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Miracle needed to recruit Catholic heads

Record numbers of primary schools are being forced to re-advertise unfilled headships, reports Karen Thornton.

MORE than a third of primary schools had to re-advertise vacant headships last year - a record high, according to a new survey published today.

The figures were even worse in the church sector. A record-breaking 58 per cent of Roman Catholic schools went through a second application round, the third year running that more than half have had to do so.

The RC Church insists that its schools are run by committed Catholics, limiting the number of available candidates. RC deputies seeking promotion are often reluctant to move in search of a post.

Re-advertisement rates for Church of England schools were up to a record 41 per cent.

Overall, 1,969 primary, 407 secondary, and 143 special school head vacancies were advertised last year, compared to 2,134 primary, 408 secondary and 127 special in 2001.

The figures are revealed in the 18th annual survey of senior management vacancies by John Howson of Education Data Surveys.

Professor Howson said the number of posts advertised in the past two years (1,969 in 2002 and 2,134 in 2001) was a factor in the primary head re-advertisement rate. But he warned the pool of experienced deputy heads was small, with more than a third aged over 50 and nearing retirement.

Salaries for primary heads broke through the pound;70,000 barrier in London last year and the pay gap between them and secondary heads is narrowing.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a smaller pay differential was inevitable. "We have to get to a position where people feel headship is such a well-rewarded and recognised job that they stay or compete for jobs as soon as they come on the market," he said.

Oona Stannard, director of the Catholic Education Service, said schools and dioceses were working on professional and career development opportunities for staff.

She dismissed concerns that making the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers compulsory from 2004 would add to RC schools' recruitment problems.

Both churches are working with the National College for School Leadership on their leadership needs and 22 per cent of NPQH candidates are from church schools.

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