How Building Staff Morale In Schools Is Key To Pupil Retention

How Building Staff Morale In Schools Is Key To Pupil Retention

It’s likely that correlating links can be made between schools which have low teacher morale and low pupil retention. If keeping hold of students when they pass to the next stage of learning is an issue, building staff morale could be key to improving your student retention.


If you are responsible for staff and students who face morale and retention issues, in your school, college or wider borough, here is an overview of some studies and possible solutions to the issues you face.

What We Can Learn From Other Studies: Low Teacher Morale Equates To Low Retention

There have been numerous studies into the effects of teacher morale on pupil achievement, but that is still a step away if your issue is student or pupil retention. That said, there are still findings within the studies on the former problem which relate to staff morale and pupil retention.

Poor Attainment and Achievement Causes Low Pupil Retention

Over in Indiana, a chronic teacher retention problem has been largely attributed to teacher morale. This overview of various studies, The Importance of Teacher Retention for Improving Student Achievement, by the Indiana State Teachers Association, has found that teacher attrition directly hinders a school’s ability to maintain a stable and effective learning environment.

It goes without saying that teachers suffering from attrition (the causes of teacher attrition cited in the study are extensive) are going to be suffering from low morale. Also, an unstable and ineffective learning environment is what causes many students to study elsewhere; largely due to an unhappy staff member leaving the institution part-way through a pupil’s course of study.

The key times to look out for spotting this trend are the approach of each Key Stage of learning or mid-way through a Key Stage, when many parents and guardians will push for moving the pupil “before it is too late”.

A Reduced Community or Shared Feeling In A School Is Harmful

Boyd et al. (quoted in the Indiana study) have found that attrition and the subsequent poor level of teacher retention, reduces the collegiate and cohesive feeling amongst staff. And this is then transmitted to and perpetuated by a low rate of retention amongst students.

What is left is a school which is short on identity, a feeling of community and sense of belonging. All things which drive down teacher morale and encourage pupils to study elsewhere; be it at another school or college nearby or in a neighbouring district.

The Working Environment Is A Major Factor

In a 2005 study, titled How Teaching Conditions Predict Teacher Turnover in California Schools,  Loeb and his colleagues analysed national teacher data and stated that a school’s working conditions and environment “were the most significant” signal of a teacher’s morale and whether they plan to stay teaching in said establishment or even teaching at all.

This report and the aforementioned Indiana review both make a direct comparison to improving working conditions being a means to improving teacher morale. Because happier teachers are more passionate about their craft, school and pupils. For further reading on this train of thought, we suggest looking at A Passion for Teaching, by Christopher Day.

Zooming out to a worldwide level of study, another helpful read is Recruiting, Retaining and Retraining Secondary School Teachers and PrincipalsThis study draws on swathes of evidence which highlight how important positive student-teacher relationships are for increasing staff morale and student achievement.

Both of these things are what will lead to students also staying at their school or college for the duration of their course and also recommending it as a favoured place of study to others in the family and wider community.

Morale Influences Performance – Performance Influences Retention

At the end of the day, schools and colleges are ultimately held to account in terms of their academic and pastoral results. If you have an unhappy teaching staff, you will struggle to retain and add value to students.

The root of the student retention problem that you are facing is teacher morale, because it is so influential on teacher effectiveness. There are ways you can improve teaching morale, but one of the best ways to improve morale is by improving the working environment.


Does Your Working Environment Need Improvement?

You may not have gauged staff and student morale about their working environment. Commonly, we see that staff quickly get used to their detrimental school or college building being normalised. But even a simple refresh and small amount of professional input can really help invigorate your teaching staff.

And with invigorated staff comes improved morale and performance. With this comes academic success and increasing pupil retention.

See if your school or college building needs any work – and see what options are available, as well as collate evidence to achieve budget sign off – by using our free pack.

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