School Inspection Judgements Vs. Teacher Turnover

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How do different school inspection judgements affect teachers’ decisions to leave their school?

This research paper is the first to *evaluate the effects of schools inspection judgements on turnover in English schools; including the effect on turnover of two different treatments: moving from a Good to an Outstanding rating and moving from a Requires Improvement to an Inadequate rating.

In three posts I’ve recently shared, I highlighted the following:

  1. OfSTED inspections and outcomes damages teacher recruitment.
  2. 10 Goals for OfSTED in a personal response from Sean Harford, OfSTED’s National Director for Education.
  3. and Can OfSTED improve? which challenges how OfSTED grade schools with differing pupil intakes.

The outcome of each of these posts led me further towards some fascinating research by Sam Sims, a PhD student researching with the Department of Quantitative Social Science, University College London.

High-Stakes Accountability and Teacher Turnover:

In Sims’ abstract, he writes that high teacher turnover damages pupil attainment (Borg et al., 2012; Ronfeldt et al., 2012), but while the effects of pupil and teacher characteristics on turnover are well documented, relatively little attention has been paid to the impact of the accountability system.

shutterstock_203140432 Businessmen with wind-up key , eps10 vector format Image ID:203140432 Copyright: ratch

Image: Shutterstock

This paper is the first to evaluate the effect on turnover of schools receiving different judgements from the English national schools inspectorate, OfSTED. Theoretically, Sims argues that the effects of inspection judgements are ambiguous.

An ‘Inadequate’ rating may harm teachers’ self-efficacy, increasing the chance of them leaving their current school. On the other hand, an ‘Inadequate’ rating provides a negative signal about the quality of teachers working in that school, decreasing the chance of them finding employment elsewhere. I use a difference in difference approach to estimate this empirically and find that an ‘Inadequate’ rating leads to an increase in turnover of 3.4 percentage points. By contrast, schools receiving an ‘Outstanding’ rating see no change in turnover. The results are robust to a number of specifications, sample restrictions and a placebo test. (Sims)

Key Findings:

Teachers are more likely to resign if they are:

  • young (Allen et al., 2012),
  • inexperienced (Keigher & Cross, 5 2010),
  • highly qualified (Boyd et al., 2005),
  • less effective (Boyd et al., 2008),
  • have higher earnings potential outside of teaching (Guarino et al., 2006),
  • or are reaching retirement age (NFER, 2008).

With respect to pupil characteristics, turnover tends to be higher if there are:

  • higher proportions of minority, SEN or deprived pupils in a school (Falch & Strom, 2005; Allen et al., 2012).
  • working environment also has an effect, with turnover higher in schools in which other staff, including school leadership, are less supportive (Guarino et al., 2006; Brown & Wynn, 2009; Simon & Johnson, 2013).

Whilst these demographic and school factors have been studied extensively, there is less evidence on the effect of the accountability system.


*Sims writes that “estimating the effect of different OfSTED judgements on teacher turnover is challenging for a number of reasons, and explains why within the paper. Here is the dataset from Sims’ research:

  • Figure 1: Histogram of Turnover for Each School-Year
  • Table 1: Treatment and Turnover in Each Year
  • Table 2: Balance Tests after Matching for Schools Regraded Outstanding
  • Table 3: Balance Tests after Matching for Schools Regraded Inadequate
  • Table 4: Missing Data for each of the Imputed Variables
  • Table 5: Results
  • Table 6: Robustness Checks.
  • Table 7: Destinations of Teachers that Exit their Schools
  • Table 8: Distribution of Inspection Results for Destination Schools

Click to expand


So, I have a two, key questions to ask readers:

  1. Would the removal of OfSTED gradings help resolve teacher turnover?
  2. What is OfSTED gradings were just: Good / Not Yet Good. Would this be better for all of us?

You can download Sam Sims’ paper here and follow him on Twitter.


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