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Church takes to the road in search for new heads

Travelling show and governor-training scheme are among Anglican initiatives to encourage applications

School leaders and Church of England officials are embarking on a major project to convince colleagues to become heads of church schools - where vacancies are still the hardest to fill.

Succession planners for the 4,500 primary and 300 secondary Anglican schools in England believe opening up classrooms to the next generation of heads will dispel any misconceptions they may have about the involvement of the church in their schools.

The National Society, the body which oversees CofE education, has launched an initiative with the National College for School Leadership to train governors in recruitment to find out why many teachers are reluctant to take charge of church schools.

In the diocese of Chichester, heads and church workers have organised a roadshow so that prospective candidates can visit CofE schools in the area and talk to staff.

The National Society hopes its research will reveal where "bottlenecks" to recruitment exist and that extra training for governors will boost their confidence in employing new heads.

Nick McKemey, head of school improvement for the National Society, said: "We don't agree there is a shortage of Christian teachers. There are just complexities in understanding how we find new headteachers, and why senior leaders don't want to make the step up.

"We know since the Dearing report many schools have done more to emphasise their Christian ethos, so this could be leading to more self-selection before people even apply."

Gill Knox, head of Etchingham CofE Primary near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, is on the diocese succession planning committee and will open her school's doors as part of the roadshow.

Mrs Knox, 51, says her retirement, while not imminent, is "near enough to be an issue". Etchingham is a small rural primary, typically the kind of school that would struggles to find a new head.

Another member of the succession planning group is Allison Goodfellow, head of St Wilfrid's Primary in Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Now 60, she hopes to retire within the next two years and thinks the roadshow will be a chance to network and spot new talent.

"Being in a church school seems to be alarming to some people, but really you get a lot of support and advice and it's delightful," she said.

The roadshows start on Monday and run until March 26.

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