Why is it so hard to keep good teachers?

Piers Bishop · July 13, 2017

The kids are not alright

If you come from a privileged background your life chances are still greater – the gap between rich and poor remains ‘persistently high’. The Commission on Inequality in Education gives us a fascinating insight into why: it’s largely because it is extremely hard for poor schools to keep good teachers.

Despite wanting to ‘make a difference’, they tend to leave after a fairly short stay, so disadvantaged children are taught by less-qualified (or even unqualified) staff, who move quickly from school to school.

It’s not pay. On average, teachers are paid more to work in difficult schools, and their housing costs are lower, so the standard of living for these staff is significantly better than it would be in other schools.

So why do they leave, despite wanting to work in deprived schools in the first place, and being paid more to stay? The Commission says these teachers very quickly become demoralised, for two main reasons:

  • They don’t get recognition, or acknowledgement that they are doing a good job. The system recognises schools where the KPIs, i.e. test results, are increasing, and that takes time. Human beings need more immediate confirmation from colleagues and managers that they are doing well. That’s not vanity, it’s an aspect of our neurology.
  • They don’t get effective mentoring, largely because the good headteachers, who would be the people to set up and maintain a mentoring culture, are also unlikely to stay in a disadvantaged school for any length of time.

The result is that there just isn’t time for good work to bear fruit before people become demoralised and leave.


Apart from this being a gold-plated case of a measure becoming a target and so destroying the work it was intended to promote, what else is there to learn from this continuing debacle? The very first thing every business needs to know about is employee experience. If mission-critical employees are becoming demoralised the whole enterprise is in peril.

At WeThrive we know how the frustrations of working in education play out in the lives of staff – the picture is similar to that in healthcare in some ways, and there are things that Heads can do straight away to halt the slide and re-focus staff on teaching well. The picture is different in other sectors we work with – banks and accountancy practices, the shipping and motor industries, hospitality and tourism, and so on, but whatever your sector we guarantee that WeThrive will show you things about your staff that nobody knew, and the outputs will guide a new kind of collaboration and focus.

Help is at hand

If you suspect that your staff are unhappy, or you just know that they are leaving more rapidly that you’d like, the time to act is now, before financial damage is done or OFSTED come along, as the case may be. Contact us – we’d love to help.

About WeThrive

WeThrive is the agile employee engagement platform that uncovers how your people truly feel, enabling you to retain key staff for longer.