Drop in teacher attrition rates offers hope for a weary profession

Drop in teacher attrition rates offers hope for a weary profession

There has been a significant decline in new teacher attrition rates compared to previous studies, according to a new study.

Over the past 12 months, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) surveyed 44,000 Australian teachers – the largest sample of teachers ever surveyed in Australia – as part of its Australian Teacher Workforce Data (ATWD) National Trends report.

The survey found only 1.25% of teachers who registered the year after graduating from initial teacher education (ITE) discontinue their registration each year.

Edmund Misson, AITSL’s Deputy CEO said this means the number of teachers leaving in the first five years is close to 5-6%, in contrast to other studies showing attrition rates of up to 7% per year.

“I think this shows that early career teachers are resilient, and can thrive with the right supports,” Misson told The Educator,

“We need to continue to shift the balance of teachers’ time towards teaching and learning and I feel this will be a major focus for the future for governments, systems, sectors, school leaders and teachers.”

Misson said there are also “clear indicators” that retention of early career teachers can be improved by improving their induction experiences.

“We know that induction is more effective if it includes a range of different supports and has a strong focus on mentoring that improves teaching practice,” he said.

“Induction should focus on improving professional practice, developing professional identity and supporting wellbeing, as well as orientation to the school.”

A big opportunity for retention initiatives

The study also found that despite expressing intentions to leave, many teachers haven’t followed through. Even among those who said they intend to leave before retirement, 40% said they intend to stay for at least five years and many others were unsure when they would leave.

“Because many teachers have yet to make a final decision, there may be significant scope for retention initiatives to have a positive impact,” Misson said.

“The data we’ve published shows that workload and recognition are key factors, and school leaders should have these in mind.”

Misson said AITSL will, from this year onwards, also be collecting more data through the teacher survey about teacher wellbeing and how it relates to career pathways. 

“We are building the evidence base to improve teacher retention.”

When asked what potential strategies can be implemented to facilitate teachers’ transition and longevity in the teaching profession, Misson said trends towards changing careers can work both ways and provide an opportunity to bring mature-age recruits with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences into schools.

“It’s important to remember that career changers are still new teachers, and need the same level of induction support as younger teachers,” Misson said.

“The issue is that our data tells us that nearly 30% of new teachers do not receive this support. It will be important for induction and mentoring to be in place for all new teachers, including mid-career changers.”