Heads supply may 'collapse' as under half recommend job

More than two-thirds of leaders are less content in their role than they were a year ago, report finds

Amy Gibbons

Warning of headteacher 'exodus': Less than half of school leaders would recommend their job, poll shows

The supply of school leaders is "at risk of collapse", with less than half saying they would recommend their job as a career goal, a new survey suggests.

And nearly half (46 per cent) of assistant and deputy heads do not want to become school leaders  up from 40 per cent in 2016, with a further quarter (27 per cent) undecided, according to a report by the NAHT school leaders' union.

The survey of 2,061 school leaders, carried out in the autumn of last year, also exposed the impact of the coronavirus crisis on headship.


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Some 70 per cent of leaders were less content in their role than they were a year ago, with "challenging, exhausting and stressful" ranking as the top three words used to describe their experience of the past 12 months.

Covid: Warning of an 'exodus' of school leaders

A "lack of trust and autonomy" in leaders has also been "corrosive", the NAHT found, with almost three-quarters (72 per cent) citing frequently changing government guidance on Covid-19 as their "biggest management challenge of the last year".

The union warned that working hours among leaders were "off the scale"  with over half (55 per cent) working between six and 15 extra hours each week.

And the "erosion" of leaders' real pay "undermines" future supply, the report warns, as four in 10 assistant and deputy heads (40 per cent) see pay as a barrier to promotion, while the majority (51 per cent) of leaders believe "recent differentiated pay awards" have had a negative impact on aspiration to the role.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Nearly half (47 per cent) of leaders said they were less likely to stay in leadership for as long as they had planned.
  • Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) reported that differentiated pay awards had a negative or very negative impact on leadership morale.
  • Nearly three-quarters of school business leaders (71 per cent) did not believe that their salary fairly reflected their roles and responsibilities.
  • Three-quarters (75 per cent) of assistants and deputies said that concerns about work-life balance were a key reason preventing them from seeking a headteacher position, while nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) cited concerns about their personal wellbeing.

The union made a number of key recommendations to the government:

  • End centralised diktats from Whitehall that do not take account of school leaders' experience and expertise.
  • Reform the pay structure for teachers and leaders and reinstate the pay differential for leadership.
  • Provide training, mentoring and support for new and existing leaders.
  • Work with teaching and leadership unions to develop new, sustainable leadership and non-leadership career pathways.
  • Confirm the suspension of routine Ofsted inspections until September 2021.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: "The lack of support for school leaders throughout the pandemic now risks an exodus of leaders from the profession.

"The government's longstanding complacency on leaders' workload and wellbeing has been laid bare and compounded by its announcement of a pay freeze which will again cut salaries in real terms.

"The government must act urgently to make school leadership an attractive proposition for teaching professionals."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are enormously grateful to school leaders, as well as teachers and other school staff for the resilience and commitment they have shown in supporting children during this challenging year.

"We are improving support and professional development for teachers at all stages of their career, and have committed to providing tailored support for new headteachers who are at their least experienced and at most risk of leaving the profession, via our National Professional Qualification for Headship."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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