Understanding Teaching Retention

Using a discrete choice experiment to measure teacher retention in England

by Peter Burge, Hui Lu, William D. Phillips

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Research Questions

  1. What are the relative value and impact of different types of rewards (such as pay, pension) and pay progression on teachers' retention?
  2. What characteristics of a job (or conditions of employment) are most important in encouraging teachers to remain in their current role?
  3. How do individual characteristics (such as gender, socioeconomic status) affect the preference for teachers' retention?

Maintaining an adequate supply of teachers is a challenge in the education sector and an area of significant concern. Previous evidence shows that pay is deemed to be one of the most important factors influencing a teacher's decision to stay in a role, together with the workload and flexibility of working hours. However, up until now, no study has measured the relative importance of the different factors that could influence teacher retention or quantified the impact that changes to these factors could have. RAND Europe was commissioned by the UK Office of Manpower Economics (OME) to measure the impact of pay, rewards and other working conditions on the retention of teachers using a quantitative survey, containing two embedded discrete choice experiments (DCEs). The information provided from the DCEs was supplemented with other background information collected in the survey. Over 2,200 teachers in England participated in the survey. Our study shows which job characteristics matter most to teachers in England, the trade-offs they would be willing to make between pay and other characteristics of the work environment and provides knowledge into subgroups of teachers who may be more or less responsive to different changes. Using the DCE model outputs, an accompanying forecasting model provides unique insights into the relative effectiveness of different policy interventions which could be used to strengthen or highlight relevant characteristics of the employment environment that are valued by teachers.

Key Findings

  • Teachers are willing to trade-off higher pay/rewards with better working conditions (such as work in supportive environment with fewer challenges from pupil behaviour).
  • Respondents were significantly averse to losses in pay and rewards, but they are not the only factors that shape teachers' retention choices.
  • Respondents preferred large pay scale steps, and a quick rate of progression when their performance was rated as excellent.


  • Supporting schools to improve current working conditions such as reducing workload, and flexibility of moving to part-time working, could assist in improving teacher retention. The levels of support within the school environment and levels of student behaviour are highly valued by teachers.
  • We found teachers put a positive value on a quick rate of progression when their performance was rated as excellent. The policy focus might therefore be on how to ensure this is applied in a way that is fair and consistent.
  • While pay levels are clearly important, this research suggests that investment in non-pay aspects could be highly effective in improving retention, and there could be benefits from undertaking a fuller cost-benefit analysis of different options.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Evidence review and discrete choice experiment design

  • Chapter Three

    Survey data collection and sample characteristics

  • Chapter Four

    Choice model analysis

  • Chapter Five


  • Annex A

    Main survey questionnaire

  • Annex B

    Sample characteristics

  • Annex C

    Discrete choice modelling analysis

  • Annex D

    Longlist of factors

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the UK Office of Manpower Economics and conducted by RAND Europe.

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