RISE: The Retention Initiative for Science Education programme

  • The ASE RISE programme is a major new initiative aimed at tackling long-standing issues around science teacher retention
  • Schools are given access to a set of bespoke digital tools and guides designed to help them understand, and then address, particular issues that may be affecting teacher retention in their science department
  • Participation in the programme IS FREE for all schools holding ASE Institutional Membership
  • Schools can sign up for the programme by completing this form

Introduction

For teaching in general there is a risk of losing teachers due to high workload and impact on mental health (Teacher Wellbeing Index, 2020). More recently, the NEU (National Education Union, 2021) has published data on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, showing that 66% of teachers say that job satisfaction has got worse and 35% say that they would leave the profession in the next five years citing government distrust, workload, accountability and pay. For science teachers in particular, they are more likely to leave the profession than other subject teachers. For example, the Education Data Lab (2017) reported that the chance of a science teacher leaving the profession after five years is 5% higher than for similar non-science subjects; for science ECTs (Early Career Teachers), the chances were 20% higher; and for those with physics or engineering degrees, the chances are 29% higher.

This is an ongoing challenge that the Association for Science Education has been working towards tackling for some time, most recently with the Science Teacher SOS initiative. Following a two-year pilot project associated with this initiatve - the findings of which you can read here - we have decided to use the insights gained to take things on to the next level. The team behind SOS have devised a major new programme that we believe will help schools keep the best science educators in teaching: The Retention Initiative for Science Educators. Made possible thanks to the generous support of the Gatsby Foundation, The RISE project is a one-year programme that aims to help schools identify - and then mitigate - issues that are affecting science teacher retention in their particular circumstance.  

At the heart of RISE is an online survey tool - based on the findings of the SOS pilot - that allows science department leaders to gauge the emotional needs, job satisfaction levels and career intentions of their entire science department. In addition to their own (anonymised) department data, they will also have access to the aggregated data of the entire RISE cohort, allowing them to assess where their school sits in comparison with other schools and potentially identify trends/issues that might be unique to their institution. That information - along with extensive resources and guides available on the RISE website - can then be used to guide the creation of an action plan that can support the well-being and career development of their team throughout the year and reduce the risk of science teachers leaving their school, or the profession altogether. 

In essence, the RISE programme is about supporting science leaders in being proactive about staff well-being, job satisfaction and succession planning through the career development of their staff... leading to happier, more content and more committed science teachers.

How it works

The RISE programme is based on a three-step process: 

  1. Discovery - An online survey is completed by every member of the science department in the first half of the Autumn term
  2. Insights and action - The anonymised results of the survey are shared with the Head of Science, along with guidance on how to analyse and act on them
  3. Analysis and assessment - At the end of the year, another all-team survey is used to assess the impact of any actions taken  

The survey itself is based on the findings of the SOS pilot project, and has already proven to be an effective tool for Heads of Science and their teams in assessing any potential problems in their department. A particularly useful feature of the results of the surveys is a comparison to the cohort of other schools signed up to ASE RISE. That data is collated, anonymised and shared with all participating schools to provide the percentage response of the whole cohort to the percentage response of the individual science department. This allows participants to identify both nationwide and school-specific trends, helping heads of science to target areas where they can make the strongest impact for their particular cirumstance. 

From November, using the results of the survey, a science leader can decide upon an action plan using the suggestions and resources in the extensive accompanying resources featured on the RISE website and available to all participating schools. The platform will feature guidance on how to analyse the results, and suggested pathways and actions based on the experiences of the schools involved in the pilot project. Science leaders can decide to be proactive or reactive in their approach to meeting the emotional needs of their department, improving job satisfaction and being able to manage career development of their team more effectively.

The three key areas

This project takes the position of supporting science teacher retention through three interrelated perspectives: the emotional needs of science teachers, their job satisfaction, and their career intentions...

Wellbeing (emotional needs)

Emotional needs are a significant aspect of our well-being. How we feel about our lives and work impact our job satisfaction and commitment to our career. Based upon the "Human Givens" approach, there are nine emotional needs that need to be met. We all have different ways of meeting these needs and we have different reactions when these needs are not met. In the long term, unmet needs can lead to mental health problems. If science teachers feel emotionally supported, they are less likely to seek to leave the department, or if they do it will be for positive reasons such as promotion rather than leaving the profession.

Job Satisfaction

Coming to work each day needs to be as far as possible a positive experience, the culture of a science department has a huge impact on this, as well as the whole school culture. Understanding your science department staff’s job satisfaction can help inform and make changes to improve aspects of their life at work. If science teachers are satisfied in their job, they are less likely to seek to leave the department, or if they do it will be for positive reasons such as promotion rather than leaving the profession.

Career Intentions

Understanding the career intentions of your science staff can help short, medium and long-term planning. It will allow you to help your teachers fell satisfied with their job and have a sense of autonomy, achievement and security which will allow them to grow. Different teachers have different aspirations. Some may be satisfied with developing their science teaching, others may want to take on responsibility leading to management or leadership roles.