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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 00:50 GMT
Head teachers hard to replace
head taking assembly
Good head teachers are difficult to find
The debate over teacher shortages has been given a new twist with the revelation that more than 2,500 head teachers quit their posts in England and Wales last year.

Headships advertised:
2000 - 444
1999 - 318
1998 - 317
1997 - 474
1996 - 364
1995 - 365
This was the largest number to go in recent years with the exception of 1997, when changes to early retirement rules led to many heads and deputies leaving.

Education Data Surveys, which monitors recruitment, predicts it will not be long before the first 100,000 state sector salary is advertised to secure a secondary school head.

2000 - 2,177
1999 - 1,519
1998 - 1,533
1997 - 2,534
1996 - 1,954
1995 - 1,821 Source: Education Data Surveys
The company's 16th annual survey of senior staff recruitment shows there was also a rise in deputy head teacher vacancies last year, with 2,400 adverts across the primary and secondary school sectors.

The report's author, Professor John Howson, said many schools encountered difficulties when trying to replace their head - even though few secondaries now advertised a salary of less than 60,000.

"Although the situation in London was dire, with over 60% of inner London schools failing to appoint when first advertised, there were problems even in the North West where more than one in four schools experienced problems."

Across England and Wales, 19% of secondary head posts had to be re-advertised in the 1999/2000 academic year, as did 31% of primary positions.

South East worst

No region showed a fall. Only in the East Midlands did the percentage remain the same, at 21%.

Unsurprisingly in view of the widespread acknowledgement of recruitment problems in the South East, that was the region with the biggest problems.

In inner London, nearly two thirds of posts had to be re-advertised - in some schools, more than once - before someone was appointed.

And in the wider South East, the percentage of schools having to re-advertise went up by more than half, year-on-year, to just under 40%.

Church schools suffer

As in previous years, it is church schools that have found themselves having the greatest difficulties in finding suitable candidates.

More than a third of Church of England school headship vacancies had to be re-advertised in 1999/2000 - and 52% of those in Roman Catholic schools.

The picture was better for deputy head teacher posts, Prof Howson said.

"There is still a plentiful supply of applicants."

There was evidence of market forces at work in salary levels.

"Some primary schools outside London are also now breaking the psychologically important 50,000 salary level for the first time.

The 100k head?

"It may be too soon to predict the date of the first advert citing a salary of 100,000 for a secondary school head, but if house prices in London and the South East continue to rise in 2001, such an advert could well appear within the next couple of years."

michael murphy
Michael Murphy moved onto 90,000
The highest paid head, Michael Murphy, was offered 90,000 last year to move from Hurlingham and Chelsea in west London to Crown Woods in south-east London.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said the number of heads applying to retire early under a state-backed scheme "partly explains" the advertised vacancy rise.

But the number of teachers training to be heads was up threefold to about 3,000, she added.

"This shows the status of being a head is rising and reflects the fact that since 1997 the government has increased maximum heads' salaries from 57,000 to 76,000 - and this may rise further pending this year's pay award."

In the Commons on Thursday, the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, accepted there was a problem with teacher recruitment, especially in the South East.

He attributed this to the "booming" economy, and again denied there was a crisis.

But teachers 'back Labour'

His Tory shadow, Theresa May, referred to schools being driven to adopt four-day weeks.

"When the prime minister said 'education, education, education', no-one knew he meant that was the number of days in a week children would be going to school," she said.

In spite of this, most teachers will vote Labour at the next election, according to an opinion poll published on Firday.

Just over half - 54% - of those surveyed by the Times Educational Supplement said they would back Labour if there was a general election tomorrow, even though three out of five do not believe the prime minister has kept his promise to increase support for schools.

The poll found that the Tories and Liberal Democrats each had the support of 20% of teachers.

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See also:

08 Jan 01 | Education
Four-day week fears 'exaggerated'
03 Jan 01 | Education
Four-day week threat in schools
05 Jan 01 | Education
Teacher shortage is 'housing problem'
05 Jan 01 | Education
Another school shut by shortages
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