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Promoting Quality in Teacher Education

NFER Report: Teacher Autonomy (January 2020)


Retaining more teachers is crucial for the education system when there are not enough teachers coming in to the profession to meet the growing need from rising pupil numbers. Unmanageable workload and low job satisfaction are significant factors determining teachers’ decision to stay in the profession or leave. Our research is the first large-scale quantitative study to look at teacher autonomy and its importance for retention in England. We find that teacher autonomy is strongly correlated with job satisfaction, perceptions of workload manageability and intention to stay in the profession. We also find that the average teacher has a lower level of autonomy compared to similar professionals. Teachers’ autonomy over their professional development goal-setting is particularly low, and is the most associated with higher job satisfaction. Increasing teachers’ autonomy, particularly over their professional development goals, therefore has great potential for improving teacher job satisfaction and retention. School leaders and the Department for Education should consider how to adapt policy and practice to harness the benefits of teachers having greater involvement in their professional development goal-setting and making decisions more widely.

Key findings