Abstract This study investigates the motives for teacher attrition of newly qualified teachers who never started a teaching career and those dropping out after a short period. A survey was conducted among teachers with (N = 154) and without (N = 81) teaching experience. Five reasons for attrition were discerned: job satisfaction, school policies, workload, future prospects and relations with parents. The results demonstrated that a lack of future prospects was the predominant reason for attrition. The effect of teaching experience was significant for most motives, in addition to the impact of gender or teaching qualification. Teachers with experience do not take exit decisions lightly.