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UK schools ‘may face shortage of 19,000 headteachers and deputies by 2022’

Nearly one in four schools could be affected by the shortage of head teachers, deputies and assistant heads

A report by the Future Leaders Trust, Teaching Leaders and TeachFirst, suggested that England could be facing a shortage of up to 19,000 senior teachers by 2022 if action is not taken to rectify this.

An increase in pupil numbers in conjunction with more school leaders retiring and leaving the profession early and an increasing demand for senior staff to work at academy trusts, means that more people are needed to step into senior roles.

Problems with staff recruitment was revealed in the report, with recruitment expenses hitting £200m per year within schools.  Many of these recruitment drives then fail to find good quality candidates and so proves a costly procedure.

It concludes that there are four main issues in finding qualified staff to fill these senior roles:  potential head teachers are put off by some of the challenges of the job; the profession lacks a culture of development and feedback; recruitment of head teachers is inconsistent; and leaders do not feel they get enough support or feel motivated to stay in leadership roles.

Up to 8,000 more senior teachers may be needed to meet a growth in leadership roles at academy trusts, while there is also a need for 2,000-3,000 more in the current school system. At the same time, the supply of school leaders is expected to fall by 8,000 due to retirement and staff leaving the profession early.

Secondary schools are currently affected the most, but by 2022, primary schools will be impacted too. Schools teaching the most disadvantaged students are most likely to be hit by a lack of teachers.

“These schools make up 40% of all schools in England but are likely to face half of the leadership shortage. By 2022, our most challenged schools may need up to 10,000 more school leaders.”

The report calls for a new generation of school leaders to be developed by supporting them to move up the career ladder. It suggests more should be done to support school leaders and to improve perceptions of the role. Non-teaching senior roles could also be opened up to more quality candidates by recruiting outside the profession.

Chief executive-designate of the merging Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust, James Toop, said: “Great school leadership is essential for improving school performance and children’s life chances, especially in deprived areas of England. We have worked closely with key partners – from individual schools to the Department for Education – to develop great leaders but this report is a challenge for us to do more.

“We must develop more leaders who are committed to educational equality and excellence, from middle leaders to academy trust CEOs. We need to ensure systematic leadership development is normal in every school so every child can achieve.”

The Department for Education said: “We do not recognise these figures. The latest school workforce data shows that there are 68,800 FTE leaders in state schools in England. Furthermore, since 2010 the proportion of schools reporting a head teacher vacancy has decreased and the number of school leaders over the age of 50 has decreased significantly.

“However, we recognise that we need to work with the profession to ensure we can develop even more great school leaders. We are doing this through a range of professional training including the National Professional Qualifications, the High Potential Middle Leaders and High Potential Senior Leaders programmes to develop excellent leaders in challenging schools.

“We are also continuing to support the expansion of TeachFirst to recruit more top graduates with the potential to become future school leaders in some of the most challenging parts of the country.”

Malcolm Trobe, the interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Many more school leaders will be needed over the next few years and it is vital to take action now to address this issue.

“The government and profession have to work together to ensure the right training and development opportunities are in place to encourage and nurture future leaders. To this end, ASCL is working with other organisations to set up a new foundation to support leadership development.

“We must also work together to send out positive messages about school leadership. It is, of course, a challenging role, but it is also a tremendously fulfilling one, and we hope that many teachers will step forward to seize the great opportunity to become the school leaders of the future.”

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