"Disastrous" recruitment of primary headteachers has led to a record level of unfilled posts and a "national problem", according to a major new survey. More than a third of all newly advertised primary school leadership jobs went unfilled in 2010, with Catholic schools and those in the East and South East suffering most seriously.
The research by Education Data Surveys, a sister company of The TES, shows 40 per cent of advertisements for primary posts were unsuccessful, and 60 per cent for Catholic primaries - the highest overall level since the annual survey began 26 years ago.
A third of secondary school and 41 per cent of special school jobs had to be re-advertised last year. The South West, Wales and the North East had the best recruitment rates, with around 25 per cent of vacancies going unfilled.
John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, said the "disastrous" statistics showed there was a "school leadership crisis".
"This is a serious situation. Although many of the highest percentages were among outer London authorities and some of the surrounding counties, this is now a national problem," he said.
"The white paper in November highlighted the importance of school leadership, and these figures are a wake-up call to the Government."
Professor Howson has repeated his calls for a review of the mandatory National Professional Qualification for Headship and for deputy heads to have to reapply for their posts every five years to make sure they move on to the top job. The number of deputy positions has fallen from 2,345 in 2006 to 1,806 in 2010.
"We are not appointing enough new deputy heads in the primary sector to meet the current or future demand for headteachers," he said.
Only 13 local authorities filled all their primary head vacancies, including St Helen's, Cheshire East, Stoke, Wolverhampton, Barnsley, Nottingham, Bath and North East Somerset, and Plymouth.
In Norfolk, the worst-performing authority, 67 per cent of posts had to be re-advertised.
The 1,971 first advertisements recorded for a headship during 200910 generated 796 re-advertisements.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said: "We think people don't want to become heads because of the level of scrutiny and accountability they will encourage, and the culture of testing and being judged.
"We need to solve this crisis. If people don't want to be a headteacher we are in real trouble."
Toby Salt, deputy chief executive of the National College for Leadership, said: "We have always been aware that, as the baby-boomer generation starts to retire, there was likely to be a rise in the number of vacancies. In fact, that is why we are delivering targeted succession- planning activities."
Catholic schools: reluctant to `step up'
The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) is to launch a national scheme to identify and train headteachers in a bid to overcome a severe shortage of school leaders.
Currently, local dioceses are responsible for developing heads, leading to an "unco-ordinated" approach, according to Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the CESEW.
The new national strategy will include training in theological and ethical issues as well as general professional development.
CESEW chief executive and director Oona Stannard said: "We have people amply qualified to be heads, but people have been reluctant to step up to headship."
Meanwhile, CESEW has published data showing that their schools outperform national averages in Ofsted inspections and value-added results.
- Original headline: `Crisis' as a third of primary head posts go unfilled