Number of schools failing to recruit senior leaders rises to record high, survey suggests

Keeping experienced teachers in the profession is ‘growing concern’, says headteachers’ union

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Friday 03 May 2019 00:18 BST

The number of schools that have failed to recruit ‘heads of schools’ has risen to the highest level in four years, a new survey suggests.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of schools could not fill top positions at all last year – a rise from 12 per cent in 2017 – and fewer were able to fill senior special educational needs roles.

A head of school is a senior school leader role which includes heads of department, heads of houses and a leader with a specific pastoral duty.

The National of Association of Headteachers (NAHT) survey reveals that more school leaders (67 per cent) are aware of staff quitting for reasons other than retirement in the last five years.

And nearly two in five (37 per cent) are struggling to recruit due to the number of teachers leaving the profession – up from just 15 per cent in 2014 – the poll of more than 700 school leaders revealed.

The findings have emerged after the government announced a teacher recruitment and retention strategy in a bid to reduce the number of experienced staff deserting the profession.

The NAHT will call on the government to take urgent action to improve the retention of experienced teachers, which it calls a “growing concern”, at its annual conference in Telford this weekend.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said: “Workload, high-stakes accountability, insufficient funding, and continuing real-terms cuts to teachers’ and school leaders’ pay drives many committed professionals out of teaching.”

On the government’s plans, he added: “More is needed to retain mid and late career teachers. To create a positive proposition for a career in teaching the essential components include competitive pay, attractive and flexible working conditions, a healthy work-life balance, opportunities for career-long continuing professional development, and lower risk ways of holding schools to account.”

At the NAHT conference, members will vote on a motion calling on the government to restore the differentials between education pay grades and to push forward with plans for sabbaticals.

Damian Hinds, education secretary, will address hundreds of school leaders at their annual conference on Friday where he will ask them for their views on how to make funding arrangements for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities more effective.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The education secretary has been clear that there are no great schools without great teachers. Despite there being more than 450,000 teachers – 11,900 more than in 2011 – with increasing numbers returning to the profession, it is his top priority is to make sure teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession.

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“That’s exactly why we published the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, which provides teachers with more early careers support and opportunities for flexible and part-time working, to ensure we continue to attract and retain more great teachers.

“We are also ensuring teachers are fairly rewarded and recently announced a rise of up to 3.5 per cent for classroom teachers, funded by a £500m government grant, in addition to the tax-free bursaries worth up to £26,000 for trainee teachers in priority subjects.”

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