More areas with ‘struggling schools’ given access to leadership scheme

Struggling schools in 10 areas of England are to be given the chance to recruit “talented leaders” to help them improve.

The Futures Leaders Trust, a charity aimed at establishing a network of “exceptional” school leaders, announced today that further areas were to join the ‘Talented Leaders’ scheme first launched in September.

The charity analysed local authorities based on criteria including: Ofsted results, the attainment gap for pupils in receipt of free school meals versus pupils who are not, and the number of Teaching Schools in proximity.

Authorities which matched any, or all, of these criteria were offered the chance to work with the Future Leaders Trust as part of the government-backed ‘Talented Leaders’ scheme.

Schools in Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton on Tees, Sunderland, Norfolk, Southend-on-Sea, Bracknell Forest, East Sussex, Medway, Thanet and Portsmouth all chose to be part of the programme. Blackpool, Bradford, Suffolk and North Lincolnshire had already been announced as areas for the scheme.

The new headteachers will begin in school next September. Across the country 100 headteachers will be recruited to raise pupils’ achievement.

Heads will be matched to suitable schools and, working in small cluster areas, will be given a £50,000 government grant, membership of a peer support network, expert mentoring and an ongoing development programme.

Kate Chhatwal, chief programme officer, said appointed headteachers had the option to join academy trusts or set up multi-academy trusts as part of long-term development.

She said: “We want teachers to commit to three years in a school and develop senior leaders for the future.

“We are neutral on what they think is the best governance arrangement and we don’t support any particular programme. But if the headteachers, when going through that process, think those schools in the area would benefit in the long term from joining an academy trust, or becoming their own MAT or creating a federation and staying with the local authority then that is up to them.

Schools Minister David Laws said: “We recognise that some schools in rural, coastal or deprived areas can find it hard to recruit great leaders.

“Through the Talented Leaders programme we aim to recruit 100 exceptional school leaders, that will provide a real leadership boost to a struggling school, help to spread excellence and drive-up standards across the area.

“The announcement of these further areas will ensure even more schools can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our very best school leaders, so that every child can reach their full potential.”

Dominique Gobbi, a leader on the current Future Leader programme and is taking up a post in January as headteacher of Havelock Academy in Grimsby, said: “Future Leaders has done very good work in London, Manchester and Birmingham and these urban areas.

“Schools in coastal areas are not always challenging because of behavioural issues, but it can be because of a long-standing culture of passive behaviour and a lack of aspiration. Some towns will have no employment opportunities and still bear the scars of things such as the mine closures.”

Despite the challenges facing the areas involved in the programme, Heath Monk, CEO of The Future Leaders Trust, is optimistic about the programme.

He said: “Great head teachers make great schools, but finding great heads is much harder in some areas in England.

“The Talented Leaders programme will give 100 exceptional people the support they need to help their students succeed.”