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Headship beggars can't be choosers

Finding a new head is tougher for some than others, finds John Howson

AS THE date approaches when new heads will require the National Professional Qualification for Headship, it is worth asking how many top jobs are on offer each year?

The requirement that all headships be advertised nationally means that most, if not all, appear in the pages of The TES. Leaving aside the special circumstances of 1997 when changes to the early retirement regulations caused a rush for the exit, between 300 and 350 secondary and 1,500 and 1,900 primary headships are advertised every year in England and Wales.

Across the country around 80 per cent of secondary and 75 per cent of primary headships are filled at first advert; the remainder have to be re-advertised.

Headships in London have been the ost difficult to fill. Around a half are re-advertised each year, some more than once. This compares unfavourably with the North-east where only 11 per cent of headships are not filled straight away.

Church schools face more difficulty in recruiting heads than other schools - a reflection of our secular society, perhaps. Of the Roman Catholic schools that advertised for a new head in The TES during the 199899 school year, 40 per cent were unsuccessful with their first advert.

Overall, while there is no cause for serious concern about the number of new heads that will emerge once the NPQH becomes a mandatory qualification, some governing bodies may be faced with Hobson's choice.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University: E-mail:

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