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Carrots, not sticks, will attract the best

High salaries, hard work and huge turnover. These are often the realities facing the heads of schools with the lowest percentages of students gaining the benchmark five A* - C.

The 1990s were a decade when many of these schools witnessed a steady procession of new headteachers, some of whom stayed for three of four years before moving on, or moving out to early retirement.

Though some leadership qualities are common to all headteacher posts, some are not. Heads who have flourished in a school which has a stable staff and supportive parents may not be adequately prepared for the leadership of a school with rapid staff and pupil turnover, high anxiety levels and belligerent parents, however well-funded it is. Add to that the demands to achieve improvements or face closure and a fresh start and it is obvious why some of these schools struggle in the marketplace for new heads.

Heads of challenging schools, along with all their staff, need support and encouragement, carrots not sticks. The age profile of the profession is leaving many wondering where the next generation of heads is going to come from.

The Government's aim must be to secure the brightest and best leaders for the most challenging schools, to train them appropriately and, finally, not to leave them unsupported once they have been appointed.

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys

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