Heads say red tape is pushing them out

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Schools are suffering a "brain drain" with thousands of heads deciding their pay does not reflect the stress caused by government initiatives, according to a union survey published today.

Schools are suffering a "brain drain" with thousands of heads deciding their pay does not reflect the stress caused by government initiatives, according to a union survey published today.

The final straw for many has been the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers, which is administered by heads, says the survey from the National Association of Head Teachers.

The number of heads leaving the profession has risen by more than 50 per cent since 1998. The survey shows that in the first six months of this year there were 1,799 advertisements for headships in The Times Educational Supplement, up from 1,288 in the same period last year and 1,199 in 1998.

They are going because of increased red tape and the Government's delay in fulfilling its promise of more money for schools. The association said heads should be paid at least £3,000 a year more to compensate for the pressures. At present, average pay is £35,000 for a primary head and £51,000 for a secondary head.

Tricia Lorenz, aged 47, resigned from her £35,000-a-year job as head of Westbury primary school in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, in April. The school is in a deprived pocket of the county and more than one-third of pupils receive free school meals. Ms Lorenz is now working in a bar and looking for more part-time work, perhaps as a childminder.

"The last two years of the job were no fun. I found myself getting very angry and crying at school," she said. "The job of headship is too big for one person. My deputy and I could have managed the school together but she had to teach because we couldn't afford another teacher. I had not had a pay rise for two years because the governors felt, quite understandably, that the money had to be spent on the children.

"We were spending all our time doing what the Government wanted. We wanted to improve the personal and social education of our children, but we had to concentrate on the Government's priorities."

David Hart, the association's general secretary, said: "The country can ill-afford a headteacher brain drain of this magnitude. The Government promised pressure and support for schools in equal measure. The pressure has been intense, the support has, so far, been conspicuous by its relative absence. Until the Government's commitment has been translated into actual delivery, heads will continue to leave."

Ministers say they are already dealing with the problems. Heads can now earn up to £76,000 a year through changes made since 1997 and more money will go directly to heads, bypassing local authorities. The Government has also promised to halve the amount of paperwork coming from the Department for Education.

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