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Fancy stat

There was a large increase last year in the number of adverts for deputy headteachers. In 2001, 3,000 schools placed ads to recruit a deputy - almost as many as in 1997, the year of the clampdown on early retirement, and about 20 per cent more than in 2000. About one in four schools had to re-advertise their posts; others made internal appointments and recruited, for example, the acting deputy.

Most deputy headship vacancies arise because the post-holder is promoted to a headship, usually in another school. But early retirement can account for as many as one in eight of all primary deputy head vacancies, and a slightly higher percentage of deputies in secondaries. There are also cases of deputy heads, mainly in primary schools, returning to classroom teaching.

Women account for about three-quarters of all appointments to primary deputy headships and almost half of new secondary deputies. Deputies in primary schools are often appointed at a younger age than their secondary equivalents.

There are only 4,500 primary deputy heads in England between the ages of 35 and 44. Discounting those appointed in the past two years and those not interested in headship, the potential pool of new primary heads in this age bracket is probably little more than 3,000 in England. This goes some way towards explaining why primary schools are finding it so hard to recruit headteachers at the moment.

e-mail john.howson@lineone.net

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