Leadership trends for schools across England: A DfE Report

The DfE has today published an important new piece of research about the school workforce, concentrating mainly on observations about Leadership roles. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-leadership-2010-to-2016-characteristics-and-trends

As a purist, I cannot get my head around the use of headteacher rather than head teacher but, apart from that grumble, there is much to welcome in this study. In my ways it fills in the gaps since the end of my annual reports for the NAHT (nd from time to time ASCL as well) that appeared between the late 1990s and 2012.

As these are no longer available to open view on the NAHT web site, I have reproduced the key issues from the 18th Report, and last in the series, at the end of this blog. This is because the DfE report, authoritative as it is, doesn’t then move to discuss in detail some of the potential policy implications arising from their findings. To provide one such example. If it takes a teacher potentially 16 years to become a secondary head teacher, then what are the implications for promotion possibilities for mature entrants with career experience outside of teaching? A use of the Sankey diagrams by age group of entrants to the profession might help answer this question.

The DfE Report also compliments TeachVac’s analysis of leadership vacancies during 2017 in the primary sector across England issued this January, and still available on request from enquiries@oxteachserv.com

The DfE Report comments that teachers with a senior leadership role (headteacher, deputy or assistant headteacher) form a small proportion of the overall teaching population, smaller in secondary (10.8%) than primary (18.5%) schools, which has grown since 2010 (up from 9.7% and 18.1% respectively). This growth was mainly in assistant heads, which have increased from 3.5% to 5.2% of teachers in primary schools and 5.6% to 6.5% in secondary schools between 2010 and 2016.

However, there are a greater percentage of classroom teachers in primary schools than secondary schools. This means fewer teacher in the primary sector have posts with salary additions due to additional responsibilities than in the secondary sector. This is the result of the subject related nature of teaching in secondary schools since the development of the comprehensive school model in the 1960s and 1970s replaced the class teacher model previously used in the secondary modern schools, and the elementary school sector before the 1944 Education Act. Such a divergence of staffing models is still reflected today in the formation of principles behind the DfE’s Common Funding Formula.

Those with an interest in school leadership will find both the report and the accompanying tables repay detailed study. I look forward to reading updates over the next few years. However, they will need to bear in mind the important change in the secondary sector during the period of the DfE’s analysis in relation to the creation of academies and the implications for issues such as the retention of school leaders.

Extract from: The Staete of the Leadership Market for Senior Staff in Schools 2011/12

18th Report issues – September 2012

By Prof John Howson & Dr Almut Sprigade

Each year this survey provides a dynamic picture of the state of the labour market for senior staff appointments on the Leadership Scale in publically funded schools. It complements the picture provided by the School Workforce Survey that allows an understanding of the state of the labour market for a particular date in November.

The most important questions that this survey addresses are; what are the trends in the demand for senior staff, and is the market able to meet them, both now and in the foreseeable future? Of course, even within the three different grades of head, deputy and assistant head associated with the Leadership Scale there are many different sub-markets associated with geography, type of school, phase of education and source of public funding.

The school sector is undergoing a period of significant change, especially in its governance, and such moves may affect the labour market, especially during any period when existing schools seek to change their status. This may, for example, have affected the number of deputy and assistant head posts advertised by secondary schools during the period when they converted to academy status. It is difficult to see why otherwise during a period of declining pupil numbers there should have been an increase in deputy head vacancies.

The key issue during recent years has been the effect of retirements on the labour market. Once again, this year, retirements have been the dominant reason for headship vacancies and a significant reason in the vacancies for both deputy and assistant headships. However, it seems likely that the peak year for retirements has now been passed, and that whilst remaining at a high level they may decline over the next few years. This assumption is based on the continuation of an orderly market with no sudden upturn, perhaps due to an unpredicted change in pay, pension or conditions of service.

According to the School Workforce Survey conducted in 2011 (DfE, 2012) there were just fewer than 4,000 primary heads in the 55-59 age group, along with 878 secondary heads, and 299 special school heads, making a total of around 5,200 head teacher likely to retire within the next five years. Assuming there is an equal distribution across the age range that equates to around 1,040 departures each year for each of the next five years. To this figure must be added a number of early retirements, say around a third of turnover if the figures in this report can be grossed up for the market as a whole. That would add somewhere around 900 departures to the total, providing for around 2,000 of the total of 2,678 recorded advertisements this year. This would represent some 75% of current turnover compared with just less than 70% recorded in this survey in the current year. However, if any of those in the ‘other category’ were actually retirements, then the difference might be smaller. On a worst case scenario of high early retirement plus expected levels of age-related retirement the turnover of head teachers might be expected to be around the level seen in 2010-11. Now that the abolition of the mandatory NPQH has widened the pool of eligible candidates, the question is whether the supply side can provide enough candidates considered as suitably qualified by governing bodies and whether there is sufficient appetite for the role from those candidates?

The evidence of application levels from this survey suggests that in schools that are neither at the extremes of the pupil number ranges nor associated with certain other characteristics, such as being a Roman Catholic school, the demand for the post of head teacher is sufficient to ensure most schools that advertise at the appropriate time will be able to make an appointment. However, the supply for certain more specialist segments of the market may be less secure. The fate of Roman Catholic schools, where recruitment has been an issue for most of the past two decades, shows that schools do eventually make an appointment. Evidence of how they perform during any interregnum and whether the appointment of a temporary head teacher can affect short-term performance might be worth investigating further.

It may, of course, be that the current wage freeze on teachers’ pay is spurring interest in leadership posts since promotion offers one way for a teacher to increase their salary when there are no cost of living increases. However, if that is the case with relation to applicants, it does not seem to have been the case with appointments, where a minimum period of service appears to be seen as relevant to an appointment as it ever was; more than five years’ service being required for an assistant headship; 10-15 years for a deputy headship; and more than 15 years for a headship. The age at which mature entrants to the profession reach this length of service may affect their chances of promotion, especially if they do not reach 15 years of service before the age of 45.

Although the number of returns from schools in the London area was below average there was some evidence that these schools were finding some difficulty in filling leadership posts, and especially for the more junior or more specialised vacancies.

The increase in advertised deputy posts in the secondary sector should mean that the supply of deputies will remain adequate even if vacancies for headships remain above the longer-term average. However, there were little more than 1,200 primary deputy posts advertised during 2011-12 compared with just over 2,000 headship advertisements. As 40% of headship appointments went to deputy head teachers, this suggests a demand for around 800 deputy head moving into headship each year or three quarters of new deputy head appointments. The position is further complicated by the fact that most appointments are probably from candidates who do not relocate when taking up a headship. This means that there needs to be a sufficient spread of candidates across the country.

The percentage of women being appointed to headships in the secondary sector does not yet reflect the percentage of female teachers working in secondary schools, and it would be helpful to establish whether or not women have the same success rate at interview as their male counterparts. A similar exercise for ethnic minority candidates might also be useful, especially now that the benchmark of the NPQH has been removed.

As has already been mentioned, Roman Catholic schools continue to find appointments more challenging than do other schools, with fewer applicants and smaller shortlists. Neither is per se a bad thing, but if they result in more unfilled vacancies then the process for schools is both more expensive and time consuming, and potentially unsettling.

There have always been fewer problems recruiting deputy and assistant head teachers than in recruiting head teachers and, generally, that has been the picture again this year although some primary schools appeared to have found difficulty in appointing an assistant head, and this may need further investigation as to the type and location of schools facing problems.

Overall, 2011-12 was another year in which the demands of the labour market were generally able to be satisfied by the supply of candidates putting themselves forward to fill the vacancies on offer. However, it is worth noting that a small number of schools that failed to appoint after a first advertisement continued to face problems when re-advertising their vacancies. If they are located in areas where support for the middle tier is now weak it is not clear what help would be available to them. As more schools become academies this may become more of an issue until a governance structure is worked out for schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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