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19,000 School Leaders May Be Needed By 2022 – Could Bringing In Non-Teachers Be The Answer?

New study suggests that growth of MATs, rising pupil numbers and exodus from the profession are contributing to a leadership crisis in England's schools

  • 19,000 School Leaders May Be Needed By 2022 – Could Bringing In Non-Teachers Be The Answer?

Three leadership training organisations – Teach First, Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust – have warned that schools across England could face a shortage of up to 19,000 school leaders by 2022 unless steps are taken to address the problem.

The findings are detailed in a joint report produced by the trio, The School Leadership Challenge [PDF], based on publicly available data and findings obtained from a focus group involving middle leaders and an online survey. Defining a ‘school leader’ as an assistant/deputy head, headteacher, executive headteacher or CEO, the report predicts that the shortage may be most acute in secondary schools.

It also points out that schools are already having to employ a range of stop-gap solutions to make up for a lack suitable candidates to fill the roles available – despite estimates that a combined £200 million per year is being spent by schools on leadership recruitment campaigns per annum. To reinforce the point, the report cites a finding from an NAHT survey that over 30% of advertised headteacher vacancies in 2015 received no applications.

The factors behind shortfall identified by the report include an increased number of executive positions fuelled by the growth of multi-academy trusts; rising pupil numbers; the opening of larger schools requiring more leaders; and a growing number of school leaders leaving the profession or opting for early retirement.

The solution – more diversity, more incentives…fewer teachers?

On a more positive note, the report suggests that there might be a large untapped pool of potential leadership talent among groups currently underrepresented in leadership roles, observing that 25% of classroom teachers are white and over the age of 45, while the same group currently makes up 45% of school leaders.

In terms of possible solutions, the three organisations recommend that the wider sector:

• Look into expanding the pool of potential leaders – including bringing in executives from outside the teaching profession
• Offer more schemes and opportunities that encourage career progression to headship
• Effect a change in culture whereby organised leadership development and progression becomes the norm
• Do more to raise awareness of the positive impact that school leaders can have

Responding to the report, Malcolm Trobe, 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.”

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