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Head Teachers (Retirement)

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

We estimate that 38 per cent. of current head teachers will have retired by 2015. Dealing with the loss of their skills and experience will be a challenge and an opportunity. We have invested £30 million through the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services succession planning strategy to ensure that this demographic challenge is managed effectively. The national college continues to work closely with schools, local authorities and faith bodies around the country to find, develop and keep excellent head teachers.

The Minister has used the word “challenge”. Other people describe the number of head teachers retiring as a crisis. In that regard, may I ask the Minister why on earth the Government have announced at this stage the scrapping of 3,000 head teachers and leadership posts in schools? Will that not make the situation much worse?

I do not accept that there is a crisis in head teacher recruitment. There is a challenge, and that is one reason why we have given the national college £30 million to help develop succession planning, which is necessary. On the issue of axing 3,000 head teacher posts, that is not a figure that the Department has used. It is right as we develop schools for the future that we look at how schools are organised and managed, and federations are one way forward. Certainly, we have never used the figure of 3,000 head teacher posts to be axed.

There is an increasing number of cases in which schools advertise for heads, but the number of people who apply is small and the quality of the applicants is indifferent. To what does the Minister attribute that, and what does he intend to do about it, because far too many schools have acting heads for far too long a period?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, but the latest figures show that vacancies remain stable at below 1 per cent. As he has said, no school is without a head, but there are schools with acting heads. I have explained what we are doing about it: we are working with the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services to seek to identify at an early stage in their career those people who might want to be head teachers and work with them to achieve their goal. We have also tried to ensure that we do as much as we can to support head teachers in post in schools in their administrative and financial tasks. One reason why we have increased the number of administrative assistants and, indeed, of school business managers is so that head teachers can concentrate on their major task, which is teaching and learning in the school.