1970s working conditions in the 2020s: Modernising the professional lives of teachers for the 21st Century

Our Commission on Teacher Retention, supported by Public First, has published its final report. 


Combining qualitative, quantitative and immersive research with expert - and teacher - testimony, it paints an extraordinary picture of the state of the teaching profession in England’s secondary schools in 2023.

The crisis in staffroom morale, and the drivers pushing tens of thousands of teachers prematurely out of their careers, is set out in stark terms.

An extensive polling exercise of secondary teachers, supported by a programme of focus groups, concluded that:  


of teachers said they would be likely to leave the profession if they were offered a job in another sector which promised a better work-life balance. This polled higher than better pay.


of secondary school teachers said they were unlikely to be in the profession in five years’ time


of secondary teachers said they were helping students with non-academic matters relating to mental health and cost of living issues


of teachers said their work-life balance was either bad or very bad

Figures for teachers working in challenging educational contexts, known as Education Investment Areas, were significantly higher for many of these data points.

Our school system does many things well, but it is antiquated and increasingly unattractive to those who have a choice in where they make their careers. Modernisation is not a political or philosophical preference: it is a pragmatic response to the data and to the evidence.
Sinéad Mc Brearty, Chief Executive of Education Support

The Commission of Teacher Retention makes recommendations that call for the complete overhaul of the working conditions of the teaching profession. They include:

  • A call for a national review of the pay and conditions of teaching staff including their pay structure and their contracted hours;
  • The Department for Education and its ministers should be held account for teacher retention data in the same way it is currently held account for teacher recruitment figures;
  • Amid ever-increasing pressures being loaded on schools in the cost of living crisis and the post-covid era, official guidance of what is and isn’t a school’s responsibility;
  • A formal review of school accountability including the function of Ofsted, looking specifically at the pressure it places on teachers;
  • The creation of a fully-funded specialist Human Resources advisory service for schools, tasked with promoting and supporting them with the implementation flexible working and part-time arrangements;
  • A national conversation about the significant shift in behaviour as well as the increase in emotional and mental health needs among children and young people. The additional pressure this places on teachers is unsustainable and goes beyond their professional expertise.

Download the full report below. 

Covid-19 and the classroom
Teacher Wellbeing Index