures should be given to parents, inspectors and teachers, as an indicator of the strengths and weaknesses of a school and its senior management, contributors to The TES online staffroom say. A large and sustained staff turnover, they say, will often indicate problems, while a stable staffroom can reflect a pleasant working environment, they suggest.
"I calculated the staff turnover in my last school, and found it pretty disturbing. Many staff had become so demoralised that they simply resigned without a job to go to," one contributor said.
Andrew Morgan, head of science at Henley-in-Arden school, in Warwickshire, always requests turnover figures before applying for a job: "If you're told turnover is 15 per cent, there would be big warning bells ringing."
But, he adds, figures for one year can be misleading: performance tables would need to include information for several years. They also need to be interpreted carefully.
Professor Kathryn Riley, of the Institute of Education, London, warns that high turnover can occasionally be a positive sign.
"If a school does have high turnover, teachers should be asking why. You should always look and ask questions.
"But sometimes teachers need to go, for the good of the school. You need fresh teachers coming in. Turnover may be an indicator of change and improvement."
Staff-absence figures, she added, can also prove useful: "If there is a lot of long-term absence, or staff taking casual days off, it's a strong indicator something's wrong."
But the National Union of Teachers said staff turnover was not a valid means of assessing a school. "If a school is in an expensive area, it can be less attractive to work there. Young teachers may decide they can't afford to stay in the profession. Or a school threatened with closure may find recruitment and retention difficult," a spokeswoman said.