Headship: too much for one person?

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Struggle to find school leaders prompts national college to call for more job shares, reports Graeme Paton

Schools should appoint two headteachers to share the workload burden and tempt more people into the top jobs, a Government-sponsored study has said.

The report, for the National College for School Leadership, said job sharing was one of a number of approaches governors could consider to tackle mounting recruitment problems.

It says that dual headship has been shown to have benefits, including giving school leaders a better work-life balance and allowing less experienced teachers to consider going for promotion earlier.

"Many co-heads say that this phenomenon has emerged because the requirements of headship are so complex that two people are better able to offer the appropriate skills, knowledge and expertise to fulfil the demands of the role," the report said.

However the study released to coincide with the NCSL's annual conference in Birmingham next week admits that many local authorities are sceptical about dual headship.

It concedes that there is a risk that decision-making will be inefficient, accountability compromised and parents or staff confused about who is in charge. It also said how one local authority had appointed an independent arbitrator to intervene in case of disputes between co-heads.

At least 30 schools in England and Wales currently have two people sharing leadership. In some cases the two heads work part-time - handing over in midweek -while others employ dual heads working five days-a-week, sharing the responsibilities equally.

Manning comprehensive, an all-girls secondary school in Nottingham, appointed co-heads at the start of this term, almost eight months after its previous headteacher quit.

Jo Horsey and Lesley Lyon, former deputies at the school, work full-time and share the head's salary, along with cash that would have gone on an additional deputy head.

Ms Horsey said: "Sometimes heads can put their foot down, in the interest of showing strong leadership, but make the wrong move. This way we constantly check and challenge each other's ideas, ensuring that we don't make snap decisions."

The NCSL recommended that the Department for Education and Skills should draw up official guidance to "spell out the regulations, requirements and implications" of job-sharing so other schools can consider if they want to make such a move.

Record numbers of schools are searching for a headteacher. In the first three months of this year, 1,340 schools in England and Wales advertised for a new head, nearly 200 more than in the same period last year.

The shortages, revealed by Professor John Howson, a recruitment analyst, are likely to get worse because more than half of headteachers are aged over 50 and will retire in the next 10 years.

Three other reports for the NCSL, released today, also call for greater government support for schools who want to share an "executive head" - seen as another solution to the school leadership crisis.

But the NCSL admitted that there were a limited number of people with the skills to lead more than one school and stressed that the position risked placing an extra burden on already stressed headteachers.

* graeme.paton@tes.co.uk

ANAlysis 18

Leadership 27, 28

Heads help out, Friday magazine

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