A report published today by the Future Leaders Trust warns that England’s schools are struggling to fill headteacher posts and calls on serving headteachers to identify colleagues with the potential to lead schools and encourage them to develop their skills.
The report entitled Heads Up: Meeting the challenges of headteacher recruitment, draws together research showing headteacher recruitment is difficult for many schools and that positive attitudes to headship have declined since 2009.
A recent survey of school governors by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and Times Educational Supplement (TES), cited in the report, showed that 43% of respondents who had recruited senior staff during 2015 reported it had been difficult to find good candidates.
Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA, said: “There has been significant concern about the shortage of recruits for senior leadership positions, particularly headships, for at least a decade. We need to re-double the efforts in succession planning and preparing talented people for leadership.”
NGA also contributed to the report itself, in which Emma writes:
“Recruiting a headteacher is likely to be the most important task of a governing board and yet it hasn’t had the spotlight it deserves. Governors and trustees know it is a great responsibility, but it is made far more difficult by the fact that we don’t see the number of good candidates that we need.
“We need to be more creative and braver: does every school actually need a traditional ‘headteacher’? Groups of schools – federations and multi-academy trusts – give the opportunity for different roles that could help the recruitment problem. Allowing a head of school to lead teaching and learning, without the full business responsibilities of running an organisation, could be an all-round win.”
Professor John Howson, an expert in school recruitment trends, said: “Over thirty years ago, in the mid-1980s, I started tracking headships and the turnover amongst school leaders because I was aware of the importance of headteachers for school success. Rarely since then has there been as much concern over finding the next generation of school leaders as there is now.”
The report argues that difficulty in recruiting headteachers has a particularly negative impact on disadvantaged children in challenging schools that serve more isolated and economically deprived areas.
Heath Monk, CEO of The Future Leaders Trust, said: “Fewer people are applying to become heads and that means even fewer people are applying to lead schools that serve our most disadvantaged students. Without effective and inspiring leadership these children are losing out on the education they need. The talent is out there but many people need encouragement to understand they can step up. The solution is for existing heads to spot potential leaders in their schools and inspire them about headship. That means correcting the negative perceptions about the job and talking up its possibilities.”
The ‘Heads Up’ report argues that perceptions of the job of headteacher must change and it includes stories from serving headteachers that describe the satisfaction, impact and autonomy the role offers. Without a positive change in attitudes, the headship shortage will continue and more children will leave school without the education they need.
Download the report here: http://www.future-leaders.org.uk/insights-blog/heads-challenges-headteacher-recruitment/
The report is part of the ‘Heads Up’ campaign to find exceptional heads for England’s most challenging schools. Find out more and watch the video here: http://www.future- leaders.org.uk/insights-blog/could-you-be-future-leader/
The NGA’s 2015 survey can be found here: www.nga.org.uk/News/NGA-News/NGA-comments- on-the-findings-from-the-biggest-gove.aspx