A headteachers' union has warned the government that urgent action is needed to stop the system losing future school leaders.
A new report from the NAHT says that less than half of middle leaders in schools want to take up school leadership roles and a third are thinking of quitting the profession altogether, Tes can reveal.
A survey carried by the union shows that concerns about the loss of work-life balance and pressures of the accountability system are putting off middle leaders in school from wanting to rise further to become headteachers or principals.
The NAHT has also found that middle leaders are now trying to balance greater responsibility in the school system with less dedicated leadership time to carry out the role.
James Bowen, the director of NAHT Edge – a union for middle leaders – has said the report’s findings should be wake-up call for the government and a school system that is already facing a recruitment and retention crisis.
Middle leaders under pressure
The report calls on the government to address the funding crisis so that schools have the ability to pay for the CPD and to release the time that middle leaders require in order to carry out their role effectively.
Mr Bowen said: “It is troubling to find that less than half of those who responded to our survey aspired to headship or a similar senior leadership position.
“The middle leaders of today are the headteachers and system leaders of tomorrow, and we need to be drawing from as wide a pool of leadership talent as possible.
“Perhaps most alarming of all is the finding that around a third of respondents said they were thinking of leaving the profession at some point in the next three years.
“Given the current recruitment and retention crisis in teaching and school leadership, these are professionals the system cannot afford to lose.
The NAHT survey found that 49 per cent of middle leaders wanted to become school leaders in future.
When asked to identify the factors that put them off going into headship, the top three responses were: concerns about work-life balance (mentioned by 79 per cent of those who did not want to become leaders); accountability pressures (69 per cent) and being removed from teaching and pupils (49 per cent).
The report also reveals that 33 per cent of respondents said they were thinking of leaving the profession.
The NAHT said that it was already difficult for heads and governing bodies to recruit middle leaders to their schools.
A survey last year found that only one in five schools was able to recruit middle leaders with ease, while another 20 per cent said they failed to recruit to these posts altogether.
The new findings, which the union is set to publish next week, show that less than a third of respondents received any form of induction training when they first took on a leadership position in their school.
The NAHT report, About Time, also shows that just over 40 per cent of middle leaders had received no CPD training for their leadership role in the past 12 months.
Mr Bowen said: "Middle leaders have always had the challenge of not having enough hours in the day; learning to prioritise ruthlessly is an important skill for school leaders at all levels.
"However, it is a significant concern that in this research we found middle leaders reporting that their leadership responsibilities have increased in recent years when, at the same time, they have seen a reduction in the amount of time they are given to carry out the role. This only serves to make an already difficult task even harder.”
He added: “Our findings should act as a wake-up call to the school system and the government. Unless urgent action is taken, there is a real risk we will lose talented leaders from the system.
"This not only has an immediate impact in terms of middle leadership, but also a potential long-term impact as we risk losing the school and system leaders of tomorrow.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We will continue to support middle and senior leaders to become head teachers, and are already taking action to tackle staff workload, such as ensuring it is considered as part of an Ofsted inspection judgement.
“We’ve also invested over £20million to support teachers working in the most challenging areas to undertake development qualifications free of charge.
“Alongside this, we plan to develop new specialist qualifications designed for teachers who want to progress in their career but don’t want to follow traditional leadership routes.”