Uncertain climate will put new headteachers to the test

20th November 2009 at 00:00
As recession bites, government expert tells new heads to take a team approach to leadership

Hot on the heels of the gloomy report on the future for Scottish headship (TESS November 6)) comes another warning of hard times for heads in England by the man appointed to train them.

Toby Salt, deputy chief executive of the National College, said that leading a school in a "climate of uncertainty" caused by the recession will be a major test for the new generation taking up headships during the economic crisis.

Public spending cuts, changes in technology and the more complex nature of the post will bring "serious" challenges. These were among the factors cited in the study of recruitment and retention for Scottish heads, which found that only 8 per cent of teachers aspired to the post.

Mr Salt, speaking at the National College's annual conference in London for new heads, called on them to "look beyond the boundaries" of their own schools.

He predicted a rise in the number of federations to tackle failing primaries or secondaries and announced that, from next year, every new head would have a professional mentor to support them.

"This generation of heads are the best prepared we have ever seen," he told the 400 delegates, "but leading in this climate of uncertainty will be a test in itself.

"Some stark challenges threaten to hold us back from making the most of them: an ageing workforce, a world in economic and environmental flux and, I'm afraid, tighter public spending."

Federations would be used "where pupils are being let down" and "excellent" heads and their teams would be asked to help, he added.

Mr Salt and English schools minister Vernon Coaker, another speaker at the event, also encouraged heads to make more use of the talents of their staff, giving them increased responsibility and employing specialists to perform tasks in which heads lack expertise.

Just 30 per cent of primaries have school business managers, compared to 90 per cent of secondaries. Mr Salt added: "It is the whole team that makes the difference, but too often you may be tempted to do things alone - school business managers are a case in point. The impact they are having in terms of supporting heads to be more effective leaders is profound."

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