Will your teaching staff be here at the end of the year?

Workload, particularly increased non-teaching tasks, lack of support, and the lack of respect and appreciation for the teaching profession, are the main reasons many teachers choose to leave the occupation (Buchanan, 2010).
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Keep those hard to find staff

As a former teacher I can whole heartedly say that teaching is one of the most rewarding and inspiring professions. So, why are so many teachers leaving the profession?

Workload, particularly increased non-teaching tasks, lack of support, and the lack of respect and appreciation for the teaching profession, are the main reasons many teachers choose to leave the occupation (Buchanan, 2010).

A 2014 Commonwealth Government report on national teaching workforce data indicated that 5.7  per cent of teachers were leaving annually. The TALIS report 2018 revealed only 64 per cent of graduate teachers enter the teaching workforce, with other research indicating that 30 per cent of these teachers leave within the first three years (Mason & Mattas, 2015). This data suggests that only 45 per cent of the available early career teaching workforce is retained beyond three years. This coupled with the fact that 30 per cent of teachers in Australia are aged 50 and above, indicates a need for action (TALIS, 2019).

What can we do?
Best practice Human Resource Management would suggest the most critical point in any job is the entry point, and that a rigorous recruitment and selection process, plus a thorough induction process, will facilitate retention (Heneman & Judge, 2009).

These findings clearly indicate that schools and leadership teams need to do more to support and mentor new and early career teachers. Research has revealed that effective mentoring and strong peer relationships contribute to their confidence and efficacy, two factors claimed to contribute to teacher retention (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).

Strong community relationships are found to be particularly important in regional and remote areas (Kline, White & Lock, 2013). This is evidenced by success stories like the Catholic Education Services Cairns Diocese (CES). The CES deliver a structured induction program that supports new teachers by establishing relationships before they even arrive and organise regular networking events to ensure they have the opportunity to connect with their peers. Furthermore, the new teachers are supported by one to three years of structured mentoring and given a lighter timetable to facilitate these initiatives. 

Retention of early career teachers is vital for the future prospects of the education sector, however mid-career experienced teachers are also an invaluable resource in every school (Podolsky, Kini, & Darling-Hammond, 2019). Well-prepared, skilled, and efficient teachers have the greatest impact on student learning (Darling-Hammond, 2000). Whilst teacher effectiveness increases most rapidly in the first five years of employment, teacher effectiveness is ongoing and increases with years of experience (Papay and Kraft, 2015).

A possible long-term solution?
There are many evidence-based retention strategies applicable for the teaching profession, but two in particular have continually resurfaced. The first is parity of pay with other equally qualified professions, and the second is elevating the status of the teaching profession across Australia, both in line with other skilled professions, and in line with the teaching profession in other leading countries. 

Most other professions in Australia are represented by national professional organisations which advocate for and protect the professional interests of members, for example, the Australian Medical Association, the Law Council of Australia (all state-based law societies are constituent members), Australian Human Resource Institute and the Australian Dental Association (locally represented by state branches).

The teaching profession in Australia is represented by over 100 different organisations. The majority of these organisations are state based and advocate for small segments of the profession. Consequently, they are purpose driven and not unified in voice or function. These organisations include many sector specific associations such as the broad range of independent school associations, regulatory authorities, unions, job specific organisations and principals’ associations for every sector in every state.                                                    

This fractured approach is not conducive to strong advocacy and support for the profession, nor does it allow a concerted approach to fixing serious problems impacting all sectors and regions, like teacher retention.

Aggregating the majority of these organisations to establish one professional representative body for teachers in Australia, may help to achieve pay parity and change the professional status of the teaching profession, resulting in better workforce retention.

Buchanan, J. (2010). ‘May I be excused? Why teachers leave the profession’, Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 30(2), 199-211.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). How Teacher Education Matters. Journal of Teacher Education, 51(3), 166–173. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487100051003002

Heneman, H. G., & Judge, T. A. (2009). Staffing Organisations (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ingersoll, R. M., & Strong, M. (2011). The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: A critical review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 201-233. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654311403323

Kline, J. White, S. & Lock, G. (2013). The rural practicum: Preparing a quality teacher workforce for rural and regional Australia. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 28(3), 1-13.

Mason, S. & Matas, C.P. (2015). Teacher attrition and retention research in Australia: Towards a new theoretical framework [online]. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (Online), 40(11), 45-66.

McCormack, A., Gore, J. & Thomas, K. (2006). Early Career Teacher Professional Learning, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 34(9), 95-113, DOI: 10.1080/13598660500480282

OECD (2019), TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris,https://doi.org/10.1787/1d0bc92a-en

Papay JP, Kraft MA. Productivity returns to experience in the teacher labor market: Methodological challenges and new evidence on long-term career improvement. Journal of Public Economics [Internet]. 2015;130 :105-119.

Podolsky, A., Kini, T. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2019). Does teaching experience increase teacher effectiveness? A review of US research. Journal of Professional Capital and Community. 10.1108/JPCC-12-2018-0032

About PeopleBench
PeopleBench is a workforce analytics and research company in the K-12 education sector. They provide leaders in the sector with the research, insights, tools - and ultimately the confidence - to make well-informed decisions about their school workforce, with the best possible outcomes for students at the heart of it all. By providing these services, PeopleBench contributes to raising the standard of workforce management practice sector-wide, to the benefit of school leaders, teachers and students across the world.