In this current neoliberal climate, why is teacher attrition rates growing and retention rates are decreasing within England?.

Below are some of the thoughts behind the research

Performativity agenda

The shifting emphasis from the needs of the teacher and children to the management of image (how the school looks to the community) in neoliberal times (Ball, 2010) is the impetus for this study. This study also seeks to understand the links between the way the system currently is and the capacity of looking at studies of resilience impacting attrition and the data from questionnaires and interviews etc, to understand the links between current political agendas and the professional experiences of teachers, to identify the commonalities/tensions between the macro and micro levels of the profession to further understand what is really going on with a view to suggest improvements.

The consequences of uncharacteristic amounts of stress on the teaching populace are various. In singular terms, the impacts are clear and can incorporate harm to physical and emotional wellness, confidence and individual connections (Howard and Johnson, 2004). From an economic point of view, stress-related teacher attrition results in a huge loss of government investment (Gibbs and Miller, 2013). Overly stressed teachers are then likely to become increasingly less effective as their morale and commitment worsen, and so pupils’ education may also be adversely affected (Day et al., 2006. As Kyriacou (1987, p.147) cautions, 'stress and burnout may essentially debilitate the working relationship a teacher has with his[/her] students and the nature of teaching he[/she] can display.'

Individual subjectivity

One aspect of individual subjectivity often mentioned as a means to combat stress is resilience. Resilience is a multidimensional, socially constructed concept and can be enhanced or inhibited by the nature of the setting in which we work, the people with whom we work and the strength of our beliefs or aspirations as a dynamic within a social system of interrelationships (Benard, 1995, Luthar et al., 2000) Resilience should not primarily be associated with the capacity to “bounce back” or recover from highly traumatic experiences and events as one thought but, rather, in the case of Education and other similar contexts can look at the capacity to maintain equilibrium and a sense of commitment and agency in the everyday worlds in which teachers teach (Mansfield et al. 2012).

This study rejects an individualised notion of resilience as a personal disposition, but I seek to problemetise the concept to consider the outside influences on the levels of resilience impacting teacher attrition shown in particular circumstances.


‘Resilience, however, should be seen as a relational dynamic and resilience resides not in the individual but in the capacity for connection’ (Jordan, 2006, p73). Our brains’ robust ability to change enables people to rework back into healthy connections, achieve more secure attachment and through this, ‘begin to shift underlying patterns of isolation and immobilisation’ (Jordan. 2006, p74). In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel (Blackburn 1999) i.e. in this context why they are leaving the profession. Thus, pointing to my theory that attrition is related to resilience and comes from the micro, meso and macro areas and can be tackled and eased by the intervention.

Toxic cultures

Toxic cultures, for example within schools, may devalue our need of others and impedes our ability to turn to them for support in distress (Samier & Milley 2018; Wang 2018) and they challenge ‘our capacity to form supportive and resilience building relationships’ (Silva et al. 2018, p256). These arguments give impetus to investigate resilience critically with a view to improving the resilience and well-being of teachers. A caring relation is, ‘in its most basic form, a connection or encounter between two human beings i.e. a carer and a recipient of care, or cared for’ (Noddings, 2005). A trusting relationship is ‘cultivated’, ‘a matter of human effort’ and thus ‘never something already at hand’, ‘it can and often must be conscientiously created, not simply taken for granted’ (Solomon and Flores, 2001, p87). Bonding social capital is for the improvement of organisational efficiency (Putnam, 1995; Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012). This adds further to my theory that improved or extended mentoring and CPD can go some way to solve the issues of teacher attrition and retention. From the perspective of 'the market is everything' this would be neoliberalism, but coming from the perspective of the community. Whereby, the community of teachers comes together to carry out CPD for the good of the community/school.