Pressure on heads has created a crisis

School children in a classroom. (Danny Lawson/PA Wire via Jewish News)
School children in a classroom. (Danny Lawson/PA Wire via Jewish News)

Schools in England are facing a crisis.  It has been brewing for a while and it is getting worse.

In 2016 a study found that almost a third of school leaders were leaving within three years of taking up a position.   More recently, a poll by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that almost half of school leaders said they were likely to leave their jobs prematurely once they had steered their schools through the COVID crisis.

Schools in our community are not insulated from this problem and we have seen a worrying stream of Headteachers and senior leaders leaving their posts.  Considering the years of training and development required to reach a senior position, this loss has a potentially devastating impact on the future of our schools.

However, this should not come as a surprise.  The world of education has transformed with increased legislation, repeated new Ofsted frameworks, changes to examinations, broadening of the curriculum, British Values, Protected Characteristics and the academisation programme.  The role of the headteacher has similarly evolved from a pastoral and educational role model to being an administrator, HR and finance officer.

Our most successful teachers are taken away from the classroom and, often with little training, expected to take on roles as middle leaders and then senior leaders.  At each stage they are further removed from the classroom and increasingly ill-equipped and unprepared.

Headteachers are required to have an exceptionally diverse skills set.  The pressures are immense; safeguarding, staffing, Ofsted, Pikuach, the ever-present financial shortfall and recently the enormous challenges of Covid.  It is too often a thankless task, and it is little wonder that so many are reviewing their positions.

We are exceptionally fortunate to have some outstanding school leaders, but we need to ensure they are supported, invested in, and recognised, for their excellence, their professionalism, and their dedication.



About the Author
Rabbi David Meyer is Executive Director of the Partnership For Jewish Schools (PaJeS).
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