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TES headteacher audit - Over half secondary leaders eye academy status

As the whole education sector enters a period of enormous upheaval, The TES asked 400 heads for their views on a wide range of key issues. Here, David Marley introduces the headline findings

As the whole education sector enters a period of enormous upheaval, The TES asked 400 heads for their views on a wide range of key issues. Here, David Marley introduces the headline findings

The majority of secondary heads are interested in their schools converting to academy status, a TES headteacher survey has found.

School leaders are motivated by independence from local authorities and the opportunity to gain greater funding, the survey found.

The level of interest among primary schools was lower, with around one in five heads saying they would definitely or possibly apply to make the switch.

But if replicated nationally, that would still result in an estimated 4,000 primaries becoming academies.

The findings come in a wide-ranging survey of heads' opinions on topics including pay, the curriculum, school funding and pupil behaviour and changes to the profession over the past decade. It also includes lessons for the new Government.

Headline findings include:

- Almost two-thirds of secondary heads and 61 per cent of primary heads say there has been significant improvement in education because of increased funding.

- Sixty-nine per cent of secondary heads believe the quality of newly qualified teachers has improved, as opposed to just 36 per cent in primaries.

- Teaching assistant jobs are at risk if budgets are cut, with around a quarter of heads saying the positions are vulnerable.

- A third of secondary heads and almost half in primaries agreed that behaviour has got markedly worse over the past ten years.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said last week that two-thirds of outstanding schools have expressed an interest in academy status.

The survey results suggest that interest stretches far beyond those schools with a top Ofsted rating: statistics released last week showed that just 11 per cent of schools inspected between September and March were judged outstanding.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was not surprised so many secondaries are interested in becoming academies, but urged schools to wait for more details before "jumping in".

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a "very aggressive" attitude from some local authorities over the recent Sats boycott may have contributed the number of primary schools considering becoming academies.

Primary heads are split on the quality of newly qualified teachers now, compared to a decade ago, with 36 per cent saying they had improved, compared with 37 per cent who said quality had deteriorated.

Dr Dunford blamed worsening levels of behaviour in society more generally for some of the problems being experienced in schools.

"Schools are expected to continue to implement the behaviour norms of the 1950s while society has a very different view of what is acceptable," he said.

"What appears to be the norm in many city centres would be cause for exclusion in schools."

Mr Brookes said that many new teachers are "absolutely brilliant", but added that primary heads in particular are concerned that a narrow curriculum, tests and the national strategies mean that some teachers lack creativity.

On teachers' pay, which is due to come under pressure in the coming years as the Government cuts the budget deficit, more than 75 per cent of both primary and secondary heads said classroom teachers are "sufficiently well paid".

A smaller sample of 11 academy heads - who have freedom to pay staff outside national pay scales - were the only group who said that classroom teachers are not paid well enough.

However, frontline staff appear vulnerable as school budgets are squeezed.

While most heads said spending on equipment would be the first thing to go, teaching assistant and teaching jobs - which typically account for between 80 to 90 per cent of school spending - are also identified for cuts.

For the full survey findings, visit

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