Keeping Your Head

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How does OfSTED ratings impact on head teachers working in schools?

The Ofsted rating of a school can be indicative of a range of contextual factors: the performance of the school at a given time, the capacity of the school to improve and, as a result, the level of external scrutiny and intervention it receives. Headteacher retention is significantly lower in schools rated Inadequate as opposed to Good or Outstanding. (NFER, 2017)

Key Research Questions:

  1. What are the patterns of headteacher retention and turnover rates in England?
  2. What school and personal characteristics are associated with headteacher retention?
  3. What factors are influencing the retention rate? Why are some leaving headship?
  4. What factors might prevent effective headteachers from leaving or might encourage them to return to headship?

Research by NFER (2017) highlights that teacher retention has become a high-profile topic in recent years, as increasing numbers of teachers are leaving the profession before retirement (Worth et al., 2015 and Lynch et al., 2016). Although headteachers are known to play a vital role in leading and sustaining good school performance, to date there has been little quantitative investigation in England into whether they are also leaving headship in increasing numbers.


More than three-quarters of headteachers in schools rated Inadequate by Ofsted are still in headship (in their own school or another school) from one year to the next, but retention rates are lowest in this category among both primary and secondary schools.

Retention rates are particularly low in the first year after a school is downgraded to Inadequate. Following a downgrade to Inadequate, headteachers who are new to the post have much higher retention rates than those who have been in post for two or more years.


NFER research suggests that “… some headteachers are initially attracted to working in challenging circumstances, as they see it as an opportunity to have a positive impact. However, if their school is low performing, which is more common if they have more disadvantaged pupils, then the resultant pressure to raise standards in response to accountability and inspection can contribute to some headteachers leaving headship.”


You can download the full research paper here.


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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