Last week, the OECD released results from its latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). This was the third time the OECD surveyed teachers and school principals worldwide to gather information on key aspects of the teaching profession and what schools and policy makers can do to strengthen it.

In England, 2376 lower secondary teachers and 157 principals completed the TALIS 2018 questionnaire. We were very eager to read the initial findings as just last month, Edurio published the first findings from our own Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey that involved more than 10,000 school staff in 322 schools and 23 multi-academy trusts across England.

Figure 1: The % of principals reporting that the following shortages hinder the school's capacity to provide quality instruction “quite a bit” or “a lot”. Three out of four most commonly cited causes include shortage of teachers.

Both TALIS and the Edurio Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey provide insights into what working at school means and what the school staff find to be important for them to be able to support their students. Both surveys suggest that the accessibility of qualified staff is a serious concern in a large share of the surveyed schools in England. But they also propose what systems and institutions could do to make schools more attractive places to work.

Shortage of Qualified Teachers

Shortage of qualified teachers is the most frequently reported factor that hinders capacity of schools to provide quality instruction.

37.6% of school principals in England who participated in TALIS 2018 report that shortage of qualified teachers hindered their school’s capacity to provide quality instruction “quite a bit” or “a lot”. In fact, three out of the four top factors reported by school leaders as hindering quality instruction are related to the shortage of staff (Figure 1).

Figure 2: In a quarter of responding schools the staff risk of resigning was above 50%.

The Edurio Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey, on the other hand, asked the school staff members themselves whether they have recently considered resigning from their post. We found that the staff risk of resigning varied massively from school to school. While in some schools no members of staff had recently considered resigning, in others up to 84% reported recent intentions to resign. A closer look at the results reveal that in a quarter of schools the staff risk of resigning was above 50% (Figure 2).

Although the available TALIS data look at the staff recruitment issues from the school leadership point of view, while the Edurio survey aimed to estimate the actual levels of staff risk of resigning at each school, both findings suggest that a large share of schools could be under high pressure to find ways to recruit and retain quality staff. The Edurio data highlight that this is massively different across the schools so each school needs to understand their unique situation to plan improvements.

Addressing the Shortage

Quality instruction depends not only on the professionalism of teachers but also on how we treat them as professionals.

Last week, the OECD released only the first volume of their results, Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, which focuses on the knowledge and skills involved in being a teacher. The second volume, Teachers and School Leaders as Valued Professionals, is coming out in early 2020, and it is this part of the report that will contain the main insights on the institutional factors that make teaching an attractive long-term career.

Figure 3: Factors explored in the Edurio Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey.

Meanwhile, the Edurio Framework for Staff Retention, which formed the basis for the Edurio Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey, highlights six key factors that may help better understand why someone may choose to stay in or leave a particular school (Figure 3).

Institutional factors included in the TALIS 2018 Conceptual Framework align well with those covered in the Edurio Framework for Staff Retention. Results of the Edurio Survey showed that school leaders need to evaluate the quality of both Working Conditions and Relationships within their schools. Both areas show a strong link with staff retention. But most importantly, the results showed that there is a lot that individual schools, regardless of their context, can do to make themselves more rewarding places to work. We are very much looking forward to seeing what the Volume 2 of TALIS 2018 will have to say about that. Meanwhile, feel free to read the full Staff Retention report here.