Beijing is a city where people usually stay for two, three, or four years, so naturally there is a certain amount of expected teacher turnover. Unfortunately, teacher turnover becomes disruptive for children when teachers leave in the middle of a school year due to dissatisfaction, personal emergencies, maternity leaves, or school disciplinary action.
We asked Caleb Archer, Associate Director of Origins Education, for advice about what causes teacher turnover.
Archer began by explaining first that school leadership is primarily responsible for finding, training, and retaining teachers and staff. With that as the starting frame of reference, he continued.
“School leadership has a big impact on school culture and having a high staff turnover is costly both in recruitment costs and in student achievement as it disrupts the continuity and community that are critical to effective schools,” he added.
Archers explained two ways to find out about teacher turnover rates at schools.
“Parents can ask the school directly about staff turnover, and many schools are happy to give this information. However, if the turnover rate is high, it can be a touchy subject, and we need to remember that there are many reasons for staff moving on.”
Another method of research takes a bit of investigative work.
“The immediate staff turnover can be seen by looking at the Employment page on a school website and viewing the vacancies that are listed. This is most effective before Christmas when positions are not yet filled and removed. However, be careful how you interpret the list of positions. A long list can indicate poor teacher retention, or be an indicator of growth or even that a new program or staffing models are being adopted, so be sure to look at the list in context of what is happening at the school.”
Often surveys show that teachers teach because they want to work with young people and enjoy the light bulb moments students get.
“Happy staff are a good indicator of a healthy culture and community, and they invest more in the community and in their students. Happy staff is also essential to the high trust environment needed for effective school leadership. But this does not mean that staff will always be happy, they are still human. Research shows that our optimism and perceived happiness is actually influenced by many minor incidents during a single day. So gauging happiness during exam marking and report writing periods is never a good idea,” Archer explained.
There are always reasons why people leave their jobs, especially in Beijing, where life can be challenging. Some will leave for another adventure, promotion, or to be closer to family.
But there are more factors to consider, Archer explained, “There was some research published in 2010 on ‘Teacher Retention in International Schools’ focusing on the Near-East and South-Asia region. They found that over the three-year study, some schools had a year-on-year turnover of staff as high as 60 percent, while others had no turnover at all. The average turnover was 17 percent. More importantly they surveyed the leaving staff and found what we have all anecdotally heard, that turnover rate correlates with effective and supportive leadership. The study also identified less strong correlation including staff age and satisfaction with salary but by far the biggest factor was having supportive and effective leadership.”
International schools offer a range of benefits that are quite similar to other companies, relocation and flight allowances, dependent tuition, medical insurance, support with visas, a housing allowance and access to school facilities (for example the pool or gym) at appropriate times.
Archer adds some great news, “It is not uncommon to talk to staff who joined a school intending to stay for two to three years and are still there ten years later. When a school has effective leadership, a good healthy culture, is supportive, active in the community, and gives teachers a chance to share and pursue their passions, it can be very hard to leave.”
Meet Caleb Archer and other Origins Education team members at the upcoming Beijing International School Expo (BISE), where over sixty other schools and programs come together to make finding the right school easier for parents. Find out more information about the event here or pre-register here to reserve your spot and get firsthand information about speakers. The BISE will take place on February 18-19, 2017 from 10am-4pm at the Crowne Plaza Beijing Chaoyang U-Town
- More from Schools You'll Meet at BISE