Page last updated at 00:10 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Head teacher shortage continues

A teacher faces a classroom
Pay is an issue, say head teachers' leaders

Primary schools in England are continuing to have problems finding head teachers, analysis suggests.

One in three primary schools and one in four secondary schools have had to readvertise head teachers' posts after failing to attract suitable candidates.

Analysis of ads placed in the last school year suggests primary and faith schools have the biggest problems.

Head teachers' leaders say many deputy heads do not apply as they feel the pay does not reflect the responsibility.

The annual survey by John Howson of Education Data Services is in its 24th year. It covers England and Wales, but the situation in Wales is less difficult, with only 16% of schools needing to re-advertise vacancies for heads.

'Time wasted'

Posts are readvertised normally because too few good candidates come forward or those who are selected turn down the job.

Professor Howson says the survey shows the headship crisis, which has been identified regularly in recent years, has not been solved.

"Something has to be done, because the present system clearly isn't working, especially in the faith school sector where more schools are struggling to recruit head teachers than in community schools: even academies are not exempt from the problem," he said.

I remain concerned at the stubbornly high proportion of secondary headship posts that have to be re-advertised
John Dunford, ASCL

Although the situation was better at secondary level, he said, the rates for readvertising were still higher than historic levels.

Roman Catholic and Church of England schools had higher levels of readvertisement for headships in 2007/08 than the year before.

Among Catholic schools, 57% of those advertising for heads had to readvertise, while for Church of England schools the proportion was 43%.

Prof Howson noted that some church schools had few problems recruiting a head while others had to advertise three to four times.

Inner London schools found recruitment easier than they have in the past, with the readvertising rate dropping from 57% in 2005/06 to 36% in 2007/08.

The highest rates were in the south east of England (44%) and outer London (41%), while the lowest rate was in Wales (16%).

'Russian roulette'

Prof Howson said the average salary advertised for a secondary school headship was 100,000.

But that was not a representative figure according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which said it was normal for a head of a medium-sized secondary school to be recruited at 70,000 a year.

ASCL general secretary John Dunford said salary was an issue in recruitment.

"I remain concerned at the stubbornly high proportion of secondary headship posts that have to be readvertised," he said.

"It is a waste of time and money for schools to have to do this but, more importantly, it suggests that deputy heads are still not wanting to step up to headship in sufficient numbers.

"There are many reasons for this, but the most commonly held perception among deputy heads is that the salary differential for heads, although increasing, is still insufficient to compensate for the increase in responsibility, accountability and vulnerability."

John Bangs, from the National Union of Teachers said many teachers saw taking on a headship as a "high risk" move.

He said: "Your future does depend on getting a good Ofsted report, and hitting national curriculum test targets.

"It feels like Russian roulette."

Steve Munby, chief executive of the head teacher training body the National College for School Leadership, said: "Finding and recruiting tomorrow's head teachers is our number one priority and we are working closely with local authorities and schools across England to make sure the best of the best get into headship.

"The readvertisement rate in secondary and special schools is encouraging and, while much is already being done in primaries and faith schools, we recognise there is still more we can do."

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