The vital role of CPD in teacher retention

By Daniel Pledger posted 06-06-2023 14:44


A new report published by STEM Learning’s Monitoring and Evaluation team demonstrates the impact CPD support offered by STEM Learning has on the retention of secondary science teachers in England.

The recruitment and retention of science teachers is a challenge for governments across the world. A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research highlighted that almost a third of newly qualified science teachers in England leave the profession within their first five years. This  is compounded by the challenges associated with recruiting science teachers; in 2022/23, 85% of the target recruitment figure for biology teachers were recruited, along with 86% of the target figure for chemistry. For physics, the figure achieved was only 17%.

The increased demand for STEM skills within the workforce recently saw the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee - led by STEM Learning’s Chair Baroness Brown - published the results of their inquiry into the STEM skills gap in the UK. One of the four areas of focus was recruiting and retaining science teachers. A key recommendation was to increase the accessibility of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities, especially in relation to shortage subjects.

As the largest provider of STEM education and careers support to schools in the UK, STEM Learning plays a central role in supporting science teachers across the UK. In order to understand how the CPD we offer impacts upon teacher retention, we recently carried out an analysis of the School Workforce Census to examine how attending CPD courses we offer impacts on the likelihood of a secondary science teacher remaining within the profession.

This analysis found that a teacher who engaged with STEM Learning CPD is 155% more likely to be in the profession in the following academic year than a similar teacher who did not engage with this support. Additionally, a similar analysis examining the impact of CPD on teachers at the beginning of their career found that an engaged teacher is 151% more likely to remain in the profession one year later compared to a similar teacher who did not access this support.

This work shows the important role that access to high quality CPD opportunities can play in retaining teachers within the profession. The full report can be found here

We run subsidised, intensive, high-quality CPD for teachers and technicians at our York HQ - the National STEM Learning Centre. Check out our primary and secondary courses.

Based on data from the School Workforce Census. The School Workforce Census collects information from schools and local authorities on the school workforce in state-funded schools in England. Independent schools, non-maintained special schools, sixth-form colleges and further education establishments are not included. The data includes information on teaching and support staff, their characteristics, teacher retention and pay, qualifications and details of the subjects taught in secondary schools.




21-06-2023 10:33

Thanks for this insightful blog @Daniel Pledger I've recently come across this Pearson podcast featuring @Sarah Longshaw discussing Where did everybody go? Recruiting and retaining more science teachers. Well worth a listen! 

41. Where did everybody go? Recruiting and retaining more science teachers - with Dr Sarah Longshaw

08-06-2023 09:20

CPD is one factor, though there are far bigger factors for STEAM teachers.

"The current UK workforce is one of the youngest within the OECD (1); almost one in three primary teachers and one in five secondary teachers are under thirty years old. This shows the high rate of teacher turnover and challenges in retaining qualified teachers within the profession."

You would think that the statement above would see immediate and major changes to teachers workload predominantly as there is not money for pay. Having more teachers could reduce class sizes , making teaching even more attractive. Though as younger teachers who are lower on the scale get paid less, then there must be money for increased pay?

"The reasons for teachers leaving the profession are variable but include factors such as their working environment in addition to pay (3). Retaining teachers within the profession is important for a number of reasons, with teaching experience being linked with positive student performance and behaviour, and research showing that teachers reach ‘peak performance’ within their first three to five years (4)"

It is pleasing to see teaching experience being linked to positive student performance. I would disagree with the research showing teachers reach peak performance in first 3-5 years, Since there are not enough senior teachers to be able to draw information on, as pointed out in the study. Also senior teachers tend to go on into management roles which may distort the findings.

"When it comes to STEM subjects, the issue of teachers leaving the profession in the first few years following qualification is greater. The retention rate for science and mathematics teachers is lower than for the profession as a whole: 16% of teachers leave within their first year, and 53% within their first five years" 

The above statistics are absolutely shocking for maths and science teachers.

"target for secondary teachers was missed by a significant margin (52% of target recruited). Recruitment is a particularly acute problem in STEM subjects, with just 54% of the target number of teachers being successfully recruited. While the target numbers were close to being achieved in biology (85%) and chemistry (86%), this was not the case in physics (17%). In mathematics the target was almost met (95%) but computer science (30%) and design and technology (25%) also fell far short of the intended recruitment numbers (6)."

Even more shocking is the lack of recruitment in Physics (17%), Computer Science (30%) and Design Technology (25%). The lack of funding of Design Technology programs and the sheer workload of Design Technology teachers should have also been highlighted. DT has become one of the hardest to teach areas in schools. 

Changes to teachers conditions over the last decade or more has been so detrimental to the recruitment and retainment of STEAM teachers. Things need to change and quickly to ensure teaching becomes a long term, rewarding employment prospect for those teachers entering the profession and lose in early careers. I have noticed whole departments of 6 or more teachers being vacated with 4-5 years.