Education has been protected from the savage cuts imposed on most government-funded sectors, but that does not mean the upheaval in the way schools are funded has passed without effect. The first three months of the calendar year usually account for half of all advertised leadership posts. Although large numbers of heads are close to retirement there has been a slump in advertisements during January and February and that has continued into March. Only the special school sector has seen an increase, and then just for headships, with three more advertised this year than in the first two months of 2010.
There has been a dramatic fall in the number of assistant secondary headships on offer, from 236 down to just 92 (61 per cent). This poses a real problem for those seeking the first rung on the leadership ladder, who would be headteachers after 2015. But the drop in deputy head vacancies in the sector is even greater; down from 276 to 103, or 63 per cent. Even secondary headships are down by 20 per cent, although this in part is down to the end of the Labour Government's academy programme, where every new academy meant a new headteacher vacancy.
In the primary sector, assistant headships have never been that common, so the decline is relatively modest compared to the reduction of over 100 in the number of deputy headships on offer, and over 300, nearly a third, in the number of headships advertised. This will be partly due to more federations and amalgamations. After a year in which primary schools struggled to appoint new heads, the decline in the number of posts on offer will be a relief to those governors seeking to make an appointment.
So far, 'free' schools have contributed little to the picture and, except in London, and possibly some faith communities, there seems little suggestion that such schools will make many demands on the pool of potential school leaders.
Although parts of England and Wales have fared better than others, the message is clear; if you see a job, apply - don't wait.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education
PERCENTAGE FALL IN LEADERSHIP VACANCIES SINCE 2010
2010 Headship: 97
2011 Headship: 669 (-31%)
2010 Deputy headship: 356
2011 Deputy headship: 250 (-30%)
2010 Assistant headship: 68
2011 Assistant headship 51 (-25%)
2010 Deputy headship: 276
2011 Deputy headship: 103 (-63%)
2010 Assistant headship: 236
2011 Assistant headship: 92 (-61%)
2010 Headship: 240
2011 Headship: 199 (-17%).