RETAIN: Early Career Teachers CPD

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. 


Key Stage 1

Key stage

EEF Summary

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. 

Research Results




Is there evidence to support the theory of change?


Positive intermediate ECT outcomes were reported and evidence supports the programme theory of change. There is no comparison group, so change cannot definitively be attributed to RETAIN.

Was the approach feasible?


Overall RETAIN was positively received, but it could be made more attractive to schools by building stronger relationships with schools to facilitate a better fit with existing practices and priorities.

Is the approach ready to be evaluated in a trial?


The programme could be evaluated in a trial with minor amendments. Recruiting sufficient schools was challenging in the pilot so it may remain the main issue to overcome. It would be beneficial to conduct market research prior to a trial to assess this.

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 1

Start date

January 2016

End date

May 2018

Type of trial

Pilot Study

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  1. Updated: 4th May, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-retain.pdf

  2. Updated: 3rd May, 2018

    Pilot report

    926 KB pdf - Retain.pdf

  3. Updated: 3rd August, 2016

    Project Protocol

    427 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_Round_8_-_RETAIN_CPD_for_Early_Career_Teachers_of_KS1_protocol.pdf

Full project description

RETAIN is a one-year professional development programme for early career teachers (ECTs) who are teaching key stage 1 (KS1) pupils in schools in disadvantaged areas. The programme has two aims: to enhance ECTs' knowledge and use of evidence-informed practices that have the potential to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils and to retain ECTs in the profession. The core components of the programme are: regional workshops at the start and end of the programme; three taught modules; in-school coaching by an external coach; support from a within-school champion, peer collaboration, and supporting resources.

The project was a pilot and focused on evaluating three aspects of RETAIN: the evidence of promise, the feasibility, and the readiness for trial. The main evaluation activities included interviews and surveys of the different stakeholder groups and observations of training. Ten ECTs from nine schools completed the pilot, which happened in Cornwall between March 2016 and March 2017 led by The Cornwall College Group, in partnership with University College London (UCL): Institute of Education and Edge Hill University.