Head shortage is no joke, Mr Blair

At a recent Prime Minister's question time Tony Blair brushed off questions about the Audit Office's assertion that the education system "fails" one in eight children and that there is a serious shortage of headteachers. It is self-evident to those who work in the service (but not to the Department for Education and Skills that runs it) that these two items are linked.

Lancashire has an increasing number of unfilled vacancies for headship and a corresponding number of associate heads running schools, often to the detriment of the acting heads' health and sanity - and this is in an education authority which puts considerable effort and funding into its school system.

Two and three adverts are not uncommon and we have an instance here in the North-west where a school is making its eighth attempt to find a leader.

Reasons for this dearth of suitably qualified and motivated people are legion. Salary is not a major factor, though there is room for work on differentials. Workload is, and the schedule demanded of school managers over the last term alone ought to ring bells in the high echelons of government.

The Government alleges that it has many levels of "conversation" with schools; the problem is, it may talk but it doesn't listen.

John Howson's work on recruitment and retention shows that the current crisis in recruitment is due to worsen drastically in the next five years.

It is a matter of real concern that so many of our political masters see this but choose to ignore it because of political expediency and lack of regard for teachers.

Tony Roberts 144 Cop Lane Penwortham Preston, Lancashire

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