Page last updated at 23:12 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 00:12 UK

Head teacher shortage 'is easing'

head teacher at desk
Some 3,000 schools in England and Wales advertised for head teachers

Problems of recruiting head teachers in England and Wales have eased slightly, according to an annual survey.

The number of posts unfilled after one advertisement was down slightly on last year, Education Data Surveys said.

Some 26% of primary, 19% of secondary and 27% of special school vacancies were unfilled, compared with 32%, 21% and 38% respectively in 2008.

Head teachers' union leader Dr John Dunford said the recession might have led senior staff to stay in schools.

He said: "In the financial uncertainty that exists in the country at the moment people are staying on a bit longer.

"We will have to wait until next year to see if the demographic downturn - which has this bulge of head teachers in their 50s and 60s approaching retirement age - causes major recruitment problems."


The report by Education Data Surveys also suggested women might finally have broken through the so-called glass ceiling to claim the top jobs in secondary schools.

It found that 44% of people appointed to headships last year were women, compared with 31% in 2008 and an average of 37% in the past five years.

However, Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a significant number of schools still struggled to fill posts after a first advert.

He added: "The phenomenon of so many senior colleagues leaving the profession before normal retirement age does not encourage others to step up to the plate. Neither does the ever expanding and uncontrollable nature of workload for school leaders.

"However it is galling that this slight improvement in recruitment to the top job has met with misjudged recent comments from the secretary of state."

England's Children's Secretary Ed Balls had suggested schools could join together in federations and make savings on their leadership teams.


About 3,000 schools in England and Wales advertised for a head teacher last year, according to EDS.

There were an average of 4.8 applications for head teacher posts in primary schools and 15.9 for secondary schools. For special schools, the rate was 5.5 per post.

Steve Munby, chief executive of the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services, said it would continue its "relentless focus" on ensuring a steady supply of the very best heads.

He added: "I'm encouraged to see that more women are being appointed to headship in the secondary sector.

"I'm also pleased that the number of unfilled headship vacancies is down on last year.

"These are both positive signs but we shouldn't forget we're operating in unprecedented times."

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