Vacancies for some school leadership posts have shot up by as much as 85 per cent in the past three years, further fuelling fears of a post-Covid retention crisis.
Analysis of job adverts by TeachVac shows secondary assistant head vacancies increased from 451 in the first four months of 2019 to 835 over the same period this year.
The data, due to be published today in a new report by the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford and shared exclusively with Schools Week, also shows secondary deputy head vacancies increased by 62 per cent over the same period, from 344 to 558.
But it’s not just leadership vacancies that are on the rise. New analysis also suggests more teaching roles have been advertised so far this year than in any of the last four calendar years.
The Covid pandemic and ensuing financial crisis prompted an improvement in teacher and school leader retention, as well as a temporary boom in teacher recruitment.
But today’s data shows any pandemic improvement on leader vacancy rates has now been reversed. The number of vacancies in all roles higher in the first four months of this year than at any point since 2019.
The report said the findings “raise a concern that more leaders are leaving and that some schools may struggle to recruit senior leaders in the coming period”.
The findings come alongside polling showing most leaders feel they’re either only “surviving” or “sinking” in their roles.
The report, Leading after lockdown, is the latest in a series of papers by academies Toby Greany, Pat Thomson, Susan Cousin and Nick Martindale.
The latest report is based on more recent analysis by jobs site TeachVac, a survey from January by TeacherTapp and interviews with around 40 school leaders.
Greany said the research “shows that the pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for leaders, with the current academic year proving anything but ‘normal’”.
“We need a national conversation about succession planning, backed by concerted local action, to avoid a crisis.”
Teacher vacancies well up on previous years
It comes as TeachVac also revealed it had logged 65,000 vacancies for teachers as of the end of May 2022, more than in any of the last four calendar years in total.
Between January and December 2021, it found 64,283 vacancies. The figure for the whole of pre-pandemic 2019 was 54,569.
Founder John Howson said the data “shows the strong demand from schools for teaching staff”.
“There will be shortages across the board in the secondary sector for January 2023 appointments in most subjects.”
He added that the “main concern at present is over middle leadership positions in some secondary subjects where the continued under-recruitment into the subject over the past seven years is taking its toll on the pool of available candidates for middle leadership”.
Most leaders either ‘surviving’ or ‘sinking’
A survey about experiences of the pandemic in January found that 42 per cent of headteachers felt they were “mostly surviving”, while 29 per cent said they were either sometimes or mostly “sinking”.
Twenty-eight per cent said they were “mostly” (6 per cent) or “sometimes” (22 per cent) thriving.
But women were less likely to report they were thriving than men.
Ten per cent of women leaders said they were “mostly” sinking, compared to 7 per cent of men, while 23 per cent said they were “sometimes” sinking, compared to 14 per cent of men.
At the other end of the scale, only 24 per cent of women said they were either “sometimes” or “mostly” thriving, compared to 36 per cent of men.
Academics said they “did not identify any consistent findings which might explain why women were less likely to be thriving”.
The exception is “for the subset of women who had young children at home, who commonly indicated that they were expected to work flexibly and ‘pick up the slack’ at home … which will undoubtedly have created additional challenges”.
Three in 10 heads still plan to leave early
The TeacherTapp survey also asked whether school staff felt the role of heads had become “significantly more stressful” since the start of the pandemic.
A large majority of all staff agreed it had, with heads more likely to “strongly” agree.
However, the proportion of leaders considering leaving the profession early appears to have fallen since last year.
In 2021, a poll found 42 per cent of heads and 26 per cent of other senior leaders planned to leave the profession for reasons other than full retirement – within the next five years.
A survey earlier this year found 30 per cent of heads and 16 per cent of senior leaders planned to leave in the next five years, though 10 per cent of heads and 6 per cent of senior leaders said they were unsure.
“Although the two surveys cannot be compared directly, they indicate that the proportion of senior leaders planning to leave the profession may have reduced since 2021,” the report said.
“Nevertheless, it remains concerning that almost a third of headteachers plan to leave early, while a further 10 per cent is not definitely committed to staying.”