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First study of the impact of academisation on teachers’ pay and progression to be led by Warwick economists

Warwick researchers will carry out the first detailed study into the impact of English schools’ conversions to autonomous academies on the teacher labour market, thanks to a grant awarded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Around sixty per cent of English schools are now academies, with substantial autonomy over curriculum, teacher workload, school hours, and teacher recruitment and pay. The ways in which academies have used these freedoms to recruit and retain teachers, and any consequences for neighbouring community schools, will now be analysed for the first time.

The research team, led by Professor Victor Lavy of Warwick Economics, will use rich anonymised information from the Department for Education on teachers, including their wages and employing school, to explore what happens to teacher salaries and turnover in the wake of an academy conversion.

The team also includes leading education researchers Professor Stephen Machin of the London School of Economics, Professor Shqiponja Telhaj of the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and the University of Sussex, and Dr. Emma Duchini from Warwick Economics and CAGE.

To ensure that the project findings will be of practical use to policy-makers and practitioners, the researchers will report regularly to an advisory panel including members of the Department for Education and teachers’ representatives. Teachers, civil servants, members of the DfE and local authority education officials will also be invited to a workshop at the University of Warwick to discuss the project’s findings and draw up policy recommendations.

Professor Lavy said: “This will be the first study to provide comprehensive causal evidence on how academy conversions affect teacher hiring, turnover and pay in converter schools, and on any spillover effects on neigbouring community schools.

“Studying these dynamics is important for several reasons. Teachers are the most important input for student achievement, but teacher shortage and high turnover are a matter of concern in England In particular, the number of qualified teachers leaving state-funded schools for reasons other than retirement has increased by almost 50% in the country, recently.

“At the same time, it is unclear how academies may affect the teacher labour market. They may exploit their autonomy over personnel management to attract and retain high-quality teachers. Or they might use it to increase teaching workload, which may discourage many teachers from joining academies, and push others to quit.

“This project aims to offer clear evidence on these alternative mechanisms, which we hope will be of interest to school leaders, teachers’ organisations, and Government.”

With their analysis, the research team hopes to offer sound policy implications. Dr Emma Duchini added: “We hope that a better understanding of the relationship between school autonomy, pay setting, and teacher turnover will help the education sector tackle turnover and retention concerns.

“Providing evidence on the link between autonomy, pay policies and teacher turnover will be especially valuable to community schools now that autonomy over pay has been extended to all types of school.

"In addition, by studying how neighbouring schools respond to academies’ personnel policies, the project will contribute to unfold the dynamics of competition across schools, a key issue for both policy makers and parents.

“Overall, this project will offer comprehensive evidence on the impact of school autonomy on pay policies and teacher recruitment and retention, which occupy a central role into any firm’s personnel practices.”

16 September 2020


The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit




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