Union warns of post-pandemic head teacher ‘exodus’

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An education union has warned of a post-Covid exodus of head teachers, with almost half who responded to a survey admitting they are less likely to remain in school leadership for as long as they had planned.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said there was a need for a “post-Covid revolution” of greater support and professional development for teachers and school leaders to ensure schools were set up to respond to future challenges.

“The pandemic has compounded the sense of dissatisfaction with the state of education that had begun to grow among some leaders before the crisis hit.

It has highlighted the importance of community, reaffirmed the importance of supporting students’ well-being as well as academic progress; and it has demonstrated that schools are not islands,” said Nick Brook, NAHT deputy general secretary.

“When we emerge from the pandemic, there can be no sense of merely flicking a switch and returning to the way things were, with all the same fault-lines as before. And we cannot wait until the pandemic passes before considering how education must change in the future.

“The best response to the damage inflicted by Covid-19 on learning is to ensure that every pupil is taught by an expert teacher, someone who is continually improving their skills and is properly supported to do their job, in whatever circumstances they work.”

The union’s October survey into staff wellbeing, which had 2,061 respondents, showed that:

  • Seven in 10  head teachers reported being less or much less satisfied in their current role than this time last year
  • Almost half (47%) were less likely to remain in their role for as long as initially planned because of the challenges the pandemic has brought
  • An overwhelming majority (88%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the interim Ofsted inspections that have taken place this term and 90% disagreed or strongly disagreed with proposals for full inspections from January 2021.

The NAHT’s School Improvement Commission recommended that the government does more to support school leaders and teachers by:

  • Extending the commitment to funded support for new and recently qualified teachers to all teachers and leaders by 2025
  • Developing a fully-funded support package for all new head teachers
  • Creating a new bursary fund to facilitate and incentivise participation in national professional qualifications
  • Developing a more compelling proposition to encourage leaders to become National Leaders in Education
  • Creating a national network of high-quality teacher development providers
  • Providing more support and incentives for leaders working in the most deprived communities
  • Refocusing the work of Ofsted to provide stronger diagnostic insight for struggling schools.

The Department for Education said it was improving support and professional development for teachers at all stages of their career, including headteachers who were most at risk of leaving the profession.

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