Norfolk’s small schools struggle to find head teachers
Some of Norfolk's smaller schools are having big problems finding heads, according to a new report.
As reported in the EDP last month, nationwide research pinpoints Norfolk County Council as the worst- performing of 150 local authorities in England for its success in securing first-time replacements for heads who retire and move on. About two-thirds of recent vacancies in primary schools have had to be readvertised.
But the county's children's services overview and scrutiny panel will be assured on Thursday that Norfolk is not experiencing a crisis in the matter.
Evidence uncovered through a 14-month review by a working group of councillors suggests that vacancies are being filled and that statistics for the county's recruitment performance across all school types are similar to national averages.
The report to the panel says: 'The evidence gathered by the working group does not indicate that there is a crisis in the recruitment and retention of head teachers.' But it adds: 'Behind the headline evidence, there are undoubtedly a small number of schools, particularly smaller schools, that have experienced significant difficulties in recruiting a head teacher. This is reflected by the need for such schools to advertise on more than two occasions and to make temporary arrangements to cover vacancies.'
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It also notes that the Norfolk's largely rural nature and its many small schools add to the problem.
Statistics for the period September 2007 and August 2009 show:
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n The average number of applicants for primary headships in Norfolk was 4.41, compared with 4.8 nationally.
n The average number for secondary headships in Norfolk was 14.42, but 15.9 nationally.
n The average number of applicants shortlisted in Norfolk primary schools was 2.82 (2.7 nationally).
n The average number shortlisted at Norfolk secondary schools was 4.68, (5.1 nationally).
By tracking vacancies, the working group also found that smaller schools were attracting fewer or even no applications. It has asked for a review on developing federations and partnerships between small schools to ease shortages of heads.
Alison Thomas, council cabinet member for children's services, said: 'There has been a perception that there is a crisis in Norfolk in recruiting and retaining head teachers, and I am pleased to see that this group has found that isn't the case.
'However, this is an area which we need to keep tracking because it is crucially important to the stability of Norfolk's schools and the education of the county's children and young people.'