Report highlights burning issues of leadership

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More than a third of primary schools and a quarter of secondaries were forced to re-advertise for a head last year after failing to recruit staff at the first attempt. This confirms the long-held view of many in the education sector that a head teacher shortage is looming large.

The current shortages among state secondaries in England are worse now than in 2007, even though salaries of £100,000and over are being seen. However, it is clear that high salaries alone are not the solution and offer no guarantee that the right person will be found.

Church schools face an even bigger problem. Roman Catholic schools, which only recruit Catholic heads are typically forced to re-advertise for suitable candidates, often multi-advertising across a range of education journals and newspapers before finding the right head.

A national shortage of head teachers is seen as one of the biggest problems facing the education system. It is increasingly clear that the familiar approaches to recruitment, such as advertising and re-advertising in the press, have had their day.

Often the number one reason cited for potential candidates not wanting to take up the role of head is the pressure involved in the job.

The report also investigated the development of the next generation of school leaders. Whilst 70 per cent have a ‘leadership talent identification programme’ in place, only 22 per cent of those contacted have a policy of ‘rotating senior managers to expose them to all areas of leadership accountability.’

Key findings include:

  • 80% of the heads who responded rated teacher morale as seven out of ten or higher.
  • However, young teachers felt particularly insecure, with 82% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 79% of 25 to 34-year-olds feeling ‘very concerned’ about losing their job.
  • 68% said the best way to keep staff actively engaged was ‘a high level of personal responsibility and ownership for the delivery of school development and improvement’.
  • A school’s ‘ethos’ was rated as the most important factor in being an employer of choice (20% of respondents), followed by ‘the opportunity to make a personal impact’ (16%), ‘students’ (12%) and curriculum (11%).
  • Asked how they would manage future staffing needs, only 11% said they were ‘likely to recruit’.
  • 61% said 90-100% of their staff were ‘delivering the right outcomes for students’, while 38% said 50-90% were doing so.
  • 85% had an ‘internally developed programme’ for ensuring their staff’s professional development.
  • Asked about developing the next generation of school leaders, 70% had a ‘leadership talent identification programme’ in place, but only 22% had a policy of ‘rotating senior managers to expose them to all areas of leadership accountability’.

Heath Monk, chief executive of Future Leaders, said: “We know that the supply of school leaders will be a challenge over the next few years.

“A significant proportion of serving headteachers are approaching retirement, which means that talent identification and succession planning are more important than ever. It’s difficult for individual schools to see the benefits of preparing staff for leadership, particularly if that means those staff moving elsewhere. But that is precisely what is required if the system as a whole is to flourish.”