> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: Headteacher Wanted

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Headteacher Wanted

Our school needs a new headteacher. The post was advertised in December, but staff were informed today that the post was being re-advertised due to a lack of applications. Our local newspaper obligingly informed the community that there had been ‘only one’ application.

According to several different sources, it is getting more difficult to recruit headteachers. Browsing around the internet, I found several articles -dating back over the last few years -talking about the crisis in recruitment.

This year-old article from the Scotsman, informs us that half the existing heads are set to retire over the next five years. Our director of education, Fraser Sanderson, is quoted as saying "People are looking at the job and saying, 'I can live happily without that'. It's the workload, pressure, accountability."

I can well imagine being a head teacher is stressful. Do other fields have the same sort of problem enticing people into leadership? If it’s peculiar to education, is it global? And why?

This article from the Guardian looks at some of the questions we might raise.
Should headteachers necessarily be older teachers? Might they be younger? Do they
even have to be teachers?

I’d love to know, what sort of lateral thinking is going on about this situation. Is the model that is being used wrong? What qualities do you look for in a headteacher?


OllieBray said...

One of the problems seems to be the lack of foresight by the Scottish Executive to fast track applications for the SQH programme. Where as south of the boarder there seems to be huge investment in leadership training for people that have not necessarily been teaching a very long time. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6256175.stm . Within the current SQH system it seems that you have to have been a depute for a number of years before you can actually get on the scheme. Many of the applicants then don’t go on to become head teachers because they are happy being deputes. I think the whole thing needs a bit of a shake up. There is currently also a problem recruiting head teachers for highland schools.

David Gilmour said...

One of my early memories of being on a school board was attending a recruitment training session. Our trainer - a DHT himself, I believe - asked what sort of things we thought should be looked for at interview. As the ideas flowed I naively suggested some work experience outside schools might be useful. Let's just say the reaction was, ahem, less than enthusiastic!

I hear on R4 this morning a story about Price Waterhouse suggesting HTs might come from non-teaching backgrounds. The objective of that report is probably more to do with finding ways of plugging the HT shortage gap than with improving teaching and learning.

I don't agree with their idea, though. They suggest that a DHT with responsibility for teaching and learning could report to an HT who might not have depth of understanding in that area. This means they see the HT role as one of management, not educational leadership. It's a model for the world of top-down initiatives that's putting people off the HT job in the first place.

guineapig mum said...

Does the use of business managers make the role of a headteacher any easier? I also heard the R4 article this morning and was thinking as I listened that you could simply turn the Price Waterhouse proposal around and have a HT with a teaching background with more non-teacher deputies. I don't really know what the business manager does but I can imagine that, apart from teaching, you would need a financial bod, facilities, communication, personnel, IT... Do you not think the best leaders in any field are the ones who can delegate effectively?


Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...

I think that Ollie is right, and that there does need to be a shake up. We do still need headteachers don't we?

I think the role needs to be more than simply a management one. I think it should be someone with 'educational leadership' But what exactly is this? Being respected first as a teacher? Understanding education?

I agree also that good leaders do delegate -they see the strengths of others and they give them real responsibility. I also want a head teacher who isn't frightened to take the lead when necessary. Ideally these two elements should exist in a sort of productive tension.

What about this thing of reluctance to take the job. What's that about?

ab said...

Interesting that in Spain (Catalonia anyway - not sure if it's all of Spain) teachers take turns in promoted posts. One is elected by one's peers to be HT for a short period of time. That seems far more collegiate in my mind, but would remove the potential for 'more money' that tragically is the motivating factor for many to get into promoted posts rather than ability/aptitude.