Retiring headteachers asked to help prevent recruitment crisis

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Tired headteachers approaching retirement may have to form a “Dad’s Army” to avoid a potential recruitment crisis.

Almost one in three of the country’s heads is over 55 and approaching retirement, according to Steve Munby, chief executive for the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services – the only college for training heads in the UK.

As a result he will ask some of those planning to retire to stay on. In an interview with The Independent, he said: “We have to persuade some of the good but tired headteachers to stay on for a couple of years by saying you could do the job for two or three days a week with your deputy doing the other two or three days.

“It might appeal to them because, rather than leave the school in a vacuum, it would mean there was some succession planning.

“Also it would mean rather than working flat out and then suddenly stopping, they could reduce their workload.

“All that wisdom will be a loss to the education service.”

Heads approaching retirement could also support other schools in developing better leadership.

The college has been buoyed by an increase in the number of teachers wanting to become heads – up 10 per cent in the past three years, according to a poll.

“One reason is that the culture in schools appears to have shifted – the idea of developing future heads is much more in the minds of school leaders than it was before,” he said.

“Teachers may also have been persuaded to go for headship because they have worked with an exceptional head who has opened their eyes to the possibilities of the job – or they could have worked with a not-so-good head and thought ‘I could do it better’.”

He predicted a growth in the number of heads taking on responsibility for running more than one school in the next decade. At present, 350 share a head with another school – often as part of a federation of schools or where an executive head from a successful school takes over responsibility for a struggling neighbour as well.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has signalled executive headship as the way for the future – citing it as one way of saving spending in an austere climate for public spending.

“”I think that number (350) will grow,” said Mr Munby, “but I don’t think it will signal the end of the individual head running the individual school.”

Mr Munby is optimistic for the future of the college – which has now taken on responsibility for training leaders of council children’s services as well as headteachers – under a Conservative government.

“As I understand it, they are committed to opening new schools (under their plans to set up a new range of independent state schools rub by teachers, parents and faith groups – amongst others) – and they will need more heads,” he said.

Figures show that heads who have graduated from the college have achieved faster rises in their exam results – compared with those schools run by a head who does not have a headship qualification. In addition, heads who have graduated from the college have been shown to take failing schools off the “special measures” list held by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, more quickly.