We need to put heads together

19th November 2004 at 00:00
It is good to see England's National College for School Leadership recognising that the recruitment of headteachers poses serious problems.

The TES and others have been warning about this for at least two years, given that already one in three English primary schools has to advertise more than once for suitable candidates and even then often has little choice when making an appointment. In Wales we have hitherto been more fortunate, but even so 12 per cent of primary headships had to be re-advertised last year. This situation is likely to get worse. While in England, 45 per cent of heads are due to retire in the next decade, the figure for Wales is a startling 62 per cent.

In England, the college's own national professional qualification for heads, mandatory since April, will further limit the candidates available.

Yet its research tells us nothing about whether there will be enough qualified candidates willing and able to fill the vacancies.

What effect, for instance, will the fact that the profession is now becoming overwhelmingly female have on teachers' willingness to train for headship? And how ready will they be to move home for a new job?

From next September, the NPQH is also likely to become a requirement for candidates seeking headships in Wales, many of them in rural localities where the obvious attractions could easily be discounted because of family considerations. The NCSL solution seems to involve distributing responsibilities more widely in schools, a stance perhaps somewhat at odds with recent steps taken by the Westminster government to abolish management points to force scarce teachers to concentrate on teaching rather than management.

The avalanche of head and teacher retirements will hit schools as the remaining post-war baby-boomers bow out. The schools and authorities hardest hit will necessarily be those which until now have enjoyed the most stable staffing. This could mean trouble ahead for many schools in Wales for years to come.

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