Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Published at 14:42 GMT
Warning over headship qualification
Primary headteachers seen as 'education leaders'
The recruitment crisis among primary school headteachers could be worsened by the government's proposal for a compulsory qualification, MPs are warning.
A report from the Commons Education Select Committee urges ministers to reconsider plans to make the new National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) compulsory from 2002.
The committee says there is a "danger of exacerbating recruitment difficulties, particularly in primary schools".
The committee heard evidence of a "pitifully low number of applications" for headships in primary schools: more than eight out of 10 of the smallest are getting 10 applications or fewer. In London, only 5% of all primary schools got more than 10 applications for vacant posts.
The government says the NPQH should be compulsory for all heads within four years, in recognition of the vital importance of the post.
But candidates are not queuing up to go on the new course. By September, only just over 4,500 deputy heads or senior teachers had registered, against the government's target of 5,000.
"Several witnesses suggested that this shortfall in applications was due to the perception that the NPQH would be too onerous to undertake on top of the duties of a deputy head or senior teacher," the report says.
It also points to fears that compulsory qualification might make recruitment even more difficult, by "putting a barrier in the way of able people moving into headship".
The MPs are against appointing head teachers who have never worked in the classroom, because of their primary role as "education leaders".
But they say there are many teachers who have left the profession but gone on to get valuable leadership and management skills in other fields, and say the government and the Teacher Training Agency "should develop a route into headship for those individuals" .