Fourteen early retiring primary headteachers in individual and group interviews discussed their decision to apply for early retirement. Retirement decisions were affected by 'pushes' from the system and 'pulls' towards retirement. Perceived pushes were external pressures, job expansion/overload, bureaucracy, local authority support, loss of job satisfaction and school relationships. Pulls comprised 'facilitators' (personal and financial) and 'gains' (control, opportunities, health and family). Pushes against retirement comprised losses of positive school relationships, role and status, job challenge and time structure. Early retirement amongst these headteachers appeared to derive from current retirement trends, job stress and lack of management support.