Headteachers are postponing retirement because of the recession, but their temporary decision to stay in post will not defuse the demographic time bomb that poses the biggest challenge to school leadership for a generation, experts say.
Feverish succession planning has been going on since predictions that many baby-boomer heads would leave their jobs this year.
However, new figures reveal that vacancies for heads have fallen by 10 per cent in 2009. They also show that the number of head of department posts advertised has almost halved over the past two years, and a decrease in openings for most teaching posts.
The downturn will cause "significant" problems for those finishing courses this year, according to Education Data Surveys, which produced the data by analysing all job advertisements published in April.
The research shows an increase in schools willing to negotiate wages with new school leaders, rising salaries, increasing problems with recruitment of primary heads, and decreasing use of deputy heads as school budgets tighten. This could mean difficulties in recruiting new school leaders in future years.
"Recruiting to headship posts still remains a challenge for some schools and the new rules on the National Professional Qualification for Headship that came into effect at the start of April will not make the task of governors any easier, especially when looking for a head with attributes outside those required of all candidates," said John Howson, EDS managing director.
"Across senior staff posts, we have witnessed some slackening in demand over the course of the first four months of the year. For heads, this may be explained by the use of alternative leadership structures, such as federations and amalgamations. The reasons are less clear for deputy and assistant head posts in primary and special schools."
The next three years were predicted to be a peak retirement time for headteachers. John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said this would still be the case.
"Fewer headteachers are moving from one school to another and we believe many are putting off their retirement briefly because of the credit crunch. This means the difficulties in recruiting their replacements will now happen in 2010 and 2011.
"Therefore it is vital the National College for School Leadership develops its succession-planning strategy and the Government makes the recruitment of school leaders a priority."
Large regional differences in recruitment are still apparent. London and the home counties continue to have the largest number of vacancies. Only Wales has seen an increase in advertisements, and just 80 vacancies were recorded in the North East.
The decline has hit some of of the subjects which have seem a boom in trainees. For example, numbers studying to teach design and technology have more than doubled, but advertised jobs have fallen from 1,318 in 2007 to 960 this year.
SITUATIONS NOT VACANT
- 2,000 fewer vacancies were advertised by April 2009 compared to 2007: down to 16,000 from 18,200.
- During April, 839 head of department posts and 3,238 classroom teacher posts, some with teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) below head of department level, were advertised. Of the classroom teacher vacancies, some 2,600 were main scale posts and 508 had a TLR2 attached.
- Vacancies for other posts, such as advanced skills teachers (AST) and excellent teachers, remain rare. There is increasing use of new job titles, such as lead teacher.
- During April, only 71 AST posts were advertised by secondary schools. But there were 385 vacancies during the first four months of the year, substantially up from the 296 last year and 180 in 2007.