Sunday 30 October 2016

High staff turnover - it's not always a sign of a dysfunctional SLT

Recently I was involved in the back end of Twitter discussion with -  @mmm684  about the causes of staff turnover, and whether high staff turnover was a sign of a potentially dysfunctional SLT.  Given the limitations of Twitter, I thought it was best if I tried to expand my thinking about staff turnover, as staff turnover may have positives and negative causes. As such, I  thought it might be useful to develop this 2x2 matrix to think about the level and causes of staff turnover.

Staff turnover










In Q1, a school may have low staff turnover due to the supportive and developmental opportunities within the school.  The school may be growing so opportunities for advancement are naturally provided.  In Q2 you may have high levels of staff turnover which are the product of development opportunities being provided to colleagues, which places them in a good position to take advantage of external advancement.  In Q3 you have a low level of staff turnover, which may be a product of a complacent senior leadership which does not provide staff with sufficient appropriate challenge, particularly around the area of performance.  In Q4 you may have high levels of staff turnover which is the produce of a toxic school culture which has been bred by the senior leadership team,

Given that I'm an advocate of evidence-based school leadership and management, it seemed sensible to think of a range of questions about staff turnover  that a school could ask of itself in order to take an evidence-based approach.  As such, I have adapted the work Briner and Rousseau (2011) to look at the questions that could be asked, and which uses four sources of evidence - research, school data, stakeholder views, and practitioner expertise.

      Research data

What are the average rates of teaching staff turnover in my type of school – primary, secondary, post-16?

What are the average rates of teaching staff turnover in other local schools?

What does the research evidence suggest as the most likely causes of staff turnover?

Are there any systematic reviews on teaching staff turnover and the most effective interventions to reduce it?

What evidence is there that those interventions might work in my school?

Are there any new analyses which might provide an alternative ‘take’ on teaching staff turnover?

School evidence

What actually is the teaching staff turnover rate?

What type of staff are leaving, NQTS, mid-career or experienced?

Are staff leaving from any particular department or stage?

Is there anything going on locally in other schools which might be impacting upon staff turnover?

Do staff surveys give an indication as to what might be happening?

What would it cost the school to undertake any form of intervention?

Stakeholder evidence

What do other members of the senior leadership team think is happening?

What do teaching staff think is happening?

What do colleagues think about any proposed changes of practice?

Are there any ‘outlier’ views, which might provide a particular insight or different perspective

What alternative explanations and proposed solutions do others have?

My own experience

Have I seen this before in other schools that I have worked in?

What happened?

What is my theory of action about staff turnover?

What’s worked in the past in other schools that I have worked in, and why?

What does my ‘gut’ or ‘intuition’ say what is happening, and why?

How relevant and applicable is my experience?

Some final words

It's only by asking such a range of questions that it is possible to come up with an evidence-based approach to the particular issue of staff turnover within your school.  And remember, one of the first tasks of the conscientious, explicit and judicious evidence-based practitioner is to challenge your own thinking, and you do this by trying to find evidence which is  contrary to what you currently believe is case.


BRINER, R. B. & ROUSSEAU, D. M. 2011. Evidence‐based I–O psychology: Not there yet. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 4, 3-22.