It Takes More Than Financial Incentives: Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Schools

Dr Violeta Negrea, National Institute of Teaching
Professor Sin Wang Chong, National Institute of Teaching / University of St Andrews

Schools around the world face significant challenges in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers particularly, in the most disadvantaged communities where the turnover rate is higher than in more affluent regions (Ghosh & Worth, 2020). Concerns about filling the vacancies and an increase in student population have resulted in non-specialist teachers delivering specialist subjects. This has raised concerns about the potential impact on the quality of teaching, with evidence suggesting pupils make less progress when their teacher does not hold a specialist degree in the taught subject (Wayne & Youngs, 2003).

As part of our review of practice on teacher recruitment and retention strategies commissioned and funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (Chong et al., 2024) we used an online questionnaire to ask teachers and leaders in disadvantaged schools in England what they believe to be effective recruitment and retention strategies in their schools. Teachers (n=62) with varied teaching experience and specialisms rated recruitment and retention strategies as ‘very important’, ‘somewhat important’, or ‘not important’. Strategies like respect for teachers, balanced workload, supportive colleagues, positive behaviour management, and effective leadership practices were revealed as top ‘very important’ strategies for recruitment and retention. The strategies that received the highest number of ‘unimportant’ ratings relate to schools close to amenities, financial incentives for teaching performances, and bonuses.

Additional open responses identified recruitment and retention strategies across five key themes: school environment, financial incentives, job advertisements, application process, and interview experiences. A supportive school environment that fosters a sense of value and respect was perceived as important for attracting and retaining teachers in socio-economically challenging areas. Several respondents (n=13) expressed concerns about poor behaviour management in their schools, and another 26 expressed views about the importance of a balanced and flexible approach to working. A total of 14 respondents were concerned about teaching outside their specialism, induction and mentoring, staff shortage, and allocation of time to non-core subjects. The perspectives on the importance of Financial Factors were most divided among several respondents (n=21), who highlighted the importance of bursaries and bonuses as an encouraging and supportive strategy for recruitment and retention, as well as their drawbacks like being less affordable by schools, potentially wasteful if not tied to a commitment to teaching for a minimum period, or ineffective as one-off payments.

While financial factors, including bonuses and bursaries, received more ratings of ‘somewhat important’ and ‘not important’ than ‘very important,’ competitive salaries were rated as ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ by 98.4% of the respondents. These perspectives suggest that financial incentives alone may not be enough to motivate teachers to remain in the profession. Competitive salaries coupled with non-financial incentives, such as flexible working and a balanced workload, may be more effective at retaining teachers in schools and ensuring that they feel respected and valued in their role.

While the number of respondents participating in this study was small and not representative of all English schools within disadvantaged areas, studies found similar perspectives in other countries (See et al., 2020). Although recruitment and retention in disadvantaged schools face specific challenges like a higher rate of vacancies, countries develop polices to encourage and attract good teachers from abroad (DfE, 2024; Patil, 2023). This shift requires a coherent and cross-country collaboration to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan ensuring consistent economic progress for each country (Patil, 2023; See et al., 2020).


Chong, S. W.,   Oxley, E., Negrea, V., Bond, M., Liu, Q., & Sum Kong, M.S. (2024). Teacher recruitment and retention in schools in socio-economically disadvantaged areas in England – review of practice. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

DfE (2024). A fairer approach to awarding QTS to overseas teachers. Policy paper. Available at:–2

Ghosh, A. and Worth, J. (2020) ‘Teacher Labour Market in Wales: Annual Report 2020’, _National Foundation for Educational Research:

Patil, R. (2023). Rethinking Teacher Retention Policy: Empowering Australian Teachers Through Autonomy, Collaboration and Career Progression. The International Journal of Community and Social Development, 5(3), 306–323.

See, B. H., Morris, R., Gorard, S., Kokotsaki, D. and Abdi, S. (2020) ‘Teacher Recruitment and Retention: A Critical Review of International Evidence of Most Promising Interventions’, Education Sciences, 10 (10), p. 262.

Wayne, A. J. and Youngs. P. (2003) ‘Teacher Characteristics and Student Gains: A Review’, Review of Educational Research 73 (1), pp. 89–122.

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