From education to employment

New data reveals sharp increase in number of school leaders leaving the profession within 5 years

Today (Tues 26 Apr), school leaders’ union NAHT will be giving oral evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). As part of that evidence, the union has obtained new information that shows increasing numbers of school leaders are leaving their roles after less than 5 years in post.

The DfE collects annual data that reports the number of head teachers, assistant and deputy heads, and middle leaders – aged under 50 and new to post – who leave their role within 5 years of appointment. The latest figures, obtained by NAHT through a Freedom of Information request, reveal that five-year retention rates have got worse in every category of school leadership since this data was last published in 2018.

More than 1 in 4 primary school leaders, and more than 1 in 3 secondary school leaders leave within five years of appointment. Approaching half of middle leaders in both the primary and secondary phase leave within five years.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Leadership supply for our schools is teetering on the brink. School leaders’ pay has been cut by 15% 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.”

Recent member survey data from NAHT showed steeply rising levels of dissatisfaction among school leaders, with the number who would recommend school leadership as a career falling by over a third (36%), from 47% to 30% between 2020 and 2021. More than half of assistant and deputy heads (53%) said they did not aspire to headship (up from 40% in 2016) and 23% said they were undecided.

Mr Whiteman continued: “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.”

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