DfE to offer new headteachers ‘targeted support’ during first two years in post

The DfE has announced a 'targeted support package' of training for new heads as part of the NPQH.

The Department for Education has announced a “targeted support package” for new headteachers, offering additional training in the first two years of headship.

School leaders and experts welcomed the measures, but warned they must come with funding attached amid stretched school budgets.

The extra training will be offered to those who are either currently taking the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH), or who have completed the reformed NPQH.

The changes are part of wider NPQ reforms first unveiled in 2019, and come amid union warnings of a looming “exodus” of headteachers.

The support will be delivered by the same nine lead training providers who will run its reformed NPQs from September. The Ambition Institute, Education Development Trust, Harris Federation, Teach First and UCL Institute of Education were among the chosen providers announced in March.

“In addition to the reformed suite of National Professional Qualifications, the department is introducing an additional support offer for new head teachers from September 2021,” the government said in an update to NPQ policy documents on Tuesday.

“This is a targeted support package for teachers new to the role of headship.” 

But the department gave little further detail about what the support might involve, costs or how it will be funded. “More details on this offer will be announced in due course.”

Access to scholarship funding for current NPQ training was suspended last July, with the government blaming high demand. The DfE said in 2019 it would invest £20 million in NPQ scholarships to boost take-up in the most challenging areas.

The announcement follows a warning by the school leaders’ union NAHT earlier this year of an “exodus” of headteachers after the pandemic. It argued in a report in March that the government’s “chaotic” handling of the pandemic, constantly changing guidance and a lack of support exacerbated the challenges, stress and workloads leaders faced.

It also argued the school leadership pipeline was “at risk of collapse,” with a survey showing 46 per cent of assistant and deputy leaders did not aspire to headship. A majority highlighted concerns over work-life balance.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said it had long called for support for all school leaders. “We will be interested to see whether the detail of the announcement matches our ambitions for the profession.”

Sara Ford, deputy director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said it welcomed any targeted support for new heads, but hoped “sufficient funding” would be made available for scholarships in deprived areas.

“Since scholarships were suspended in July 2020, schools and colleges have had to find funding from within their already tight budgets to put the heads of tomorrow through this important training.”

John Howson, director of jobs site TeachVac and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said such professional development programmes were “absolutely essential.”

“In the modern world where leadership is a complex task with many different aspect it was simply not acceptable to have forced new incumbents of middle and senior leadership positions in schools to do so without any preparation,” he added.

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