Heads encouraged to lead rural schools

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The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services is calling for more teachers to consider running schools in non-urban areas because of the difficulty in recruiting Heads.

Research from the National College shows that although ambition among teachers in rural schools is higher than the national average, country schools still have more difficulty recruiting a head at the first attempt.

Chief Executive of the National College, Steve Munby, said: “Country schools tend to be smaller, which means that they have fewer ‘home-grown’ candidates to choose from. External candidates are more likely to have to re-locate in order to take up a position, which they may be unwilling or unable to do. 

“Rural schools are also much more likely to be faith schools, which tend to receive fewer applications than secular schools.

The research also shows a high level of job satisfaction among serving rural headteachers, who feel they are not just helping to educate children, but also to nurture communities.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) feel their work is important to the success of their community and many relish the opportunity to take on a leadership role beyond their school. More than half (58 per cent) say they have acted as a community spokesperson (got involved in local issues, e.g. petitions or protests), with many attending parish council meetings (52 per cent) or performing other official functions such as opening a local fete or fair (40 per cent).

Mick Brookes, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: “Small rural schools are the glue of the local community but in order to attract heads to these schools there should not be the tension of ‘I’d love to be a head of a small school, but I’ve got a family’. What they really need is focussed support, in the form of access to School Business Managers and locally procured services. This is particularly important in HR, Health and Safety and IT procurement as they may not have the time or expertise to make these decisions alone.”

Jenny Dixon, headteacher of Armathwaite School, a small rural primary school in Cumbria spoke about the rewards and challenges of being a rural headteacher:

“I’ve worked in both urban and country settings and I’d say the thing that marks out the rural experience for me is the incredibly strong sense of connection with the local community. Rural headteachers are not just school leaders, we are community leaders and I’m proud to have worked with the people in our village to make a positive difference to the lives of all our children.”

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