What greater reforms could boost school leader retention?


Mentoring and professional development reforms for teaching staff should include school leaders to boost retention on the back of the coronavirus pandemic, a new study has warned.

The report, from the National Association of Head Teachers’ (NAHT) School Improvement Commission, found that 47% of its members are now less likely to remain in leadership positions for as long as initially planned.

As a result, the union has called for the Department for Education to roll-out its early career teacher funding support to include all teachers and school leaders within the next five years.

According to the report, top quality continued professional development (CPD) could have a huge impact on staff retention, an important suggestion given that three in ten leaders currently leave head positions within the first three years of taking the role.

NAHT’s deputy general secretary Nick Brook described the outlook as “deeply concerning”, while many schools leaders were also found to be reducing funding for CPD given budget constraints.

The report suggests that focusing on long-term solutions will aid teachers and schools, which is why new head teachers should get “fully-funded” support to ensure they are prepared for the role, similar to that given to newly qualified teachers.

That support should include mentoring and access to coaching, as well as leadership training, while more experienced staff should be entitled to high quality CPD support.

Thirteen recommendations are included in the report, although cost estimates for them are yet to take place.

Among these is the potential for a bursary for middle-leaders to undertake national qualifications for leadership, and a call for greater collaboration between schools where regional underperformance is noted.

The report has also pressed for longer term investment into opportunity areas across England from the Department for Education, as well as exploring the possibility of expanding into other regions.

Mr Brook suggested that the education sector should use the coronavirus pandemic to drive positive change for those in the profession.

“We need to seize the opportunities presented to make changes to the parts of the education system that simply aren’t working as well as they should,” he said.

“The best response to the damage inflicted by Covid 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 in their job in whatever circumstances they work.”

The Department for Education has said widespread support and professional development for all staff is already available.

Furthermore, “tailored support for new head teachers who are at their least experienced and at most risk of leaving the profession” will be available via a new national professional headship qualification from September 2021.

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