• More than half (53%) of headteachers would consider taking phased retirement, but almost a third (30%) of them don’t believe it will be possible.
  • They cite issues including a lack of clarity about their options (37%), concerns about disruption to their schools (19%), insufficient school budgets (15%) and a culture that frowns on phased retirement (14%).
  • But they think phased retirement can help them avoid burning out (39%), retain a sense of purpose as they transition into retirement (29%) and support succession planning (21%).

New research from TeacherTapp commissioned by Wesleyan Financial Services has uncovered why headteachers aren’t making the most of phased retirement.

The survey of more than 500 school leaders aged 50 and older found more than half (53%) would consider taking phased retirement, but almost a third (30%) of them don’t believe it will be possible.

Men (65%) are more likely to be considering phased retirement than women (50%), but are also more likely (35% vs. 28% of women) to think it’s not possible.

When asked why they thought most teachers chose to retire fully, more than a third of headteachers and senior educators said phased retirement options were unclear and not talked about (37%). They also said current school budgets don’t allow for school leaders to use phased retirement options (15%), and that there is a culture in the profession that frowns upon phased retirement being taken (14%).

Marginally more women (39%) than men (30%) felt that phased retirement options were unclear and not talked about, while more men (21%) than women (12%) felt there was a culture that frowns upon school leaders taking phased retirement.

Despite this, Wesleyan found that school leaders recognise the benefits that phased retirement can offer, with just 15% wanting to fully retire from the profession. They include enabling them to continue working while avoiding burnout (39%), phase into retirement while retaining a sense of purpose and routine (29%) and supporting more effective succession planning at their school (21%).

The research comes as the latest figures from the government’s School Workforce Census (SWC)[1] show teacher vacancies in England increased by 20% during 2023.

Darren Mills, specialist financial adviser at Wesleyan Financial Services, said: “With both the main political parties campaigning on pledges to recruit and retain more teachers, encouraging phased retirement would be an effective way of keeping experienced senior leaders in the profession for longer.

“It’s disappointing that so many teachers are telling us that phased retirement is not a realistic option when it is such a brilliant way for them to achieve the work life balance they want in their later years.

“But while it is a powerful option in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, the rules of phased retirement can indeed be complex. The main one to remember is you must reduce your work week by 20% at a minimum and avoid falling into the trap of doing extra work on your non-working day, which is easier said than done.

“Our top tips for teachers considering phased retirement are to understand if it’s affordable and how it impacts their remaining pension. It’s also critical that they understand how to apply for phased retirement and the length of the process and what the tax implications could be – which is why speaking to a specialist financial adviser is always sensible.”  

[1] School workforce in England, Reporting year 2023 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (