RETAIN is a one-year professional development programme for early career teachers (ECTs) who are teaching key stage 1 (KS1) pupils in disadvantaged areas. It aims to improve pupil outcomes and increase retention of ECTs.
There is a demand from schools for evidence on the best way to retain early career teachers, because the stress and difficulty associated with working as an ECT can make it hard for schools to recruit and retain them. In addition, existing evidence indicates that teachers’ first few years on the job are a formative period during which improvements to teaching practice are easiest to achieve. The EEF funded RETAIN to assess its promise as an intervention which can deliver greater knowledge and confidence and reduce the likelihood of teachers leaving the profession.
Participating teachers saw an increase in their knowledge and understanding of strategies for teaching disadvantaged students, and reported changes in their classroom practice. Their self-efficacy, confidence and research-use also increased. However, because this pilot was not designed to measure impact, it did not use a comparison group of teachers, and so it is possible that this improvement may have occurred anyway, as the teachers became more experienced, or due to general school support.
The teachers received extensive support in line with the evidence about effective professional development. However, the extent to which they could put learning into practice varied: teachers in schools which were open to changing existing school practices found it easier to apply their learning.
While this pilot found that RETAIN is ready for a trial, the programme would benefit from further development work, including a tighter focus on improving pupil outcomes, so the EEF is not currently taking it forward to an efficacy trial. We are always cautious about conducting efficacy trials before programmes are fully ready as it risks underestimating their potential. This is a decision we will keep under review.
- There were increases in ECTs’ knowledge and understanding of approaches to teaching disadvantaged students and changes in their classroom practice. Their self-efficacy, confidence and research-use also increased. The absence of a comparison group means that it is not possible to estimate the level of improvement that may have occurred without the programme, due to maturation and school support.
- The pilot was not intended to assess the longer-term impact of RETAIN on the retention of ECTs in the profession. However, most ECTs perceived that RETAIN was beneficial to their professional and career development and supported them in teaching disadvantaged pupils, and none left the profession during the pilot.
- Overall, RETAIN was positively received, but some school staff felt that communication from the delivery team could be improved, and would have welcomed closer working with their school.
- ECTs found it easier to apply the learning from RETAIN in schools which were open to changing existing school practices and willing to support ECTs in implementing new approaches.
- The RETAIN programme and its components are clearly defined and supporting resources have been produced, so that the programme is ready for an impact evaluation. However, the pilot indicates that recruitment at scale may be challenging.