Heads you win, tails schools lose

12th October 2007 at 01:00
Earlier this year a series of National College of School Leadership and National Governors' Association regional conferences highlighted the predicted shortage in headteachers from 2009. Current heads aged between 52 and 59 will be approaching retirement in 2009 or continuing the trend of leaving the profession towards the end of their career.

With more heads in this age group than the whole of the 32-50 age group, replacing them is a big challenge. Small schools are most vulnerable.

Governors have said to me: "We just appointed a new head, so it does not affect us." Oh dear!

Just put yourselves in the shoes of a head of a typical small school. Approaching 40, with a growing family, teaching 0.6 of a timetable and struggling to run the school on 0.4 management time. Still with tremendous energy and zeal to inspire pupils, in 2009 the world will be his or her oyster.

With a shortage of heads, the laws of demand and supply will prevail. Large schools, both primary and secondary, will be able to offer more attractive salaries, pensions and other incentives, but smaller schools will not have that luxury. Their only asset may be location and in some areas of the country lower cost of housing.

Senior management team teachers who have the national professional qualification for headteachers will be in an excellent position to gain a headship sooner rather than later.

To achieve a win- win situation, now is the time for school governors to act. Dialogue with governors of neighbouring schools is a starting point. Encouraging younger teachers to gain an NPQH, sharing a headteacher, federating with another school (primary or secondary), job share for heads ... Governors need to take the driving seat. Otherwise, even though they may recently have appointed a head, their school could lose out.

Carol Woodhouse

Chair of governors, Musbury Primary, near Axminster in Devon

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