Value, Invest, Thrive: A 3-step guide to improving teacher retention

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Annual global investment in the teacher recruitment market is astronomical and costs for individual schools can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars with seemingly little effort or return. This situation is exacerbated when we consider that many education systems are in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, with little respite on the horizon (Giannini, 2024). 

What school leaders charged with ensuring their schools are fully staffed and operating on the highest level implicitly know is that focusing on retention, rather than recruitment, is the key to providing the highest-quality education for the students in their care. The trouble is, teacher retention is complex and merely throwing money at the problem won鈥檛 necessarily provide the solution we hope. In fact, studies frequently show that money isn鈥檛 really a motivating factor when teachers are presented with the opportunity to stick or split. 

Fortunately, there are several other places where our attention can be better spent when trying to create the conditions in which our teachers will thrive (Ghenghesh, 2016). Based, primarily, on experience and working in schools where the teachers just don鈥檛 want to leave, largely through the ingenuity of others I should add, this post is designed to support leaders in making the retention decisions which are most likely to impact the quality of life for their teachers and, ultimately, their students.聽

Value 

Everyone can teach. We might each have different starting points but everyone can learn, should they decide they want to. As I鈥檓 sure you鈥檙e all too aware, we aren鈥檛 operating in a market where we can afford to write anyone off, not least because we are dealing with humans with a vocational calling to make the world a better place through education. Even if teacher development were next to impossible (it鈥檚 not), anyone who has signalled to the world that they would rather put the needs of others before their own deserves the opportunity to realise their ambitions because theirs and ours are, typically, one and the same. 

Rather than putting potential candidates through the wringer or spending thousands of pounds looking for the 鈥渂est and brightest鈥, with little to no guarantee that our methods for recruiting teachers are actually that effective or reliable, we should instead seek out those with a desire to improve and an awareness that the ability to teach is something we develop over many, many years. 

In a time of teacher shortages, every single member of staff we have is worth their weight in gold and each will bring something unique to the table. We should treasure this. Value those we have and resolve to make a serious investment in their development, so that the aims of the school, its leaders and its teachers are synchronised and the destination of travel is a shared one. For we know, if everyone is rowing in the same direction, our chances of moving forward are significantly improved.

Invest

A meaningful investment in teachers, and a school ecosystem by proxy, takes consideration of the elements which, unlike remuneration, are likely to sway teachers’ decisions on where they should ply their trade. In essence, teachers want to feel valued (see above), want to feel like they are being developed and want to feel a certain level of autonomy over the decisions they make. 

The autonomy/consistency tightrope is a difficult line to tread but, as greater expertise often warrants greater autonomy, the more expert we make our teachers, the greater the likelihood that all three of these key levers can be addressed in tandem. By investing in meaningful professional development which is long, thin, contextualised and sustained over time, we create the conditions in which teachers can grow and our ecosystem can flourish in a manageable and cost-effective manner.

Thrive 

If we merely pay lip service to the professional development of our teachers, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and it will cost us dearly in the end. However, if we resolve to invest wisely then the knock-on effects are a stark reminder of the benefit of considered, prudent leadership. 

With such an investment, our workforce becomes increasingly skilled, outcomes for pupils rise, the reputation of our schools blossom and we, most notably, create an environment in which others will want to work. 

So what do we do? Rather than employing the age-old tactic of employing marquee speakers for one day only, we should seek out those who understand that professional development takes place over the long term and structure their support for schools in a way that provides frequent, low-stakes, development opportunities for teachers, taking them from their individual starting-points to the ultimate goal of effective, proficient, expert teaching.聽

What I have found is that an investment in teachers of this calibre creates the conditions not only in which teachers and students will thrive, but they won鈥檛 ever want to leave. I know many Head Teachers who have too many teachers and have had too many teachers for a long time. The common denominator? They invested in the development of their teachers and they invested wisely.

Conclusion

If you’re a school leader serious about retaining your talented teachers and creating an environment where they can truly thrive, it’s time to take action. At ALTA Education, we specialise in designing and delivering high-impact, long-term professional development that transforms teachers and schools. Our research-backed approach focuses on the key drivers of teacher satisfaction and growth – cultivating a sense of value, providing investment in development, and empowering teachers to reach new heights.

Don’t settle for quick fixes. Invest in your teachers and watch your school community flourish. Reach out to the ALTA team today to learn how we can partner with you on a bespoke professional development program that will have a lasting impact. Visit alta-education.com or email us at support@alta-education.com to get started. Your teachers and students deserve nothing less than an environment where they can truly thrive.

Bonus

The University of Buckinghamshire has a course which can support Teaching Assistants in becoming teachers if they have the desire to but perhaps not the usual qualifications. Engaging with this comes at a slight cost to the school per person but it is taking 鈥済row your own talent鈥 to the very next level.聽

We鈥檙e not sponsored by the organisers, we just think it is pretty cool.

Bibliography

Ghenghesh, P., 2016. Job satisfaction and motivation-what makes teachers tick?. Editors, p.1040.

Giannini, Stefania. 鈥淕lobal report on teachers: addressing teacher shortages and transforming the profession.鈥 UNESCO Digital Library, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000388832. Accessed 12 April 2024. 



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