Teacher autonomy: how does it relate to job satisfaction and retention?

29 January 2020

This research is the first large-scale quantitative study to look at teacher autonomy and its importance for retention in England. NFER have worked in partnership with Teacher Development Trust (TDT) on this project, and TDT have published a downloadable resource for school leaders to accompany the research.

Key findings

  • Teacher autonomy is associated with higher job satisfaction and intention to stay in teaching.
  • Teachers’ perceived influence over their professional development goal setting is the area most associated with higher job satisfaction and a greater intention to stay in teaching.
  • The average teacher reports a lower level of autonomy compared to similar professionals.
  • Teachers report relatively high autonomy over classroom activities, including the teaching methods they use and how they plan and prepare lessons, but lower autonomy over curriculum, assessment and their professional development goals.


School leaders and the Department for Education should consider how to adapt policy and practice to harness the benefits of teachers having greater involvement in their professional development goal-setting and making decisions more widely

We recommend that school leaders should consider incorporating a teacher autonomy lens to regular reviews of teaching and learning policies. Reviewing the school’s approach to the design and delivery of professional development should be a priority.

We also recommend that the Department for Education should produce guidance around the Standards for Teachers’ Professional Development to emphasise how teachers can be given greater involvement in designing content, processes and goals.

Sponsor Details

Teacher Development Trust