Wales' new 'super LEAs' struggle in hunt for heroes

26th October 2012 at 01:00
Regional consortia find key 'systems leaders' in short supply

They are supposed to be highly trained educationalists at the top of their profession who will drive school improvement in Wales.

The problem is that not enough people are willing or able to do the job of "systems leader" in Wales' four new regional consortia. The groups, which are effectively "super LEAs", are struggling to recruit enough people to fill the new roles, despite the fact that they were meant to be in position last month.

The consortia are part of a huge overhaul of Wales' education infrastructure, which has regularly underperformed in international league tables in recent years.

Bryan Jeffreys, interim director of the Central South Consortium's Joint Education Service, said he was trying to recruit between six and eight staff.

"We have gaps that we need to fill," he admitted. "We advertised and we didn't get enough suitable candidates, so we have re-advertised. Our schools are covered by the systems leaders we have recruited, but it's too much of a workload to make it a sustainable arrangement."

Mr Jeffreys said that the posts should be filled this month.

And the South West and Mid Wales Consortium is still trying to recruit about a dozen staff. Lead director Richard Parry said this was not a problem at the moment, as the Regional Integrated Assessment Service had been operating for almost a year with a "good core of people".

But Mr Parry added that the four consortia were all "fishing in the same pool" for talent and may experience problems in the future.

In the South East Wales Consortium, which includes two local authorities whose education services have been deemed "unsatisfactory" by schools inspectorate Estyn, the new Education Achievement Service (EAS) is still recruiting. Its website is advertising posts for systems leaders and a senior systems leader to start in January, or "sooner if possible".

Director Steve Davies said 19.5 full-time-equivalent systems leaders were currently in post and the EAS was recruiting a further 4.5.

"We have set the bar exceedingly high," he said. "Having seen the strength of those applying, particularly from good existing headteachers, I am confident we will reach full complement this term."

Heads' unions are worried. They say systems leaders are supposed to be the most significant element of the consortium working approach.

Anna Brychan, director of heads' union NAHT Cymru, said: "We need a plentiful supply of credible individuals who can apply the challenge and broker the high-quality support that schools need.

"There is a fair measure of agreement that this is the model we need, but we are worried about the amount of time it seems to be taking to get there."

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