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'Outstanding' middle leaders to be parachuted in to struggling schools

One hundred outstanding heads of departments will be parachuted in to some of the most challenging schools in the country in a bid to improve the quality of teaching, ministers will announce today.

Schools minister David Laws (pictured) is calling on the most talented middle leaders in England to apply to spend a year on secondment in struggling schools, including those in deprived coastal and rural areas.

The hope is that the one-year programme will enable underperforming schools to benefit from the expertise of strong middle leaders – including subject leaders and heads of year – in a bid to raise attainment.

The move draws heavily on last year’s Talented Leaders scheme, dubbed the Champions League of headteachers by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, which placed outstanding school leaders into the country’s worst performing schools.

The first cohort will include 30 middle leaders going into schools in the East of England, an area highlighted by prime minister David Cameron last week where the schools were in need of closer attention.

Schools minister David Laws said: “We know that strong leadership and high-quality teaching are vital to improving pupil outcomes. This new programme will allow schools facing some of the greatest challenges to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge of an exceptional middle leader who can drive improvements and raise standards.

“We want to encourage the movement of high-quality middle leaders to the areas which need it most, to help close the attainment gap and build a fairer society in which every child is able to reach their full potential.”

Last year, Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw called on the government to offer the country’s best headteachers financial incentives to go and work in the most challenging schools.

Peter Pendle, chief executive officer of AMiE, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' (ATL) leadership section, said: “Good collaborative leadership at all levels is vital in order for schools to improve in a sustainable fashion, but it will extremely difficult to develop given the short space of time these new middle leaders will have.

“We would like to see the initiative properly trialled, including ensuring that the seconding schools don’t suffer by losing exceptional middle leadership and that improvement in participating schools can be sustained beyond the secondment.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “While this announcement is welcome, it only scratches the surface of wider issues around recruitment and retention.

"More concerted effort is needed to improve the supply of teachers in general and to find longer term and sustainable solutions to attract more high calibre teachers, middle and senior leaders to schools in challenging circumstances or which are geographically isolated."

Related stories: 

'Champions League' of school leaders to recruit 100 heads – September 2014

Heads in the role of Alex Ferguson? Nick Clegg plans "champions' league" of school leaders – October 2013

Ofsted to create up to 100 'exceptional' heads a year – September 2014

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