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Leaving rates are ‘particularly high’ for early-career teachers in EBacc subjects, new analysis has revealed

By Nuffield Foundation

Nuffield-funded analysis carried out by National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has found that maths, science and language teachers have high rates of leaving the profession, particularly in the first five years of their careers.

Researchers found that particularly high leaving rates of teachers in these subjects might make it difficult for the Government to achieve its objective for 90 per cent of all pupils to be entered for GCSEs in English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects. The number of trainees for these subjects has also been consistently below the Government’s entry targets for the last few years.

The analysis also found that the amount of curriculum time spent on science and languages has not increased since 2011. The lack of growth in curriculum time could be due to reduced teacher supply constraining schools from expanding provision in these subjects. However, school and pupil preferences may also be influencing these trends.

Researchers also found that curriculum time for technology subjects (a non-EBacc subject) has fallen dramatically since 20111. The leaving rate for technology teachers is higher than average, which might be driven by schools’ reduced demand for teachers as well as teachers’ own career decisions. The analysis shows that non-EBacc subjects have all seen reductions in teaching hours since 2011.

Jack Worth, a senior economist at NFER said: “As part of NFER’s ongoing research on teacher supply, this Research Update has found that there are considerable differences in the proportion of teachers leaving the profession according to the subject they teach. Teacher supply remains a significant challenge for schools generally, and it seems evident that this is constraining schools’ ability to increase teaching time of EBacc subjects, especially science and languages.”

The NFER Research Update: ‘Teacher retention and turnover research’2 is the first publication in a series that form part of a major new research project to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics within the teacher workforce in England. It is also one of the first pieces of research to explore differences in teacher retention rates in English secondary schools by the subject they teach.

The next Research Update on this project is planned to be published in June 2017, which will be followed by an interim report in summer 2017. If you would like to register your interest in this project and its publications, please visit:


1. Technology subjects included in subject group (School Workforce Census categories): Applied ICT, ICT, computer science, design and technology, electronics, food technology, graphics, graphics, resistant materials, systems and control, textiles, craft, engineering, technical drawing.

2. Worth, J., De Lazzari. G, and Hillary, J. (2017). Teacher Retention and Turnover Research. Research Update 1: Teacher Retention by Subject. Slough: NFER.

3. The EBacc, first implemented in 2011, is a performance measure used by the Government for ranking schools whose pupils secure a grade C or above across five core academic subjects: English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.

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