Blackpool on pound;68k a year...

31st March 2006 at 01:00
...or London on pound;80k? Primary heads are being offered ever higher salaries. So why does no onewant the job?

Wanted: headteacher for good Blackpool school. Salary: enough to buy 136,000 sticks of rock.

Peter Rawcliffe cannot understand why no one wants his job. He is head of Waterloo school, one of the largest primaries in the country. His pupils'

behaviour has been praised consistently by inspectors. Last year, three-quarters of them achieved the expected level 4 at key stage 2.

But Mr Rawcliffe, who famously cut up an inspector's tie during an inspection, is retiring at the end of July. And, despite offering a starting salary of pound;68,000, governors are having trouble finding a replacement. This week, the post is being advertised for a third time. Only two candidates have been asked for interview so far, out of six applicants.

Mr Rawcliffe is baffled by the lack of interest. "It's surprising and disappointing," he said. "A lot of money has been spent on the school. The IT is out-of-this-world. There are electronic whiteboards everywhere you look. You have to wonder what people want."

The salary offered is equal to Mr Rawcliffe's current pay, and "a hell of a lot more" than he received 16 years ago, when he first came to the post.

But Waterloo is not alone in offering high salaries. Ten years ago, the average primary head was paid between pound;25,000 and pound;30,000.

Today they will be offered between pound;39,000 and pound;53,000.

Yet schools are still struggling to attract applicants. Of more than 500 headships advertised in The TES this January, 22 per cent were re-advertised. In London, this figure rises to 24 per cent.

John Howson, of Education Data Surveys, said: "The differential between heads and deputies or classroom teachers in the primary sector may not be that large. The extra responsibility is not worth the money offered." Mr Rawcliffe agrees with him. "We need to make deputies a little less comfortable," he said. "It's not worth a 500 per cent increase in stress, for an extra pound;50 a month. But if you offer sky-high salaries, you have to ask yourself: are you just attracting mercenaries?"

Jubilee primary, in the London borough of Lambeth, and Normand Croft primary, in Fulham, west London, are both offering salaries of more than pound;70,000. Normand Croft raised its offer to pound;80,000 in its second advertisement. It has since received a significant number of enquiries.

Lorraine Manford, head of the 370-pupil school, is unfazed by the salary - it is still less than she receives. "We're a full-service extended school.

The salary reflects what is required of the job."

The Government is looking at whether to increase heads' salaries by more than those of classroom teachers. But Professor Howson believes that this may prove unnecessary. "If increasing salaries is what it takes to recruit someone, that is what people will do," he said. "Effectively, the market is solving its own problem."


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