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GM primary headships are the toughest to fill

The shortage of headteachers and deputies is back to the level of 10 years ago. Nicolas Barnard and Biddy Passmore report on the findings of a new survey

Grant-maintained primary schools are finding it even harder to recruit top staff than their local authority counterparts, a new report by the quango which administers their money suggests.

One in three GM primaries was unable to appoint a head or deputy first time round. This compared to one in four of all state primary schools, according to a survey of job ads in the national press carried out by John Howson, formerly of Oxford Brookes University and the Teacher Training Agency.

The uncertainty facing GM schools - the majority of whom are expected to slot into Labour's new foundation category - probably explains the recruiting difficulties, according to Bob Wright, chairman of the National Association of GM Primary Schools.

The problems of recruiting deputy heads and team leaders was greatest in large primary schools - fewer than half the posts advertised were filled first time round. Yet they did not have such great problems recruiting heads.

Mr Wright said the recruitment difficulties facing the GM sector were similar to those of the local education authority sector.

"But it is the nature of the beast - we are living in uncertain times with the present Government and it may be some do not want to get into the additional work involved in changing to a foundation school."

Some GM schools might be more reluctant to appoint a deputy if they were unhappy with the applicants, he suggested.

GM secondary schools found it easier to recruit senior staff than local authority schools. Only 7 per cent had to re-advertise for a head, compared to 14 per cent across the board. Deputies and team leaders were harder to find - one in five posts remained unfilled, with problems most acute in large schools.

The survey by the Funding Agency for Schools covered a wide range of staffing issues, and was carried out last summer. All GM schools were sent a form. The response rate was 69 per cent.

It found non-contact time for primary teachers averaged only 3 per cent of the school day, compared to 18 per cent in secondary schools. One in four GMprimaries had no non-contact time at all, including 40 per cent of those with fewer than 200 pupils.

The figures are thought to be in line with the sector as a whole.

Class sizes also represent a problem. More than a third of schools had at least one infant class of more than 30, and more than half had at least one junior class the same size - one in 10 schools had four or more junior classes of more than 30.

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