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Shortage of head teachers in Kent schools to be discussed by Kent County Council

By Paul Francis

More than 40 Kent schools are starting the new term without a head teacher in place, according to a report due to be discussed by county councillors.

As the new school year starts, KCC identified 45 schools that are without a “substantive” head in place.

County education chiefs say that “robust interim leadership arrangements” are in place at the schools in question but the figure represents an increase over last year.

Upset in Kent schools as 40 will be without a headteacher at the start of term
Upset in Kent schools as 40 will be without a headteacher at the start of term

However, the figure reflects concerns among teaching unions that schools often find it hard to fill positions because of the growing pressure on school leaders.

Of 56 headship vacancies advertised in 2016-2017, nearly half failed to find a suitable candidate first time round.

That compares with 39 vacancies for headteachers in 2015-16.

Overall, 3,405 teaching vacancies in Kent schools were advertised in 2016-17, for which there were 7,823 applications.

More children are now going to good or outstanding schools
More children are now going to good or outstanding schools

Currently, there are at least 90 unfilled teaching positions in Kent.

A continuing shortage of teachers has forced KCC to turn to a further recruitment campaign overseas with plans to appoint up to 18 classroom teachers from Australia next month.

That follows a recruitment campaign which saw a number of teachers from New Zealand appointed to jobs in Kent last October. A further recruitment drive in the country is also planned.

KCC says international recruitment is only a short-term solution to the wider problems of filling permanent vacancies.

Among steps the council is considering to recruit headteachers is to set up a dedicated headhunters’ agency.

A lack of suitable headteachers is causing concern in the county's schools
A lack of suitable headteachers is causing concern in the county's schools

The report coincides with new figures produced by Labour that suggest teachers are more than £5,000 a year worse off on average in real terms than in 2010.

KCC launched a three-year plan to tackle teacher shortages in 2015, drawing together a series of strategies to identify and encourage more teachers to consider becoming heads.

The “Kent Leaders in Leadership” plan focuses on offering would-be heads a “strong and supportive network” of school leaders.

County councillors will discuss the report on Thursday.

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