Most headteachers would not recommend the job, while fewer assistant and deputy heads want the top post, shows a new survey from the leaders’ union NAHT.
The startling figures – which also show that 72 per cent of respondents say the job has had a negative impact on their wellbeing – reveal that 40 per cent of leaders have accessed mental health support in the past year.
It comes after Schools Week uncovered that headteacher turnover in September was 14 per cent higher than before the pandemic, suggesting departures are no longer associated with a Covid backlog but with the increased demands of the job.
The union surveyed 1,890 of its members in England between September and October. Nearly three-fifths (57 per cent) said they were unlikely to recommend school leadership, up from 47 per cent in 2021 and 32 per cent in 2020.
About a quarter (23 per cent) said they would recommend the role, the same as in 2021 and less than half of the 47 per cent in 2020.
Meanwhile, fewer assistant and deputy heads said they wanted to become a head. More than three in five (61 per cent) said they did not aspire to headship, a rise of eight percentage points since last year.
When asked the same question in 2016, 40 per cent said they did not aspire to headship.
Almost two in three (61 per cent) said their level of work satisfaction had declined over the past 12 months.
‘A really bleak picture’
The wellbeing of school leaders has been highlighted in recent years, with Schools Week revealing in October that ministers were extending a mental health support package for heads, hundreds of whom were waiting for help.
Nearly half – 49 per cent – of leaders said they “had a need” for professional mental health or wellbeing support in the past year.
Almost four in 10 said they had accessed such support. A further 7 per cent wanted help, but did not know how to secure it, while 5 per cent said they found access to be unavailable.
Paul Whiteman, the union’s general secretary, said: “These dire findings paint a really bleak picture of the unacceptable toll school leadership is taking on our members and their mental health and wellbeing.
“Reluctance to take on the role of headteacher is now an established and rising trend that will inevitably impact the wider school eco-system, and ultimately, children’s education.”
Asked how school leadership could become more attractive, most respondents said greater recognition of leaders as trusted professionals (86 per cent).
This was followed by pay that “properly” remunerated the range of senior responsibilities associated with the role and ensuring pay maintained its real terms value against inflation (both 72 per cent).