Market forces or national pay scales?

The DfE has announced that the Academies Minister, Lord Agnew, has written to 28 chairs of trustees as part of the Government’s commitment to curb what it feels are ‘excessive’ salaries based on the size, standards, and financial health of trusts. The academies have been asked to provide more details on the pay of executives who earn more than £150,000 – and those earning £100,000 if two or more people in a school earn a six-figure salary. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-minister-calls-on-academies-to-justify-excessive-pay

This issue of six figure salaries has concerned the government for some time now, and comments about their letters to Trusts have featured in previous posts on this blog during the past year, ever since the issue first surfaced as a matter of concern.

Schools Week has publish a full list of the Trusts the DfE has written to at https://schoolsweek.co.uk/holland-park-school-warned-over-heads-260k-salary-as-minister-writes-to-28-trusts/

Interestingly, Holland Park School is one of the Trust to receive a letter. Their accounts lodged at Companies House, for the year to end August 2018, show the highest paid staff member receiving an emolument [sic] in the range of £260,000-£270,000 for the year.

Those with a long memory stretching back into the early 1990s will recall that as a large secondary school Holland Park always paid at the top end of the salary scale. But, how to justify around double the national rate for the job as identified by the School Teachers Review Body and the Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document? Well, ever since a Secretary of State allowed academies to ignore both of those documents, the genii was out of the bottle. Indeed, Holland Park School had three staff earning more than £140,000 in 2017-18.

The school is judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and is a Teaching School. The examination results are excellent, but does any of this justify paying such high salaries to senior staff? As a single school trust the head isn’t managing several schools, so there cannot be that argument for additional pay.

Is there an argument around market forces? Without such pay the school would not attract and keep a head teacher? Research into the turnover of senior staff in school using TeachVac data for 2017-18 suggest that only around 12% of secondary schools failed to appoint a head teacher when seeking to make an appointment. The figure is higher in the primary sector.

After more than 30 years of studying the labour market for senior staff in schools, I would suggest that rarely has there been a period when finding secondary head teachers that been easier than at present.  You can justify a recruitment allowance to help heads settle in a new area, but is a differential of around ten times the pay of a newly qualified teacher acceptable? The government clearly thinks not.

Should all public sector schools be brought back within a national pay framework and was it a mistake to allow schools to go their own way? Perhaps the real mistake lies with a refusal a decade or so ago to set rules for what was an Executive Head Teacher and how much they should be paid.

 

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A question for the Cardinals

Why do Roman Catholic schools find more difficulty in recruiting a new headteacher than do other schools? I first posed this question more than thirty years ago, soon after I started looking at trends in vacancies for school leaders in the early 1980s.

After a break of five years, I returned to the subject of vacancies for school leaders in a report published last January. I have just completed the first draft of the 2018 survey into leadership vacancies. The full report will be available from TeachVac at enquiries@oxteachserv.com early in the New Year. You can reserve a copy now.

Once again, in 2018, Roman Catholic schools, and especially those in some diocese, weren’t able to appoint a headteacher after the first advertisement by the school. The data comes from TeachVac, the free job board that costs schools and teachers nothing to use.

(As an aside, I wonder why the DfE didn’t contract with an existing provider such as TeachVac, eteach or even the US owned TES to provide a comprehensive free job site rather than building their own site. Perhaps there are different rules for Brexit and hiring ships from companies still to start their service than for designing government web sites for far more money than it would have cost to buy in the service.)

Anyway, back to the matter in hand, TeachVac recorded that some 57 of the 124 Roman Catholic schools that were recorded as advertising for a primary headteacher during the 2017-18 school year needed to re-advertise the post: a re-advertisement rate of 46%. Other schools had re-advertisement rates for vacancies first advertised during this period in the low 30%s.

Now, some diocese, have reduced re-advertisement rates by appointing deputy heads from secondary schools to run primary schools. I was once sceptical of this as a solution, but can now see that just as a secondary school headteacher isn’t an expert in all subjects taught in the schools, so a primary headteacher needs leadership qualities, backed by experienced middle leaders that understand the different stages of learning and development in the primary sector.

Using a different measure of total re-advertisements to schools advertising a vacancy for a headteacher reveals that a small number of schools have extreme difficulty in recruiting a new headteacher. Some of these schools just start at the wrong time of year.

Overall, almost every primary school of any type that advertised a headship in December 2017 re-advertised the post at some point during 2018. Unless, these schools used a subscription model that allowed for as many advertisements are required to fill the post, the governors were just wasting the school’s money if they used a paid for publication or job board for the December advert. Those that used TeachVac would have not faced that problem, because it wouldn’t have cost them anything.

As Britain becomes a more secular society, all faiths will need to address the question of how to find the next generation of leaders for their schools. With the approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act, such schools seem likely to remain a part of the landscape, whatever the feelings and views of those that would prefer an entirely secular state school system.

 

 

Update on head teacher recruitment

Way back at the beginning of May this year, I reported on trends in primary leadership recruitment. The data came from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the free to use recruitment site that costs both schools and teachers nothing to use, and where I am chair of the company.

With a miserably wet day yesterday, I thought I would take a second look at the data for 2018 in the area of primary head teacher recruitment. So far, it I seems to be turning out to be a pretty average year. TeachVac has records of more than 1,200 advertisements for a head teacher, placed by primary schools. Of these, around 22% are re-advertisements placed more than a month after the original advert appeared. In May, I reported some 175 schools had been forced to re-advertise a headship; by last week that number had risen to close to 225.

The number of schools placing multiple re-advertisements, each at least four week apart, had also increased; from 25 recorded in May, to a current number of around 40 schools. This includes one school with an original advert plus four re-advertisements. I do hope each one didn’t come with a separate bill for advertising.

As in the past, schools associated with the various faiths seem to be more likely to have to re-advertise than non-faith schools.  Of course, it might not be the faith aspect that is causing the re-advertisement, although I think that may be part of the issue. Size, geography and type of schools, whether or not it is an academy, for instance, can all play a part.

In the past Roman Catholic run schools in the North West rarely featured in the list of schools challenged when seeking a new head teacher. This year they account for more than 40% of such schools that have re-advertised.

TeachVac could also investigate the effects of other variables such as size of school; ofsted grades and timing of any inspection report along with output measures such as Key Stage results and progress of pupils over time. However, we don’t have the research funds for such analysis at this point in time. Nearly a decade ago, the then National College sponsored an investigation into ‘hard to fill headships’. I am not sure it was ever published, and assume that it is now buried somewhere deep in the archives of Sanctuary Buildings, if it hasn’t already been consigned to the National Archives at Kew.

Overall, the message to chairs of governors, and governing bodies as a whole, remains the same as it always has been. If your head teacher announces that they are leaving, either to retire or to take on a new challenge, the two most likely reasons for a change of headship, then ask three questions; is their someone in the school we could appoint either directly or after some professional development; are there likely to be candidates from within travelling distance of the school; if neither of these can be answered in the affirmative, how are we going to ensure a smooth succession that doesn’t affect the pupils and staff at the school?

There is plenty of good advice out there along with lots of high quality candidates. Hopefully, schools will experience a great term recruiting heads to their vacancies: good luck.

Update on Leadership trends in the primary sector

Some primary schools are still finding it difficult to recruit a new head teacher. Around half of the 151 local authority areas in England have at least one primary school that has had to pace a second advert so far this year in their quest for a new head. In total more than 170 primary schools across England have not been successful at the first attempt, when looking for a new head teacher.

As some schools are still working through the recruitment process for the first time, following an advertisement placed in April, the number of schools affected is likely to increase beyond the current number as the end of term approaches. Some 25 schools have had to place more than one re-advertisements in their quest for a new head teacher. London schools seem to be faring better than those in parts of the North West when it comes to making an appointment after the first advertisement.

As expected, some faith schools and schools with special circumstances: small school; infant or junior schools and those with other issues feature among the school with more than one advertisement.

The data for this blog comes from TeachVac, the no cost to schools and applicants National Vacancy Listing Service for teaching posts in schools anywhere in England that is already demonstrating what the DfE is spending cash on trying to provide. See for yourself at www.teachvac.co.uk  but you will have to register as TeachVac is a closed system. Such a system prevents commercial organisations cherry picking vacancies and offering candidates to schools for a fee. (TeachVac published a full report on the primary leadership sector in 2017 in January 2018.)

Time was, when appointing a deputy head teachers in the primary sector wasn’t regarded as a problem. Are candidates now being more circumspect when it comes to applying for deputy head teacher vacancies? Certainly, so far in 2018, a third of local authorities have at least one school that has had to re-advertise a deputy head teacher vacancy. The same parts of the county where headship are not easy to fill also applies to deputy head vacancies. This is an especially worrying aspect, since the deputy of today is the head teacher of tomorrow.

Assistant head teacher vacancies are still relatively rare in the primary sector, so it is of concern that 37 local authority areas have recorded at least one vacancy that has been re-advertised so far in 2018. London boroughs that have fared well at the other levels of leadership, seem to be struggling rather more at this level of appointment.

Is this data useful? What should be done with it if it is useful? The DfE have cited data as one of their reasons for creating their own vacancy service, but it will be 2019 at the earliest and possibly not until 2020 that they will have full access to this type of essential management data.

If there is a valid concern about filling leadership positions in the primary sector at all grades then, at least for academies, the government needs to understand what is happening and arrange for strategies to overcome any problem. That’s what strategic leadership of the academy programme is all about. As Labour backed academies in last week’s funding debate, they should work with the government to ensure all academies can appoint a new head teacher when they first advertise. The government should also recognise the role of local authorities in helping with finding new school leaders for the maintained school sector.

A matter of semantics?

Is it headteacher or head teacher? The DfE generally seems to favour the former, as indeed I have always done since I started collecting data about headteacher turnover way back in the early 1980s. However, in an idle summer moment I thought that I would see whether there was any uniformity on the way the term was used? In an on-line search, the Oxford dictionaries and the Collins dictionaries provide a definition using the two words ‘head teacher’ for a school leader, whereas the Cambridge dictionary used the one word headteacher to describe the person in charge of a school. So, no agreement there then. There have been a number of different threads on bulletin boards and other question and answer sites over the years than seem to have come to no definite conclusion. Some now some use terms such as principal instead, and I also wonder if it is generally accepted that headmaster/headmistress seem to belong to a different age?

Whether either to split a word into two in order to describe a position or to use the concatenated version is a relatively trivial issue suitable for discussion in the dog days of summer as we await the deluge of the results season; clearing and the start of the new school term that is fast approaching.

This blog has campaigned, albeit soto voce, for the term teacher, and by extension headteacher, to be a reserved occupation term that can only be used by those accredited by a recognised body such as the General Teaching Councils outside England in the other home nations and the College in England. This could be a morale boost for teachers that would cost the government nothing in relative terms to achieve and would reverse the ‘govian’ notion that anyone can teach as opposed to the fact that anyone can instruct those that want to be taught. Teaching and instruction are not the same occupations, as the Newsom Committee observed more than half a century ago, (in passing it was 64 years last week that Sir John Newsom submitted his report – see blog post – Half our Future) when citing evidence on the issue of teacher preparation from the then Committee charged with discussing the subject. In those days, discussions between civil servants and others with an interest in schooling often took place in advisory committees and were more transparent than today when so much happens behind closed doors.

Anyway, this was a blog about words and not deeds, so to return to the original theme for one last time; should there be a new term for someone responsible for more than one school? I have never liked the term ‘executive headteacher’ especially since it is something of an oxymoron as their role is often strategic and not executive in nature. Historically, the strategic role was that of education officers up to an including chief education officers, but that role became blurred with the creation of Children’s Services under Labour for good, if not always helpful, reasons.

Diocese often still have education officers, perhaps showing how little some have changed despite the revolution in the education world around them. MATs prefer business terms, such as chief executive and, at least like the term education officer, these titles recognise the lack of any teaching in the role. By reminding headteachers of the origin of their role we can hopefully help them to focus on what is still the essential heart of the work of a headteacher: teaching and its leadership in a school.

 

Headship Concerns

Now that we are into April, it is possible to look in more detail about the progress of headship appointments during the first quarter of the year. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has identified just over 800 schools seeking a new head teachers during the first three months of 2017. The majority are schools in the primary sector. Indeed, of the 52 secondary schools identified as seeking a new head teacher, only five have so far been recorded as re-advertising; a percentage rate of 10% for re-advertisements. This suggests little real difficult for most secondary schools that are seeking a new head teacher. Or, maybe, that some MATs are managing this process internally rather than resorting to outside advertising.

The position in the primary sector is much less satisfactory. Of the 336 schools that were tracked as advertising in January by TeachVac, 25% had re-advertised by the end of March. Of these schools re-advertising, 16 have already placed 2 further rounds of advertisements after their initial January advertisement.  The overall position for the 239 schools recorded as advertising in February is little better, with 21% have re-advertised by the end of March.

There are significant regional differences, as well as differences between faith schools and other schools, with rural schools also being much more likely to have re-advertised as are separate infant and junior and first schools. Indeed, as in the past, any factor that makes a school stand out as different from the majority of its peers seems to make finding a new head teacher more of a challenge. This is something that governors need to be aware of when constructing their advertisements and setting out a recruitment timetable.

Interestingly, Hampshire seems to be faring less well than many other parts of the country, with a significant re-advertisement rate for schools originally advertising in January:  a trend that seems to have continued into February. This is in stark contrast to some of the more northern parts of England where there are much lower rates of re-advertisement, even for schools of a similar background.

With the lack of any mandatory qualification for headship, it is always difficult to be certain what the size of the potential pool of new school leaders is in any given year. This lack of knowledge and pre-planning is a real handicap in helping ensure schools with be able to recruit the next generation of school leaders.

Whether the new funding formula has affected where applicants will apply is too soon to say, but other factors such as house prices and the availability of work for a partner have always been an issue for some schools when seeking a new head teacher. In that respect, is interesting to see that schools across most of London are not yet re-advertising headships in any significant numbers. However, TeachVac will be watching to see this is really the case of it is rather that re-advertisements are slower to appear than in some other parts of the country.

For anyone seeking more details, do make contact with TeachVac.

 

Crisis in primary headship?

Last December this blog asked a question about whether there was a crisis in finding leaders for primary schools in England? As a result of new data collected by TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free to use job board for teacher and school leader recruitment, we are able to make a first attempt at answering that question.

TeachVac recorded 359 vacancies for head teachers during January 2017, of these 336 were in the primary sector, with 23 advertisements seeking a head teacher for a secondary school. Of the total, some 89 schools had placed a second advert more than 21 days after the original advert and up to the 6th March 2017. That’s a second advertisement rate of 25%. It is possible that the percentage will increase further as schools try to complete their recruitment process and interview the short-listed candidates.

The recorded distribution of schools advertising across the country was:

East Midlands 22
East of England 47
London 37
North East 17
North West 56
South East 84
South West 41
West Midlands 31
Yorkshire & the Humber 24

One school advertised twice in January on the 3rd and 31st

Among the 89 schools that had placed a second advertisement by the 6th March, over half were in either London or the two regions surrounding the capital. In contrast, very few schools in the north have yet re-advertised a headship.

As has been common when I studied trends in the labour market for senior staff in schools for almost 30 years, between 1983 and 2011, church schools, feature prominently in the list of schools that have re-advertised a head teacher vacancy. There are also a disproportionate number of infant and junior schools, as I suggested might be the case in the December blog. Any factor that makes a school different for the average school increase the risk of the need for a re-advertisement.

TeachVac has a growing amount of data on the schools advertising, in many case including the salary on offer where stated and the background to the school. This allows cross-checking on Ofsted inspections; free school meal percentages and pupil outcomes.