Stability helps new teachers to stay in the profession, study finds

Teachers who are given a stable assignment, who are in front of the classroom in different forms of teaching and who teach in their subject area are less likely to leave teaching early in their careers, a study by the universities of Leuven and Antwerp shows.

Holding on to new teachers at a time of teacher shortages and labour market tightness has been a major concern in Flemish education for some time. Data from the education administration showed that one in three new teachers leaves the profession within five years.

Retention better than expected

The study, commissioned by Education minister Ben Weyts, shows that the situation is not as bad as previously thought. Between 2007 and 2021, 86 per cent of new teachers are still teaching after one school year. That figure drops to 77 per cent after three school years, to 74 per cent after five years and to 70 per cent after 10 years.

Teacher retention has even risen in the past decade. In the 2019-2020 school year, the last school year for which the researchers have data, retention rates of secondary school teachers were the highest in 10 years.

This could be explained by education being a stable sector. People have been looking for stability since the Covid-19 crisis, Professor Kristof De Witte explains. In addition, the high number of vacancies means that new teachers can get better assignments.

To keep those teachers, the stability of their assignments is important. Teachers who can teach for an entire year are less likely to leave. Furthermore, permanent contracts and allowing teachers to teach in their subject areas also contribute.

Professor Mike Smet points out that entry-level teachers are those aged between 20 and 30, for whom stability is often an important factor. "In that age group, people may be settling down and taking out a loan. Therefore, they are looking for security," he says.


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