POOR leadership is the biggest reason for experienced teachers quitting London classrooms.
One of the largest studies of the capital's teacher shortage has concluded that staff are not just being put off the city by soaring house prices and the challenges of inner-city schools. Forty-five per cent of those leaving London - often to drop out of teaching altogether - put their decision down to "management issues".
Researchers at the University of North London found the problem was particularly acute in London because many schools struggle to recruit a headteacher.
Primary schools on average received only four applications per headship post. This had a knock-on effect on teachers, many of whom left because the resulting appointments were "perceived as having poor management skills".
One teacher said: "I decided to leave because of the constant bullying... by the headteacher. Every summer between five and eight staff left."
The report, Teacher Supply and Retention in London 1998-99, compiled for the Teacher Training Agency, concludes: "Large numbers were... moving out of London or leaving teaching altogether, because of their perceptions of poor leadership."
The report - based on a survey of nearly 3,000 teachers ad an additional questionnaire completed by 450 teachers and heads leaving schools - does give examples of excellent leadership. It also acknowledges that teachers' comments can be "one-sided". Nonetheless, many heads were perceived to be "simply not up to the job".
It comes a month after ministers acknowledged the importance of dynamic leadership by offering to pay a new cadre of "superheads" pound;100,000 to turn around groups of up to five struggling schools.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I do not think teachers understand the pressures on London heads. Running London schools is a bed of nails for headteachers." He acknowledged, however, that many schools were struggling to recruit heads from often "very inadequate" fields of applicants.
The study suggests that local authorities should headhunt good classroom teachers to fill senior posts at their schools.
It also claims that 40 per cent of teachers plan to leave the capital in the next five years. The study is to be extended across 22 authorities, with findings updated termly.
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The report is available free from the TTA on 0845 606 0323, or e-mail: email@example.com