Heads take up cause of middle managers

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Nicolas Barnard previews the Secondary Heads Association's annual conference which opens in Brighton today

A GROWING shortage of middle managers is threatening standards in struggling schools, headteachers have warned the Government.

Almost one in five schools has been unable to appoint a head of department, according to a survey of nearly 400 schools by the Secondary Heads Association.

Some in disadvantaged areas received no response at all from adverts, and single responses were common.

Heads were forced to readvertise one post in seven - others abandoned the search after several attempts. Only 5 per cent of adverts attracted a strong field of candidates.

The union fears the Government's teaching Green Paper - sure to be a major topic of debate at its annual conference which starts today in Brighton - will make matters worse.

Financial incentives to reward good teachers for staying in the classroom are a key feature of the paper's proposed new pay scale which rises to pound;35,000. SHA wants teachers who take on head of department posts to be guaranteed extra points, irrespective of their present salary.

John Dunford, the association's general secretary, said: "Good subject leaders are central to the agenda of raising standards. The Green Paper must provide a structure which encourages good teachers to take on the leadership of teaching and learning that is central to the head of department role."

The survey found acute shortages in science, maths, modern languages and English - subjects which have problems recruiting at all levels. But SHA was concerned to find under-recruitment in all subjects.

All parts of the country were affected, but the biggest problems were found in failing schools and those in deprived areas. Only 18 per cent of posts attracted 20 or more candidates - mostly in affluent parts of the country or at schools with good reputations.

Assistant general secretary Terry Allcott said: "The extra salary middle managers get is so tiny, there's no incentive to move. A significant number of primary teachers have always been happy to stay in the classroom - that's starting to happen in secondary too.

"It's a standards issue. For schools in difficulties, it raises questions about how you get out of the depressing circle and become an improving school without good middle managers."

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