Exclusive: High-stakes accountability puts deputies off headship, research finds

Nearly two-thirds are not convinced about stepping up to the top job, according to the NAHT headteachers’ union

Almost two-thirds of deputies and assistants do not want to become headteachers or have major reservations about the role – and the pressure of a high-stakes accountability system is to blame, research shared with TES reveals.

But the majority of deputies and assistants say they would be more inclined to become leaders if there was an assurance that Ofsted would not judge them in their first year or hold them accountable for the past performance of the school, according to a survey by NAHT, the headteachers’ union.

The poll, of nearly 800 deputy and assistant heads, shows that almost a quarter who are hesitant about becoming headteachers say they are confident that they could perform as school leaders but that headship simply does not appeal to them.

“You need to ‘sell your soul’ to be a head and I want to be able to conduct as normal a life as possible away from school,” one primary assistant headteacher from Kent said. “I don’t feel that there is enough freedom to run a school as best fits the community it serves. The government is setting us up to fail with ridiculous targets for performance as part of the wider agenda towards academies.”

The survey found that just a third of deputies and assistants had an aspiration to take on the top job, while four in 10 had no intention of moving roles and a quarter were unsure.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “The workload, the risk and the culture of blame that surrounds school leadership make up a toxic fog that must be lifted. The fault lies with the government’s obsession with high-stakes accountability.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “If there has been a recent change of leadership at a school, the report will reference this fact and note where it is leading to improvements.

“Therefore, our reports make it clear that the school’s past performance is not attributable to headteachers new in post.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are investing millions in programmes to support and develop top teachers into the leaders of tomorrow and working with the sector to address their concerns over workload.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 8 July edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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