Two school heads may be better than one

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The Independent Online

Two heads can be better than one. The Government's new flagship National College for School Leadership (NCSL) is urging schools to consider job-shares or other more "flexible" arrangements for headteachers.

Two heads can be better than one. The Government's new flagship National College for School Leadership (NCSL) is urging schools to consider job-shares or other more "flexible" arrangements for headteachers.

The college says the profession is facing a "demographic timebomb" with about 50 per cent of serving heads - some 12,500 - due for retirement within the next decade.

In addition, headteachers' leaders report many senior teachers are reluctant to take on the extra responsibility of running a school. The NCSL wants all local education authorities, governors and teachers' organisations to consider job-sharing arrangements to avert the upcoming crisis and ease the stress of headship.

About 20 schools already have two headteachers, according to the organisation, with job-sharing more common in primary schools. In secondary schools a model of co-headship, with two heads working full time to share the pressure, is more frequent.

The NCSL is publishing a consultation document today calling for a more "flexible" approach to appointments.

Sarah Blamey and Patrick Fielding are the country's first job-sharing husband and wife team. They are joint heads of Mayflower Primary School, a 420-pupil school in Leicester where 90 per cent of pupils speak English as a second language. They work three days on and two days off one week and vice-versa the next - and began sharing when they had their first child.

"We knew if we couldn't job share, one of us would have to leave and try later to return," said Ms Blamey. She said many people had been sceptical about the arrangement but she and her husband were now fielding calls from other professionals wanting to do likewise. "I think it helps for us that we are husband and wife. I think it's vital that you know each other before you go into a job share."

Mr Fielding said: "We go over it all in quite some detail at night - it takes about 30 minutes. You pass on information like 'this person's twisted an ankle' so that first thing in the morning the other person can say 'how's your ankle?'.

Figures show schools are beginning to feel the pinch when they advertise for new heads. About a third of primary schools and one in four secondaries have to re-advertise vacancies. A decade ago, a headship vacancy would have attracted about 25 applicants.

At Hastingsbury Upper School and Community College in Bedford, Julia Wynd and Martin Fletcher have been dual heads since 2002. They had both been deputies when their headteacher retired. Ms Wynd said: "I think now other headteachers envy my role but I don't envy those working alone! Co-headship really does reduce the loneliness of the job."

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