Non-teachers should be hired to plug school leader shortage, says report

Schools should hire business people with no classroom experience for non-teaching executive roles to plug an expected shortage of up to 19,000 school leaders in England by 2022, says a new report.

School Leadership Challenge: 2022, published today by the Future Leaders Trust, Teaching Leaders and Teach First, warns of growing school leadership recruitment problems – with schools in disadvantaged areas hit hardest.

Based on more than 70 interviews with headteachers and academy trust chief executives, as well as a “supply projection” based on the latest pupil and workforce data, it predicts a future shortage of between 14,000 to 19,000 leaders sparked by increasing pupil numbers, retirements, and school leaders leaving the profession early.

The report found an extra 5,000 leaders would be needed by 2022 because of growing pupil numbers, but predicted more than half of current leaders would leave in the next six years.

It recommended that the pool of candidates be expanded to people outside the profession.

James Toop, chief executive designate of the merging Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust, said private sector candidates would have the “right skills and experience” to fulfil roles such as finance managers and multi-academy trust chief executives.

Toby Young (pictured), new boss of the New Schools Network, has also renewed his call for businesspeople with no teaching experience to be appointed as school leaders.

Earlier in the year, he told Schools Week that theatre directors and NHS managers would be a particularly fertile source.

Rising chief executive salaries of up to £400,000 a year could also entice leaders from other sectors

Rising chief executive salaries of up to £400,000 a year could also entice leaders from other sectors, the report said.

But Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned that schools should be “mindful” of their salary limits and should only pay what was expected in education, not the corporate sector.

Toop said most schools were not able to match salaries in the corporate sector, but claimed people would not move into schools to “make money”.

“They want to make a difference, it is the moral purpose of helping young people that makes them want to join.”

The report found schools serving the most disadvantaged children, which make up 40 per cent of all schools in England, would need “10,000 more school leaders by 2022”.

But a Department for Education spokesperson said the government did not “recognise” the report’s figures.

“The latest school workforce data shows that there are 68,800 full-time equivalent leaders in state schools in England. Furthermore, since 2010 the proportion of schools reporting a headteacher vacancy has decreased and the number of school leaders over the age of 50 has decreased significantly.”

She added that the department did, however, recognise that “we need to work with the profession to ensure we can develop even more great school leaders”.

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  1. ThePlace

    It is bad enough that current eaders get a pay increases in top of their PM salary when they take their School to ‘requires improvement’ for leadership and can’t afford to keep their teachers on.
    Start paying good teachers more first, then talk.

  2. Chalkface

    Good Heads do make a difference – particularly when backed up by a strong leadership team around them.

    The reason many talented teachers – including Deputy Heads do not want to step up to Headship is the high stakes culture. It is a football manager situation without the football manager salary (despite what some people would have you believe). If you have a mortgage and young children why risk everything to become head of a school that may well get into trouble with Ofsted? Yes the reward and satisfaction would be great if you turned the school round but it’s very difficult and takes up huge amounts of time and personal resources.

    Toby Young is a right wing journalist with no background in education so I am not sure how many people will listen to him.

  3. Why not carry this suggestion to other areas where there are shortages? Untrained personnel working as medics or midwives. People from business taking on adult social care (unlikely, minimum wage for this essential job isn’t going to attract those with business expertise).
    But then we’ve entered the era of the ‘non-expert’. So why not have non-experts driving trains, building houses, demolishing old chimneys, doing electrical wiring and plumbing, laying tarmac, selling insurance, flying planes, becoming US President…? Wait, that’s just happened.

  4. Mark Watson

    It’s a shame to burst such bubbles of righteous indignation, but I actually read this article and it talks about “hiring business people with no classroom experience for non-teaching executive roles”. Note the rather important words “non-teaching”. The chief executive of the group publishing the report is quoted as referring to “roles such as finance managers and multi-academy trust chief executives”.
    So if we’re talking about healthcare, as Janet does above, then this isn’t about having untrained personnel working as medics, it’s about having non-medical people as the CEO or Finance Director of an NHS Trust – something which already happens.
    For a finance director, having qualification and experience in financial matters is surely more important than teaching experience.

    • Mark – you’re right. I accept my ticking off. The article was only about hiring business people for non-teaching executive roles. This was just one suggestion in the actual report which focused more on teacher progression and training for headship.
      Unfortunately, the term ‘leadership’ is becoming ambiguous. Is leadership a ‘key educator’ or business manager? If the latter, then schools could lose sight of their original purpose.

      My ‘righteous indignation’ was motivated by concerns that school leadership (in the form of heads) was becoming more about balance sheets than providing education. This was compounded by suggestions from others (including that fan of non-experts, former education secretary Michael Gove) that teaching doesn’t require training. As such it was a knee-jerk response. I stand (or rather sit) deflated.

      • Mark Watson

        This may be shocking, but I think we might strongly agree on something!
        When it comes to ‘heads’, as I see it the person in charge of a school on a day-to-day basis, I cannot see how this could be done by someone who hasn’t come up through the education ranks. Experience (and ideally substantial experience) of actual teaching is surely a pre-requisite.
        However, historically heads have needed to be more than great teachers and educators – they have needed to understand finances, health and safety, recruitment, HR etc. As I see it, the benefit of the multi-academy trust approach (and I accept our positions may diverge here) is that when it works well it should take all these ‘non-teaching roles’ away from the head and has them dealt with centrally by experts in the relevant fields. So the finances are covered by someone with formal accountancy training , when there is a staff shortage or a dispute with a member of staff the head picks up the phone and the MAT then deals with it, there is someone whose sole responsibility is ensuring the school buildings are safe and the equipment works etc. etc. This leaves the head to concentrate on only one job – the most important job – that of improving the standard of education within their school.
        It would be ideal if the MAT personnel all had education connections, but it would be far more preferable to have a top financial expert with no teaching experience than a mediocre financial expert with plenty of teaching experience. Of course, once they’re working within a MAT they can and should understand how their role is to help and support the schools – as a crude analogy the central MAT team is the tail which shouldn’t be wagging the dog.

        • Mark – I agree that back-room staff don’t have to have had experience in the classroom. And you’re right that these support staff need experience in their administrative role whether financial, business or clerical.
          This supportive role can be in-house, outsourced or supplied by a MAT or LA. And it should, as you say, leave the head to concentrate on education. The problem comes when heads are expected to take on too much admin (academy heads are also financial officers, for example) or when non-teaching staff become elevated to ‘leaders’.

  5. This is very interesting especially when these executive headteachers are faced with an educational problem and are asked for their input by parents who may want to clarify how their kids are doing.I cannot imagine how awful it would be when the heads looks totally blank and says it is out of their area of expertise.What has this country come to if this is a serious proposition by the government.No wonder teachers are leaving in vast numbers!! Other countries would laugh at such a suggestion as this.

    • Mark Watson

      Can you point to anywhere in this article where it refers to any suggestion that an executive headteacher should come from outside the teaching profession?
      As the comments above discuss, what is referred to is using non-teachers “to fulfil roles such as finance managers and multi-academy trust chief executives”.
      Why would anyone ask a finance manager how their child is doing?
      And if the CEO of a MAT doesn’t come from a teaching background they would be performing an executive management role and should have an Education Director or the like who would have responsibility for the educational performance of the schools within the MAT.