More than one in five of schools that advertised for a new head teacher last year failed to make an appointment, according to research carried out for the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association by Professor John Howson, of Education Data Surveys, and published today.The study shows that recruitment problems at senior levels worsened this year for all schools with 28 per cent of primary, 20 per cent of secondary, and 22 per cent of special school head teacher posts reportedly remaining unfilled in spite of being advertised. The two bodies representing head teachers are worried that these statistics, coupled with the high numbers of retirements from an ageing profession, mean the future looks grim unless there is action over both pay and heads’ workloads to attract more teachers into leadership.
Professor Howson’s research shows that the number of people applying for vacant headships in all types of school was lower than in the previous year with the largest drop being recorded in the secondary sector where there were an average of 12.8 applicants per post. That is down by an average of 16 per cent and continues the downward trend of the last four years. In primary schools there was an average of just 5.4 applications per post this year. There was also a drop in the number of people applying for deputy head posts in both primary and secondary schools.
The NAHT and SHA say pay is a major issue but the question of heads’ workloads is just as important. The School Teachers’ Review Body Workload Survey this year showed that deputy and assistant heads’ overall working hours had not improved and in some cases had got worse. They say the effect of the recruitment problem is already being felt in schools and point to the example of Kent, where the LEA wrote to primary heads earlier this year say that 50 schools had no permanent head and it was possible that not all schools would have their own heads in future.
The study says the recruitment process is under increasing pressure because more than 1,100 of the 1,900 headship posts advertised so far this year appeared in an 11-week period from January to March. The research does point to one piece of good news – the number of women taking on senior roles, which has increased again. Women now account for 39 per cent of new headships in secondary schools and just over half of new assistant heads are women.