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The government should be concerned about a ‘post-covid exodus’ of school leaders, says NAHT

  • Nearly half of school leaders say the pandemic means that they are now less likely to remain in leadership
  • A ‘revolution’ in professional development for teachers and leaders is needed to unlock pupils' potential
  • Enhanced support is needed for school professionals working in the most deprived communities
  • Teaching Schools and National Leaders in Education programmes failed to deliver on their initial promise

Today, education union NAHT is issuing a fresh warning that without a revolution in support for school leaders, the government risks a ‘post-covid’ exodus from the profession.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) to an NAHT survey in October said that as a result of the pandemic, they are now less likely to remain in school leadership for as long as initially planned. 

Nick Brook, NAHT’s deputy general secretary, said: “School leaders have shown exceptional determination, courage and optimism in leading their teams to support pupils through these extremely difficult times.

“It is therefore deeply concerning that many school leaders are considering leaving the profession prematurely, once they have guided their schools through this crisis.

“The pandemic has compounded the sense of dissatisfaction with the state of education that had begun to grow among some leaders before the crisis hit. It has highlighted the importance of community, reaffirmed the importance of supporting students' well-being as well as academic progress; and it has demonstrated that schools are not islands.

“When we emerge from the pandemic, there can be no sense of merely flicking a switch and returning to the way things were, with all the same fault-lines as before. And we cannot wait until the pandemic passes before considering how education must change in the future.

“A post-covid revolution is needed to prevent a post-covid exodus of school leaders.”

A new vision for the future

Today (Wed 18 Nov) NAHT publishes the report of the School Improvement Commission. It highlights the need for greater support and professional development for teachers and leaders, to make sure schools are well set up to respond to future challenges and continuously improve the quality of education provided over the next decade.

Mr Brook, who chaired the commission, said: “It is abundantly clear that current approaches are not driving improvements in education in the way the government hoped or intended. Before the pandemic hit, annual increases in standards had slowed and the attainment gap had stopped closing. NAHT’s commission brought together internationally renowned experts to consider how to better support all schools to improve further.”

The commission’s report makes several recommendations, including that the government should:

  • Extend the commitment to funded support for new and recently qualified teachers to all teachers and leaders by 2025
  • Develop a fully-funded support package, to provide structured support for all new head teachers
  • Create a new bursary fund to facilitate and incentivise participation in NPQs
  • Create a more compelling proposition to encourage the most successful leaders to become National Leaders in Education
  • Create a national network of high-quality teacher development providers
  • Provide more support and incentives for leaders working in the most deprived communities
  • Refocus the work of Ofsted to provide stronger diagnostic insight for schools that are struggling.

Mr Brook concluded: “The last few months have been challenging. But there is an urgent need to do more than just restore the factory settings of education. We need to seize the opportunity presented to make changes to the parts of the education system that simply aren’t working as well as they should.

“The best response to the damage inflicted by covid-19 on learning is to ensure that every pupil is taught by an expert teacher, someone who is continually improving their skills and is properly supported to do their job, in whatever circumstances they work. Now is precisely the time to invest in the ongoing development of professionals throughout their careers so that teachers can thrive and pupils can succeed.”

The report is being launched at an event being jointly held with the Wellcome Trust and the Teacher Development Trust.

Maria Cunningham, head of education at the Teacher Development Trust, said: "We positively welcome these important and timely recommendations from NAHT and the School Improvement Commission.

“Not only is it increasingly clear that prioritising high-quality staff development is the key to sustainable school turnaround, but critically for the current context, it is also a means of successfully navigating the complexities and uncertainties of covid-19 and keeping teachers in the profession.” 

NOTES TO EDITORS

NAHT’s October survey into staff well-being showed that:

  • More than two-thirds of respondents (70%) reported being less or much less satisfied in their current role than this time last year
  • Nearly half of the respondents (47%) reported that the pandemic means they are now less likely to remain in school leadership for as long as initially planned
  • Members overwhelming disagreed or strongly disagreed (88%) with Ofsted conducting interim inspections (visits) during the Autumn term 2020
  • There was even less support for Ofsted’s plan to return to full inspections from January 2021:

 

o   90% of members disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposals

o   Only 6% agreed or strongly agreed with them

2,061 school leaders responded to the survey.

The School Improvement Commission was made up of educationalists, school leaders and academics and met on five occasions between November 2019 and March 2020. Commissioners considered the effectiveness of the government’s school improvement initiatives over recent years; they reviewed research evidence on effective improvement strategies, from both home and abroad; and explored the barriers that can prevent schools from improving.

School Improvement Commission members:

  • Nick Brook (NAHT deputy general secretary and chair)
  • Dame Alison Peacock (Chartered College of Teaching)
  • Carole Willis (National Foundation for Educational Research)
  • Chris Kirkham-Knowles (Scalby Learning Trust)
  • Emma Knights (National Governance Association)
  • Gary Wilkie (Learning in Harmony Trust)
  • James Bowen (NAHT)
  • Judy Shaw (NAHT past president)
  • Julie McCulloch (ASCL)
  • Kate Chhatwal (Challenge Partners)
  • Matt Davis (Education Development Trust)
  • Natalie Perera (Education Policy Institute)
  • Richard Gill (Teaching Schools Council)
  • Rob Williams (NAHT)
  • Stephen Fraser (Education Endowment Foundation)
  • Stephen Tierney (Headteachers’ Roundtable)
  • Steve Munby (Munby Education)
  • Professor Toby Greany (University of Nottingham)
  • Tom Rees (Ambition Institute)
  • Melanie Renowden (Ambition Institute)
  • Tom Richmond (EDSK)

 

The Commission took evidence from senior government officials, researchers and thought leaders in education, including former London Schools Commissioner Sir Tim Brighouse, former Secretary of State for Education, Baroness Morris of Yardley, and former head of Ofsted, Christine Gilbert CBE.

The Chair of the Commission, Nick Brook, will present the findings of the Commission, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A, at an event organised by the Wellcome Trust and Teacher Development Trust from 9:30 on Wednesday 18th November. 

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363


Email :
press.office@naht.org.uk