Tomorrow's leaders are stifled by today's woes

22nd January 2010 at 00:00

It is clear - no matter what the chief inspector Christine Gilbert says - that the new Ofsted framework is tougher and many schools are being downgraded from previously "good" or "outstanding" judgments to "satisfactory".

There is some anecdotal evidence that a number of heads are contemplating taking early retirement on the back of a "good" or "outstanding" Ofsteds. They want to leave on a high, at their peak, so that they can be sure to secure future employment as a consultant. Sadly, those of us with "satisfactory" judgments will not be so highly sought after in a shrinking market.

Some heads who might have stayed on until they are 60-plus are deciding to go early rather than face another inspection and possibly a less favourable judgment. Therefore, I will probably be here until I am 70 still chasing an "outstanding" ruling from Ofsted ...

This trend will not help to halt the anticipated shortage of headteachers - especially in the secondary sector - in the next five years.

We know that many deputies are making the decision not to go on to become heads because they don't want to face retribution when things go wrong. And who can blame them? Headteachers are usually the scapegoat and can be - and often are - easily removed when the chips are down.

Thankfully, I know of many deputies and assistant heads who are still keen to go for the top job and it is important that we do all we can to help them on this journey.

I spent some time last weekend completing a reference for one of my senior team who is applying to participate in the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). All of my previous senior teams and many middle managers at this school took part in the programme as part of their continuing professional development. They all thoroughly enjoyed it. They learned a lot, they did not turn into "clones" and the school benefitted from their training. Furthermore, they all moved on to become deputies and head teachers.

The problem now is that only those who are less than 12 to 14 months away from headship can apply. I know this is a cost-cutting exercise and has come about because many of those who completed the qualification decided they did not want to move up the ladder.

But this is short-sighted in my view because a member of the senior or middle leaders team who has gone through NPQH will have a much wider view of the school and the way it works and will be much more able to fulfil a leadership role at their school. Therefore, it is (or was) worth every penny.

Effectively, the new rule excludes assistant heads from applying. A very important part of my role as head is to inspire and prepare my senior team for headship. I take this role very seriously and am delighted that they all want to move to the next rung of the career ladder and go for the top job - hopefully not knocking me off my perch on the way up.

However, as schools tighten their belts and prepare for the expected cuts in 2011, it is unlikely that many senior or even middle leaders will be able to move on this year. Fewer and fewer jobs are being advertised and the competition is fierce. This is great if you are a school looking for a new senior leader, as you will be spoiled for choice, but is not good for those ready to move to the next phase of their career.

The hype about the shortage of headteachers in the secondary phase has raised expectations among senior and middle leaders in our school. Future Leaders and similar programmes are being expanded to help fill the anticipated gap but it is unlikely that there will be enough suitable jobs to go around in the foreseeable future. This may change in the long term but will cause problems in the short term as we see a glut of eligible colleagues chasing fewer jobs.

For those who are now ready to apply for headship, the move to put in an additional layer of an executive head in some schools is proving to be another way of keeping good people out of the system. Once you have completed a number of years as a deputy you are unlikely to want to take on the headship of an institution where somebody else sets the vision and direction of the school. That is the whole point of headship.

Throughout my career working in inner London schools I have enjoyed a culture where talent is quickly spotted, utilised and developed; where promotion for many has been swift and where there are clear pathways for advancement. This is certainly the culture I have developed in my school but I am worried this may come to a full stop as the financial cuts bite.

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher, George Green's School, Tower Hamlets, east London.

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