Young teachers prefer 'getting a life' to winning promotion, heads warn

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The Independent Online

Young teachers are precipitating a leadership crisis in schools by shunning promotion to "get a life", headteachers said yesterday. A reluctance to take on management responsibilities will lead to a dearth of headteachers in state schools over the next decade, according to the Secondary Heads Association (SHA).

Anne Welsh, new president of the SHA and head of George Stephenson High School, a comprehensive in Killingworth, North Tyneside, said: "It is increasingly difficult to persuade young teachers to take on the responsibility of middle management roles. Most of us in leadership posts are in our late forties or fifties and within 10 years of retirement.''

She said the reluctance of today's generation to take on head-of-department jobs would ultimately lead to a serious shortage of headteachers. "Young people are saying quite clearly, 'we want a life, we don't want to work the amount of hours that you have always worked'. I advertised for a head of religious education and didn't get a single applicant so I don't have a head of RE.''

Heads believe one reason for the reluctance to take top jobs is the Government's attempt to persuade good teachers to stay in the classroom by offering them higher pay. A head of department may only earn £1,000 a year more than a teacher who refuses to take on extra responsibilities. Another is the high workload and increasingly bureaucratic nature of senior teaching posts.

Mrs Welsh said that she had been forced to use extra money from the school budget this year to hire administrative staff to advise senior teachers how to bid for the 35 pockets of funding available to schools because of new government initiatives. "It is taking up time filling in forms which could usefully be used improving schools," she said.

John Dunford, general secretary of the SHA, also warned that schools would have to increase class sizes and cut subject options at GCSE and A-level to fund the new agreement to cut teachers' workload. Schools will be expected to transfer 24 administrative tasks, such as collecting dinner money and chasing up truants,from teachers to classroom assistants.

"One of the consequences of implementing the agreement will be that other parts of schools' budgets will have to be cut back," he said. "That is an almost impossible situation for many schools that have already had to make major cuts."