Kent County Council is using an anonymous questionnaire to better understand why around 1,300 teachers a year, in its 600 schools, leave their jobs or the profession.
Developed by TalentDrain, the employee engagement and retention specialist, the confidential online questionnaire has already highlighted expected complaints – such as the workload, the long hours and bureaucracy – as well as issues around communication within schools and also the high level of satisfaction teachers gain from working with children.
“The majority of our teachers move on for positive reasons, like a promotion,” said Steve Wood, the council’s Recruitment and Retention Manager for Schools.
“But others go because they are not so well motivated and we wanted to know why. The problem is that in face-to-face exit interviews, teachers don’t always give their real reasons for leaving. We thought a quick and easy, anonymous questionnaire would encourage more open and honest feedback.”
TalentDrain tailored one of its generic exit questionnaires to fit the teaching environment and the structure of schools in Kent.
“They advised and supported us on the types of questions we should ask and how we should phrase them,” said Steve Wood. “They also ‘host’ the site where teachers access and complete the questionnaire, so there was no impact on our server or network.”
The resultant questionnaire was piloted in one of Kent’s 23 clusters of schools.
Encouraged by the high response rate, the council soon extended use of the questionnaire to all schools in the county.
TalentDrain analyse the findings from the questionnaire and provide detailed reports to Kent County Council.
As a result of the exit data, the council has introduced a new well-being programme for teachers, which aims to help individuals and groups of staff to successfully manage the pressures they face.
It is also reviewing the available training and professional development opportunities, particularly for newly-qualified teachers.
“Poor work-life balance, created by the workload, was one of the main causes of concern for teachers,” said Steve Wood. “To address this, we’ve created a well-being programme to help teachers make a sustainable improvement to their physical and psychological health. We’ll continue to run the questionnaire and we’ll use the exit data to inform our teacher-retention strategy and to develop further training opportunities.”
The county council also plans to survey all newly-qualified teachers at the end of their first year, not just those who leave.
“Newly-qualified teachers are our future,” said Steve Wood. “It is very important that we know what they are thinking, so we can keep them in the profession. But we’re interested in the welfare of all of our teachers. Understanding why people leave enables us to put initiatives in place that will prevent teacher burn-out and retain these important skills in our schools.”