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More schools lose their headteachers
FIFTEEN Oxfordshire primary schools are without a permanent headteacher, new figures from Oxfordshire County Council show.
The number of schools without a permanent head has risen from 11 in 2009, although it is a small number proportionately of the county’s 278 maintained schools.
In 2009, then council schools improvement cabinet member Michael Waine warned the problem of recruiting headteachers would grow as those in post reached retirement age and left.
But Melinda Tilley, his successor, believes recruitment will become easier as schools team up in academy chains, allowing headteachers to focus on teaching and leadership.
She said: “I can’t open the bottom drawer and pull out six headteachers for interview, they’re just not there.
“There are fewer and fewer people who want to take on the job because they spend so much time doing things other than what they got into teaching for.”
But she was not concerned about the impact on schools currently without permanent leadership, saying: “Somebody always steps up to the plate.”
Tony Draper, of the National Association of Headteachers, said a third of headships nationally were unfilled when first advertised due to the “high risk” nature of the job.
He said: “It’s almost become like being a football manager, one set of bad results and you’re out.
“It’s disastrous for a school if they don’t have leaders in place because great leadership produces great schools.
“There is instability when there is an acting headteacher because they don’t really know where they stand, are they there to mark time or move the school on? The staff don’t know what’s going on because it is an interim leader.”
Sarah Mann has been acting headteacher at Enstone Primary School since January and hopes to be installed permanently.
The previous headteacher, Debbie Townsend, only held the position for a year.
Mrs Mann said: “People think long and hard before they go for it because there is so much involved and so much at stake. You have to be an expert in health and safety, and property management.”
Culham Primary School has been without a head for three years, the longest of the 15 schools.
Recruitment was unsuccessful until Matt Attree was found – but until he completes his headship qualification, he will be acting head.
Chairman of governors Andrew Churchill Stone said the school was now in a strong position but said: “It has been a long and difficult process. It gets at parents’ confidence and the stability of the school.”
Two of the schools without permanent headteachers are Roman Catholic, where candidates must be practising Catholics.
Sally Hughes, acting headteacher at Holy Trinity School, Chipping Norton, was initially appointed for two terms in January 2011 but her contract was extended until December 2013 after no suitable headteacher could be found – despite six attempts at recruitment.
She said: “The longer an acting head stays, it creates stability but there is always that uncertainty.
“Children need that stability and often ask me how long are you going to stay.”
In September 2005 eight schools in the county were starting the term without permanent headteachers and 12 the following year.