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News | Education


downsmail.co.uk Schools’ head teacher crisis


KENT’S education bosses have refused to disclose the names of 45 schools starting the new academic year without a head teacher in place.


Kent County Council claims “ro-


bust interim leadership arrange- ments” are in place at each site and that there are “no schools with no head teacher”. But education experts remain concerned that performance pres- sure, league tables, intense outside scrutiny and a shortage of deputy heads willing to step up have caused the problem. Former head teacher and author-


ity on Kent education, Peter Read, has already sent a Freedom of In- formation (FoI) request to KCC, claiming that the public has a right to know which schools have no permanent head in place. KCC claimed it was not “appro-


priate or helpful” to name them. The issue emerged in a report to


a KCC committee on September 7 about the state of education in Kent. The county council now main-


tains only a handful of schools in Kent – many are linked to academy trusts. Mr Read, who runs Kent Inde- pendent Education Advice, said: “There is a number of factors why there is a shortage of heads. “Firstly, is the job worth having?


The pressure on heads is intense, there are league tables, staff short- ages and scrutiny from all direc-


£59,000 vacancy


THERE are currently eight vacan- cies for head teachers on the web- site kent-teach.com Among the unfilled posts is a


teacher for Hunton CEP Primary School which commands a salary of up to £59,000 pa.


small schools are entering into ex- ecutive head teacher arrangements to secure their finances, rather than incur the costs of recruiting and ap- pointing their own head teacher. “This is typically a strategic deci-


tions. Deputy heads look at what is happening to their head teachers and are deciding it’s not worth it. “The age profile of head teachers


is getting higher and they are retir- ing faster than they’re coming through to replace them. “It’s a worrying situation. A


school needs stability and that sta- bility comes from the head.” The number of headship vacan-


cieswent up by 17 to 56 in 2016-17, compared to the previous year. There are presently 90 unfilled teacher roles in the county. KCC is now turning its attention


to Australia and New Zealand for filling teacher vacancies and may


Transport fears put school plan on hold


A PROPOSED secondary school to be built offNewCut Road in Maid- stone has been put on hold. The planned development of the Maidstone School of Science and Technology (MSST) – which would be part of the Valley Invicta Acade- mies’ Trust (VIAT) – was expected to bewell underway by 2018. This now seems increasingly un-


likely, with one councillor predict- ing delays of about a year while Maidstone Borough Council’s plan- ning team answers a host of trans- port and environmental questions. UKIP Cllr Eddie Powell (below) criticised a re- port presented to the planning committee last month as “very, very weak” and borne out of “pure panic” at the need to cre- ate school places


to satisfy demand created by MBC’s house-building programme.


30 Malling September 2017 Cllr Powell said: “It could be up


to a year before the issue comes back to us at the planning commit- tee, because a lot more needs to be done by the council’s planning offi- cers.”


Forecasts show a need for more secondary places to meet demand in the future and Kent County Council hopes this might be ad- dressed in part by the opening of MSST. Cllr Powell added: “There needs


to be a road structure in place that can cope with a school that will be able to take 1,200 students. “We need to know how the bus services will work. How will they operate during the long holidays? “If kids are being expected to


cycle to school, what provisions are there for them? “I don’t think there was any dis-


pute that there is going to be a need for more school places, given the scale of house-building that the borough council has embarked upon.


An artist’s impression of the new MSST school off New Cut Road “Given the nature of the school


and how wide the catchment will be, therewas no indication how the extra traffic will be dealt with. There is much to be done.” Liberal Democrat member Tony Harwood (below) expressed con- cerns for trees which would need to be felled to make way for the school and its access. The proposal does mitigate against the loss with


resort to the costly option of using headhunting recruitment agencies, which can take up to 25% of the successful applicant’s salary as commission. KCC said there are “robust in-


terim leadership arrangements” in place at the schools without a per- manent head and can have an act- ing head, head of school or executive head teacher arrange- ment. A KCC spokesman said: “Head teacher recruitment is very chal- lenging and is a national issue. “The combination of accountabil-


ity and financial pressures is hav- ing an impact. For example, many


sion by the governing body, in some cases as a move towards a permanent arrangement or as an interim action until a head teacher is recruited. “We do all that we can to ensure


that arrangements are appropriate to provide the leadership needed for each school.” Asked for the names of the schools where there is no head, the KCC spokesman said: “….we do not think it appropriate or helpful to name the schools which have such arrangements in place.” Chairman of KCC’s education committee Gary Cooke said: “It’s 45 too many head teachers not in place for the new academic term.”


new plantings. He agreed the mat- ter needed to be deferred for a “re- think”. MBC officers recommended ap-


proval, stating: “The proposed school is considered to be accept- able, having regard to the relevant matters including design and lay- out of the school, relevant stan- dards, access to play space and open space, impact on amenity of neighbouring properties and high- way matters.” MSST will focus on so-called


STEM subjects – science , technol- ogy, engineering and maths.


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