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Sustaining teacher quality and retention post-pandemic

This project examines the impact of the substantial changes and sustained disruption caused by COVID-19 to the development of secondary school teachers, during their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) year and subsequent two years as an Early Career Teacher (ECT). The overall aim of the research is to produce a set of recommendations to enhance teacher quality and retention.

Failure to respond now means that teachers, working in secondary schools across the UK, will not have sufficient expertise and may rapidly leave the profession. This lack of expertise combined with high rates of attrition will have a serious impact on the educational outcomes of young people who have already faced significant disadvantage through school closures and ongoing COVID-19-related disruption.

Findings from a pilot study underline the extensive challenges facing new entrants to the teaching profession and the future learning that needs to be urgently addressed by the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) sector. Research findings are being generated through analysis of responses gathered from questionnaires and remote interviews with trainee teachers, ECTs, school leaders, and ITE staff based in both schools and university, based on a sample of approximately 400 teachers trained at King’s College London.

The project team includes academics and students from the School of Education, Communication and Society and the Policy Institute. The project is also being supported by a student from the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme, SooYeon Suh.

SooYeon wrote a piece detailing her experiences of working on the project and how it has developed her skills.


The project will look to answer the following research questions:

  1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges and opportunities for secondary trainee teachers and ECTs to develop teacher quality?
  2. How might the COVID-19 pandemic affect the retention of secondary trainee teachers and ECTs during the period March 2020-2022, especially those teaching subjects which have persistent shortages of teachers?
  3. What changes to practice should be highlighted to trainees, teachers, schools and training providers to mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on teacher quality and retention?


Using a mixed-methods approach, quantitative and qualitative data will be collected via questionnaires and interviews. The project timeline enables data to be collected during both the training year of the 2020-2021 cohort and then again during the same cohort’s first year as an ECT, in 2021-2022. Therefore, the impacts of training and qualifying during the Covid period will be considered over a period of at least 18 months. This will provide rich understandings of the impacts of COVID-19 on teacher quality and retention that will have relevance for policy makers, school leaders and ITE providers across the UK.

Project status: Completed

Principal Investigators


Funding Body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Amount: £224,000

Period: April 2021 - September 2022

Contact us

If you have any questions or want to learn more about the project, get in touch using the email addresses below.