Number of headteachers quitting within five years of starting on the rise, data shows

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Pay, workload and long hours pushing headteachers away, says union

Increasing numbers of headteachers are quitting within five years of starting in the role, new data shows.

Figures obtained by the school leaders’ union NAHT reveals more than one in four primary school leaders, and more than one in three secondary school leaders, leave within five years of being appointed.

Around half of middle leaders – such as heads of department – in both the primary (46 per cent) and secondary schools (44 per cent) leave within five years, the figures obtained by NAHT through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show.

They reveal that five-year retention rates have worsened in every category of school leadership since the data was last published in 2018.

At primary level, 22 per cent of headteachers who started in 2011 left within five years of appointment. That rose to 25 per cent for primary headteachers who took on the role in 2015.

Middle leaders at primary level were even more likely to have left their job. The data showed 43 per cent of those starting their roles in 2011 had quit within the five years, rising to 46 per cent for those stating in 2015.

For secondary school headteachers, the figures revealed 35 per cent of the 2011 intake quit within five years, and 37 per cent for those appointed in 2015.

The proportion of middle leaders in secondary schools who quit was 43 per cent and 44 per cent for the respective intakes.

The union warned that pay, workload and long hours were pushing people away from staying in the education sector.

<p>For secondary school headteachers, 35 per cent of the 2011 intake quit within five years, and 37 per cent for those appointed in 2015 </p>
For secondary school headteachers, 35 per cent of the 2011 intake quit within five years, and 37 per cent for those appointed in 2015(PA)

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Leadership supply for our schools is teetering on the brink. School leaders’ pay has been cut by 15 per cent in real terms since 2010, and this, in combination with high stakes accountability, crushing workload, long hours, and inadequate school funding, is driving leaders from the job they love.

“NAHT has pressed the DfE, literally for years, to act on this crisis, but the DfE remains in denial about the systemic problems afflicting the profession.

“It matters because children and young people need the stability and skill that these experienced professionals bring to their schools. Yet the DfE still has no leadership strategy in place to stem the ever-worsening losses.

“We urgently need the government to work with us to build a new, fair deal on pay, workload and accountability, to relieve the extraordinary pressures on the profession and make a life-long career in education attractive and sustainable.”

Separate data obtained from a survey of NAHT members showed rising levels of dissatisfaction among school leaders, with the number who would recommend school leadership as a career falling from 47 per cent to 30 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

More than half of assistant and deputy heads (53 per cent) said they were not aspiring to become headteachers (up from 40 per cent in 2016).

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said the government was “taking a wide range of action to support the profession, including investing £250m in training opportunities across all stages of teachers’ careers, plus the government’s pay reforms giving schools greater flexibility to reward exceptional leaders”.