Talking heads: how do you keep your school’s best teachers?

We asked three headteachers for advice on how to retain a team of happy teaching staff

“By creating a working environment in which their professionalism is trusted and in which they are provided with opportunities to continuously develop their expertise and subject knowledge, through further study, action research projects and formal or informal professional development. In the words of our deputy master academic: ‘In a good school, both pupils and teachers come to school to learn.’

“One also has to care for teachers’ wellbeing and look creatively at relieving the burden of marking, feedback and reporting and, thereby, give teachers the space in which to commit to becoming lifelong learners.” 

Dr Joe Spence, master, Dulwich College


“We all love a three-course lunch and unlimited supplies of cake, but in the end, I know that teachers stay in schools with high trust environments. They want to have agency, to be able to teach their subject in the way that suits them, to receive support for new initiatives and to have back-up if things go wrong.

“Furthermore, we have found that our staff relish our recently established professional learning community which includes a pedagogical book club, regular teaching and learning spots in staff meetings, open-door days to facilitate popping into colleagues’ lessons and a research link with the University of Winchester.” 

Jane Gandee, headmistress, St Swithun’s School


“At Cranleigh we are blessed with enough accommodation to create a community of staff and families who look out for each other and enjoy each other’s company. School becomes a way of life for everyone and fosters excellent professional relationships with pupils who see their teachers as human beings! People like the atmosphere and stay.

“We constantly work to improve professional dialogue and development and provide extra responsibility to ensure staff progress in their craft. Retention is not everything: promotion elsewhere is good for our reputation. I am delighted when good teachers go on to be subject leaders, housemasters or mistresses, deputies and heads.”

Martin Reader, headmaster, Cranleigh School

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