College seeks evidence that two heads are better than one

Governors should consider appointing two headteachers to take the strain off school leaders, according to a consultation document out this week.

The National College for School Leadership says more "flexible" approaches to headship are essential to solve concerns over workload and ease a pending recruitment crisis.

The number of schools searching for a new headteacher has risen to an eight-year high, according to the latest figures. In the past 12 months 2,700 schools advertised for a new head, a 10 per cent increase on last year. The situation is expected to get worse in the next decade as almost half of England's 25,000 school leaders will retire by 2014.

Heads say mounting responsibilities and targets are among the biggest turn-offs for teachers considering a promotion.

Shortages are more acute in primary schools, where each vacancy attracts on average only six candidates and a third are forced to advertise more than once.

But a consultation document published by NCSL this week recommends that schools should consider allowing more than one head to share a leadership post, reducing the isolation and stress normally shouldered by one person.

Around 20 schools in England have two headteachers sharing the leadership role.

Geoff Southworth, NCSL's director of research, said: "Flexible ways of working help school leaders balance their professional role with other demands, such as bringing up a family. It is one of a number of solutions the profession can adopt to address headteacher shortages."

Julia Wynd, who has shared the headship of Hastingsbury secondary school, Bedfordshire, with Martin Fletcher for the past two years, said: "I think that now, other headteachers envy my role. Co-headship really does reduce the loneliness of the job."

Professor John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, which analyses recruitment patterns, said this year 2,700 schools had been forced to look for a new head compared to 2,462 last year. He said it was the highest figure since data was first collected 20 years ago, with the exception of 1997 when changes to early retirement rules prompted a flood of resignations.

Co-headship: a call for consultation, is available from researchpublications

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