Trends in school leadership

Last week, the DfE published an interesting paper about the characteristics and trends in school leadership over the decade from 2010 to 2020. School leadership in England 2010 to 2020: characteristics and trends – GOV.UK ( This document will no doubt provide the basis for many higher education dissertations and academic research articles. The DfE data also helps to validate the annual Leadership Review produced by TeachVac over the past few years that in itself has been the successor to the research into headship turnover that I commenced with Education Data surveys way back in the 1980s: genuinely a lifetime ago.

One of the issues that the DfE paper doesn’t draw out enough is the fate of older entrants into teaching. Now, I assume someone switching career in their late 30s isn’t normally interested in aiming for headship unless they have been persuaded to teach for that very reason. But, what of those in their late 20s? Can they expect the same promotion opportunities as new graduates? I expect that to be the case in the relatively flat hierarchies in the primary sector, but what of those talented career changers in large English and Mathematics departments? Can they achieve promotion fast enough to reach headships? Or is there still a barrier of age by which you must normally have reached first an assistant headship and then a deputy headship to be considered not ‘too old’ for a first headship in a secondary school?

The second leadership issue not adequately considered by the DfE paper is that of the staffing of leadership teams in faith schools, and especially Christian schools, in an increasingly secular society. Requiring adherence to the faith, not just in a notional manner but as a practicing adherent, can restrict the supply of candidates. How far, especially in the primary sector, where faith schools form a large proportion of the overall total of schools, does this issue affect leadership appointments. TeachVac annual review suggested that faith schools are more likely to need to re-advertise a headship than non-faith schools, although better management of teacher supply by some diocese has reduced the size of the problem from the levels seen more than a decade ago.

In terms of middle leadership, there seems little about difference between subjects in the study and any strain that a shortage of teachers in subject such as design and technology or business studies may place on middle leadership isn’t considered. Do teachers in these subjects reach middle leadership positions sooner that say, English or mathematics teachers?

Not surprisingly, in a survey that runs for 2010 to 2020, headteachers and other school leaders are more likely to be younger in 2020 than in 2010. This is partly due to the retirement of the ‘baby boomers’ in the years around 2010, and their replacement with new headteacher, usually in their early 40s. The trend to younger headteachers seems once again to be in evidence with record number so headteachers below the age of 40, although there are still relatively few headteachers appointed in their 20s. The ending of the compulsory retirement age has meant that in 2020 there were a record number of headteachers over the age of 65 still in post. Some may even be old enough to qualify for their bus pass.

This research is worth considering by policy makers, and it might be useful for the House of Commons Select Committee on Education to study the findings along with a discussion about whether or not the problems recruiting teachers has a longer-term effect on middle and senior leadership appointments?

New Service for schools


The National Vacancy Service for Schools

Advanced matching service

Schools pay for matches with interested teachers to be highlighted

No match made; no charge

£1,000 per annum maximum for all matches

on all vacancies by a secondary school in 2022

£100 sign-on fee, with 100 free matches, then £1 per match

TeachVac has already made 800,000 matches in 2022:

1.2 million matches in 2021

A cheap, but cost-effective service for schools

from the free job board covering state and private schools across England

email for full details

Middle Leaders need attractive salaries as well as new entrants

Contained within the DfE document to the STRB that was discussed in the previous post is the annual update on retention and wastage rates for teachers. This year, as part of a much more detailed analyses, there are tables for different subject groups and phases as well as for different parts of England.

As usual, the data are presented as percentages that need to be converted into numbers to make real sense what is really happening. The gross numbers for the profession as whole for entrant and those still in service after a year for the recent past are shown in the table.

New entrants into teachingentered serviceend Year 1loss in Year 1
Teachers in service

The number remining can vary by several thousand depending upon the starting number. Thus, 2015, a good year for recruitment into training, resulted in 23,031 new teachers in service at the end of year one. By contrast, in 2019, although nearly 250 fewer teachers departed than from the earlier entry year, the lower starting number resulted in only 19,837 of that cohort of teachers remaining. That’s some 3,000 fewer than from the 2015 cohort of starters.

Wastage doesn’t stop after the first year, and the DfE document considers wastage over time between STEM and non-STEM secondary subjects, although it doesn’t provide data for individual subjects. Taking design and technology as a STEM subject, the DfE’s 2013 ITT census had a total of 410 trainees. Now assuming the 82% STEM subjects after QTS is based for that group based upon the ITT census would leave some 336 teachers still working at end of year one.

Assuming the data is actually those granted QTS, and allowing for a 5% non-completion of the course, this brings the entry number down to 390 and those remaining after a year to 320.

From the 320/336 teachers must eventually come those to be promoted to TLRs, including as heads of department. Now, after five years of service, those with continuous service and excluding those with a broken service record, might be in the range of 220/250 teachers across the subject using the DfE’s percentage remaining in service for STEM subjects.

According to TeachVac’s database, there were 390 recorded vacancies with TLRs in 2020 across design and technology as a subject area, and 470 in 2021. Up to the end of the first week in March 2022, there had already been 228 advertised vacancies with TLRs in design and technology. Now some of the vacancies will have been repeat advertisements, and others re-advertisements. However, even if half were discounted for these reasons, it might still mean 200 or so posts each year. Such a number would be a very large percentage of the cohort of teachers in the subject and adds a further level of concern to the future of the subject.

Middle leadership is of vital importance to the successful operation of our schools, and in concentrating on the starting salary the DfE and STRB must not lose sight of the need for successful teachers willing to spend their careers in our state school system.

Academies increase cash balances

Hard on the heels of the Treasury Select Committee’s Report, with its comments on government funding of education – see previous post on this bog – comes the 10th Annual Academy Benchmark Report from Kreston Global Kreston-Academies-Benchmark-Report-2022-Web.pdf ( This detailed report raises a set of interesting questions, and also offers pointers as to why the labour market for teachers in the secondary sector may have been so buoyant during January 2022.

The Kreston Report comments that

Once again, we are seeing record breaking in-year surpluses for MATs, whilst secondaries are showing a small increase and Primaries have fallen to 2019 levels. But this top level statistic hides the complex mix of variables giving rise to the surpluses. This result is likely to be a by-product of Covid-19 factors rather than an intentional result. The good news is that fewer Trusts are now in a cumulative deficit position and only 19% had an in-year deficit (2020: 25%).”


The size of the in-year surpluses has gone up to record levels; there are less Trusts making in-year deficits, there are less Trusts with cumulative deficits, free reserves are up, and cash balances are up.” (page 12).

The Kreston Report adds that: “From conversations we have had with our Academy clients many were budgeting for in-year deficits or to break even, and were on track for this to happen. “(page 11).

Now, does this mean that a lot of the cash for catch-up programmes is already sitting in secondary school bank accounts? Why wasn’t the saving on supply teachers and other budget heading immediately transferred into support for pupils?

To allow reserves to increase during the pandemic raises questions abut either a lack of congruence between values and budgets or a less than perfect understanding of financial affairs by school leaders? Surely, neither is the case. However, the increase in balances, even if unexpected, does raise some interesting questions about the relationship between decision-making and educational values.

Way back in the 1990s, when I first worked on Assessment Centres for would-be headteachers, this was an issue of concern. Those in education are good at talking, but do they always possess the skills to put their values into actions? What is the relationship between the values of school business managers and education leaders, especially when faced with challenges for which there is no rulebook?

One reason for high cash balances cited by Kreston in the report is my old bugbear, saving for future capital spending. The Kreston Report says this “Some MATs do have a strategy of accumulating funds within the central fund to meet the costs of future capital projects, so this could explain why there are sizeable balances carried forward in some cases.” (page 20) My view has always been that revenue spending should be for today’s pupils, not those of tomorrow, especially when the non-physical environment is so challenged as it has been during the pandemic.

The Kreston report concludes with some interesting benchmark data, but not, as far as I can see, anything on staff recruitment costs. In view of the amount schools can spend in this area, that seems like a curious admission not to extrapolate it from the measure where it is no doubt currently buried.

Taken together, both the Select Committee Report on future spending and the Kreston Report on past trends make for interesting reading for anyone concerned with the education of the nation’s young people.

Are schools wasting £30 million pounds of public money?

TES Global, the largest supplier of paid-for teacher recruitment advertising in the field of education has just published their accounts for the year ending 31st August 2020. Those so far published are for TES Global Limited. Those for TES topco are yet to appear. The published accounts can be found on the Companies House page, by searching under TES Global.

The accounts for the year to 31st August 2020 included almost six months of the pandemic, so it is not surprising that turnover from continuing operations fell by around £2 million to £59.2 million. Thanks to interest receivable and other income of £25.3 million, the Group made an overall profit of £22.3 million. Without that income there would have been a loss of around £3 million; this despite cutting the wages and salary bill from just under £14 million to around £9.5 million, and slashing headcount from 235 to 191.

The sale of the TES owned Teacher Supply Business in December 2020, for a total consideration of £27 million including upfront cash of £12.5 million, will no doubt further help to strengthen the balance sheet. However, the income from those businesses were, presumably, included in these accounts.

Of interest to me, as Chair of TeachVac, and no doubt civil servants at the DfE running the DfE teacher vacancy site, was how the TES was doing serving the teacher recruitment market, and how much cash was it securing from state-funded schools for recruitment advertising, all of which is now on-line, like both TeachVac and the DfE sites.

As the TES has been pursuing a policy of persuading schools to pay an annual subscription for several years now, rather than point of sale advertising, the TES Group income has been less affected by the downturn in vacancies during the pandemic than it would have been if each advert had been paid for individually. A quick calculation from the published accounts suggests that while overall revenue fell by 4%, advertising revenue continued to benefit from the switch to subscriptions. Such income rose from £37.6 million the previous year to £42.4 million in 2019-2020. Traditional advertising income fell from £17.7 million to £10.9 million during the same period.

The TES has some 1,000 international schools and presumably schools elsewhere in the United Kingdom, as well as non- state-funded schools that contributed to the £42.4 million of revenue. A generous estimate might suggest perhaps £35 million was paid by state-funded schools in England in subscription income in 2019-2020 to the TES.

It is interesting to compare this with the DfE evidence to the STRB earlier this year, where at paragraph 45 they stated that:

With schools spending in the region of £75m on recruitment advertising and not always filling vacancies, there are very significant gains to be made in this area. Over 75% of schools in England 14 are now signed up to use the service and over half a million jobseekers visited Teaching Vacancies in 2020.

According to the latest DfE announcement, some 78% of schools have now signed up to the service,7CHNI,AUR327,TT9F6,1

I wonder where the other £30 million of so is going – surely not to the local press or eteach and The Guardian?

Either way, that is still a lot of cash schools are spending because they don’t have enough confidence in either TeachVac or the DfE sites to allow them to take the risk of not signing up to the TES. Or is it just inertia?

If the government is serious about helping schools save this money spent on recruitment advertising for other purposes, and the cash will surely be needed in the post-pandemic world, however speedy the recovery, given the amount of public cash spent in the past twelve months. There must be a campaign to encourage teachers to use the free sites, and for schools to always ask where applicants either received notice of the vacancy or saw the vacancy that they applied for. This will allow schools to evaluate the effect of paid-for advertising and the TES subscription compared with the use of the free sites instead.

Interestingly, TeachVac reached a new high of 6,000,000 hits in twelve months at the end of April. This was despite the fall in vacancies on the site during the past twelve months as schools cut the number of teaching post advertised.

May 2021 should be the first 1,000,000 hit month for TeachVac, with corresponding highs in visitors and vacancies matched as schools return to a more normal recruitment pattern, as explained in a previous post on this blog.

What about Middle leaders? Is there a concern about recruitment?

When there is a mis-match between the numbers of teachers required in certain subjects to meet the identified need by schools to staff a curriculum area various strategies are used to ensure that schools can deliver their timetables. One such strategy is using teachers with less than ideal subject knowledge until a better qualified teacher can be recruited.

However, if there is a shortfall in training, what are the consequences some years later for the recruitment of middle leaders in the subject? Design and Technology makes an interesting case study that I have used before. As a subject, it regularly fails to recruit sufficient trainees to meet the government’s target, especially since the demise of most of the undergraduate routes some years ago.

The UCAS data for the end of the 2020 cycle (discussed in an earlier post) provides data on the number of trainees recruited. (I could use the DfE’s ITT Census, but as this is not a subject that features much in Teach First numbers, the UCAS data covers most trainees).

Design & TechnologyRecruited into training*After 5% wastage

*Source: UCAS end of cycle for trainee numbers

The table shows the changes in recruitment over the past seven years with the figure for an assumed 5% non-completion of the course.

So how many middle leaders might be required in this subject? Using the TeachVac database, it was possible to identify some 390 promoted posts in the subject advertised by schools across England in 2020. After removing those linked to specific parts of the subject, especially food technology, where the promoted post may be as much a recruitment incentive as a real middle leadership position, there were 300 posts for middle leaders in the subject. After allowing for re-advertisements, of which it can be estimated that there were about 60 during the year, this meant around 240 likely vacancies for middle leaders of design and technology.

How long does a teacher need before being ready for middle leadership? This is not an easy question to answer. For the sake of this exercise, let’s start by assuming 5 years. Thus the training cohort of 2014 might have been in the market for middle leadership positions in 2020. Assuming 450 entered teaching, (447 rounded up), and demand was 240, this would mean nearly two teachers from that cohort for each vacancy for a middle leader.

Now followers of the labour market for teachers will know that retention is an issue. After five years of service, perhaps a third of those entering teaching are no longer teaching in state schools. So, we need to discount the 450 by a third. The new total is 315 for 240 vacancies; a much less healthier pool from which to draw middle leaders.

Fortunately, 2014 was a relatively good year for recruitment into training. What will happen when the 2017 cohort reach five years of service in 2023? Assuming the same level of wastage, there might be only around 200 teachers left from that cohort. Hopefully, demand for middle leaders will be lower, but if it is similar to the estimate of 240-250 vacancies for 2020, then looking down the road a bit, some schools are going to have a real recruitment problem in the middle years of the decade.

Solutions include persuading more from earlier cohorts to take on middle leadership, even if they were previously reluctant to do so; accelerating the newer cohorts into leadership – not possible until the 2019 and 2020 cohorts come through; merging design and technology with say, art and design where supply of middle leaders is better, into larger faculties offering a better career prospect.

Different schools will adopt different tactics, and some may also offer better salaries than in the past through larger TLR payments.

So, should there be concerns about the supply of middle leaders? I think there ought at the very least, to be some discussion about the issue, and which schools might be most affected by any possible shortages?

Sluggish start for teaching vacancies in 2021

January 2020 was a bumper month for teacher vacancies. Trainees, returning teachers and those looking for promotion were spoilt for choice across most of England, as secondary schools started recruiting early for September 2020. Fast forward a year, and with different priorities on the minds of school leadership teams, the slump in vacancies that started when the pandemic struck last spring has continued into the first part of January 2021.

TeachVac the vacancy site for teachers, where I am Chair, has recorded a 50% reduction in vacancies during the first 15 days of January 2021 compared with the same period in January 2020. In some secondary subjects, such as English and history, the slump has been even larger in percentage terms; vacancies are more than 60% down on last year.

Over England as a whole, there 1,300 fewer vacancies recorded by TeachVac during the first 15 days of January this year than during the same period last year. Looking back beyond the record rate of 2020, the January 2021 number is also below the number of vacancies recorded by TeachVac in both January 2018 and 2019.

Will these jobs return? The answer is that some will, but some won’t. The suggestion in the press that London has lost 700,000 of its population over the past twelve months, as foreign workers have returned home,  may help to explain why vacancies in the capital for teachers have been especially hard hit over the past twelve months. At present, the Midlands, both East and West, are also regions where there has been an appreciable fall-off in vacancies compared with last year.

In a recession, public sector workers with a secure job tend to stay put, so fewer teachers leaving either to take the chance on a new career or to teach overseas. This lack of movement has the effect of reducing demand for replacements. School budgets are under pressure as a result of the pandemic, so that is another factor that will delay recruitment activities, although TeachVac and the DfE site don’t cost schools cash. The DfE site does cost time and effort not required of schools by TeachVac.

As has been said in the past, there is no point in spending cash on recruitment until you have tried the free option and it hasn’t worked. TeachVac has matched 120,000 vacancies over the past two years and even if half resulted in an appointment that could have saved school millions of pounds in recruitment advertising.

TeachVac is currently preparing its reviews of 2020, and that on the Leadership Labour Market should be published next week: watch this blog for details. The wider review of classroom vacancies will appear later in the month. Both would have been faster had the government’s KickStart Scheme worked. On the Isle of Wight we still haven’t been offered any candidates through the Scheme, despite signing up almost on day one of the scheme’s announcement.

In summary, this may well be another year where the labour market favour employers over job-seekers, so registering with job sites such as TeachVac sooner rather than later may make sense for those seeking a teaching or school leadership post.

Leadership trends in schools- 2020

TeachVac the free to use teacher vacancy site is putting together its annual reviews of the labour market for teachers in England. The first of these is on leadership turnover in schools.

Here are some of the headlines from the draft report.

  • More leadership vacancies were recorded in the primary sector during 2020, while vacancies recorded in the secondary sector during 2020 remained at a similar level to 2019.
  • In the primary sector some 1,497 head teacher vacancies were recorded. The number for the secondary sector was 387 vacancies during 2020.
  • For schools advertising during the 2019-20 school year, there was a re-advertisement rate for primary schools of 28%: for secondary school headteacher vacancies, the re-advertisement rate was lower at 23%.
  • Schools in certain regions and with other characteristics that differentiates the school from the commonplace are more likely to experience issues with headteacher recruitment.
  • There were a similar number of vacancies for deputy heads in the secondary sector during 2020 than 2019. Fewer vacancies were recorded for the primary sector.
  • Secondary schools advertised slightly more assistant head teacher vacancies during 2020 than during 2019. There were fewer vacancies recorded in the primary sector during 2020 than in 2019. 
  • Tracking leadership vacancies has become more challenging as the means of recruitment have become more diversified in nature.
  • The covid-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the senior staff labour market from April 2020 until the end of the year.

What might be the outcome of the new lockdown? As the majority of vacancies at all levels in education are for September starts in a new job the later the more senior vacancies are advertised the more pressure on vacancies for other posts. Normally, half the annual volume of headteacher adverts appear in the first three months of the year. Will that pattern be replicated this year? Perhaps it is too early to tell. Will headteachers, and especially headteachers in primary schools faced with more problems than normal and lacking the level of administrative support that their secondary school colleagues enjoy just decide enough is enough and take early retirement? Will the pay freeze make matters worse, especially if pensions still rise in line with RPI?

TeachVac will be watching these trends for senior staff turnover, along with others in the labour market. Often in the past, a rising level of house prices has been bad for senior staff recruitment in high cost housing areas as staff can move to lower cost areas, but it is challenging for staff to move into those areas without incentives. The Stamp Duty relaxation has pushed up housing prices, at least in the short-term. Will these increases have an impact on leadership turnover?

The current age profile of the teaching profession should be favourable to the appointment of senior leaders but, as this blog has pointed out in the past, there may not be enough deputy heads in the primary sector with sufficient experience to want to move onto headship at the present time.

All these trends will need monitoring carefully as 2021 unfolds.

If you want the full report or data for specific areas, please contact

Worth a second look

Some posts on this blog deserve a second look. With nearly 1,100 posts now on the site, I don’t have a complete list, so even I am surprised when a visitor digs up a post from over seven years ago that resonates as much today as it did when originally posted.

Many of those that visit the blog today weren’t even in education, at least on the teaching side of the desk or camera, in 2013, so when it reappeared as the result of someone’s trawl through the archives, I thought I would ensure it was worth a second look to a new group of readers.

Winds of change in Manchester

Posted on 

The last two days I have been in Manchester for the SSAT Annual Conference. This is a celebration of many of the good things in school leadership. The delegates here are anything but average in their approach to education. The conference started with Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves talking about their new book: Professional Capital. In this increasingly secular age, where many head teachers are probably agnostics, it was interesting to hear Andy Hargreaves take the example of the parable of the master that leaves his servants a sum of money to use wisely in his absence and finds that two have invested while the third had just kept the money safe by burying the cash in the ground. The message of invest for progress was an interesting one.

At the same conference I participated in a panel debate about preparing teachers, and led a workshop on professional development. The following ten phrases are the ones that provided me with a framework for discussion in the workshop.

Hire exceptional people: add value.

Seek heroines and heroes: not villains and scapegoats.

Dump portmanteau careers: welcome career changers

Look for leaders of every age.

Education is a business not a market.

Sell the brand

Engage the family

Cash balances don’t educate children.

Quality assurance before quality control.

know the facts: tell the truth.

I had a good example of the last one of these while I was composing this post. I received an email that a Minister had confirmed the over allocation of ITT places was 9% this year. The fact is true, but disguises the more important information that the over allocation was in the order of 18% for secondary places, but only 6% in the primary sector.

Many of the other statements can generate discussion and some have already been aired in posts on this site. Hopefully, the remained will feature at some time in the future.

Reflections from a round table presentation

Foundation for Education Development Round Table

Part of 150th Anniversary of the 1870 Elementary Education Act

A synopsis of my presentation

Education workforce

Teacher supply over the past 150 years, and certainly since World War Two, has been a perpetual cycle or more accurately a sine wave, moving from shortage to surplus to shortage, mostly governed by the coincidence of the economic and demographic cycles.

 All schools are often only fully staffed when pupil numbers are low and the economy is in recession. A buoyant economy; rising birth rates and increases in length of education have created shortages that have most affected schools serving our more deprived communities.

The current situation

What are some possible issues within the workforce? Here are three dichotomies to consider:

Career Development

Personal Goals v System Needs

At every stage there can be tensions between the career goals of teachers and the needs of the system to fill vacancies at every point in the system from classroom teachers to head teachers in schools and the many roles beyond schools that need expertise in teaching. For example, the tension over seen in supporting candidates for headship when a school may lose a highly able deputy.

However, schools with a good track record of staff development attract staff that want to work in such environments and the turnover is more than compensated for by the staff attracted.

Teachers need support at every stage of their careers and currently CPD is not treated with the attention it deserves.

Where to work

Market v Direction

England has a very market-based approach to teaching jobs. A teacher is in charge of their own career and there is still little advice available. When should you seek more responsibility? Is it ever too late to look for a new post? Is there hidden discrimination in appointments?

In some countries, teachers are civil servants, and are directed where to teach. New teachers may serve early stages of their careers in challenging locations that contain posts that are otherwise hard to fill.  Governments in England have dabbled with the idea of ‘direction’ from Fast Track to the coalition government’s desire to parachute heads and middle leaders into certain schools and the discussion of ‘super-heads’, but the market system has so far triumphed. That triumph has been at a significant financial cost to schools and teachers. 

Both approaches have advantages and challenges. As noted, one approach is expensive, with schools spending millions of pounds on recruitment advertising for a process that should cost less than £3 per vacancy. (TeachVac data) The other takes away freedom from individuals – that freedom was a reason I became a teacher not a civil servant. But, as teaching is becoming a global career, can we afford to lose large numbers of teachers overseas?

Making teaching an Attractive Career

Intrinsic v Extrinsic Factors

Teachers don’t usually join just for the pay, but there are few other ‘perks’. Teachers work an ‘employer-directed form of flexitime and on balance have seen other workers catch up on the holiday front, This year has revealed how important teachers are as key workers and how well regarded they are by sections of society. Their workload needs to be constantly monitored and the implications of the changes in technology on re-training are not insignificant.

Finally, the importance of both

Morale and Accountability

These are not alternatives, but essential considerations for an effective teaching profession. Overload accountability and create low morale and there is a problem. At present we need to ensure teachers and leaders feeling drained by their efforts don’t leave the profession because they feel under-valued, especially by government.

To end with a personal plea: To celebrate the 150th anniversary of State Funded Schooling

Make ‘TEACHER’ a reserved occupation term

And as a bonus, create some Regis Professorship of Education as well, to demonstrate the status of the profession.