Headteachers at one of the largest academy trusts in the country will be able to access £100,000 worth of investment in continuing professional development (CPD) each over five years under a new scheme to boost retention.
Academies Enterprise Trust principals will also be able to take a one-term professional sabbatical after five years in post and be offered up to 100 hours of CPD per year under the £5.7 million initiative.
Becks Boomer-Clark, chief executive of AET, said: “Too often, school leadership can feel isolating, lonely and difficult. We want to change that.
“Of course leading a school is hard, but it’s also one of the most incredible and rewarding things you will ever do – we want to bring the joy back into the role, by giving our headteachers exceptional development and support so they can stay fresh and energised – and feel invested in.”
Department for Education data shows 2,341 headteachers left the profession in 2021-22, a rate of 10.6 – the highest since 2016-17.
Retention rates improved immediately after Covid, with concerns the higher rate now could be pent-up demand for people moving jobs.
But Schools Week reported in October that headteacher turnover remained 14 per cent higher than before the pandemic, which suggested departures were no longer associated with a Covid backlog but with the increased demands of the job.
‘Serious about leadership development’
“Great schools need great leaders which is why we are investing up to £5.7million over the next five years in our leaders,” Boomer-Clark said.
“We asked ourselves what it would take to increase the level of investment in headteacher support and development so that it starts to get closer to other equivalent professions.
“We want our leaders to have agency, confidence and choice. This starts by giving them permission to prioritise their own development.”
Each head will get their own individual development account which they can use to fund CPD.
The trust also wanted to “match the focus of learning and development that you see in places like Singapore, where 100 hours of professional development is standard practice.”
Notes from a visit by the education committee to Singapore in 2012 record discussion of the southeast Asian city state’s CPD offering.
Professor Paul Teng, from the National Institute of Education (NIE), the only teacher training institution in Singapore, told MPs “CPD is not seen as a means to raise one’s salary in Singapore, but rather a core principle of teaching”.
“This was reflected in the 100 hours annual entitlement common to all teachers, which Professor Teng explained could be taken through flexible opportunities such as evening classes,” the committee notes state.
The government had promised in 2018 a £5 million fund to trial giving experienced teachers sabbaticals, but the pledge was never followed through.
AET said the sabbatical would be paid-for if it was linked to work, for instance to do research which would benefit the school and the trust.
A sabbatical to have time away – such as travelling with family – would not be funded.
Boomer-Clark added she hopes the initiatives will “empower” headteachers “so they can have the greatest impact in their local community and across our network”.