Keeping leaders in the profession

Why do teachers and those in leadership positions quit? Sadly, they often become disillusioned and stressed because of their workloads. In 2016, the Guardian reported that “almost a third of teachers quit state sector within five years of qualifying.” How can schools retain the services of teachers with leadership skills?

1 in 10 teachers have been prescribed anti-depressants at some stage of their career. Long working hours take their toll on all teachers, heads and senior members of staff. Schools need to provide their experienced, talented leaders with a working environment that stimulates and encourages them to stay rather than take early retirement, or quit.

Of course, professional development is important, as new leaders with the appropriate leadership skills will always be needed. Schools need to identify members of staff who have the potential to be good leaders. Then they could be trained by older, more experienced leaders within the school. This would benefit both the trainer and the trainee. The older trainer would have a new perspective on his or her job, as a change in the daily routine is usually refreshing. Older, more experienced teachers and leaders have certain advantages over younger teachers. Over the years, they have generally developed long-term thinking skills and strategies and they will be more politically astute and understand the strategies required for indirectly influencing colleagues. Such members of staff should be retained.

Is it all about pay?

While pay is important, teachers and leaders need to feel autonomous and be engaged with their work. The work of the US psychologist, Abraham Maslow, (1943) ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ is still relevant today. Maslow believed that in a modern economy people do not just work to survive. People need job satisfaction, as well as needing to feel that they are effective in what they do. Achievement is also a factor so schools need to ensure that these needs are met, if senior leaders are to be retained.

Frederick Herzberg developed Maslow’s ideas in his work of 1959, “The Motivation to Work”. He suggested that hygiene factors and motivational ones were necessary for workers. Hygiene factors include, but are not limited to, pay, status and interpersonal relations. Motivational factors include, but are not limited to: –

  • being recognised for the work one does,
  • having a sense of achievement,
  • having opportunities for growth and development within one’s profession; and
  • having an understanding of the meaningfulness and value of the job being done.

If some hygiene factors are making teachers dissatisfied, these should be dealt with, so that senior teachers feel valued.

It has been suggested that problems relating to interpersonal problems with senior colleagues and organisational factors cause the greatest dissatisfaction. If a school I to retain leaders, such issues need to be investigated and addressed.

Teachers and senior management should be offered the opportunities to take sabbatical leave and to work in other schools or countries for a pre-determined period. After all, the old adage, “a change is as good as a rest” is all too true.

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