NAHT’s president, Andy Mellor, used his speech to the association’s November primary conference in Birmingham to urge the government to slay the ‘three-headed dragon’ of workload, accountability and insufficient funding, which is turning a dream job into a nightmare for many school leaders and their teams
Andy Mellor reflected on his own experiences as a teacher and expressed his concerns about what those in the profession currently face, “I became a teacher because I wanted to make a positive impact on young people’s lives. I became a leader so that I could help pupils besides the ones in my own classroom. The joy of teaching is still burning, but the current climate is much too cold, and only the government has the power to make the big changes needed to improve things.”
He identified what he termed a ‘three-headed dragon’ that’s driving individuals out of the profession and making it harder and harder for schools to hold onto their staff. “Nine out of ten primary and secondary schools are facing real terms funding cuts. An overhaul of the way Ofsted plans to inspect schools is being rushed through — and workload has never been higher, thanks to year after year of government changes.”
The latest figures obtained by NAHT from a survey of its own members shows that 77% of school leaders found recruitment a struggle last year, whilst 67% said members of their staff had left for reasons other than retirement.
When asked for solution to the recruitment and retention crisis, NAHT members offered the suggestions of a ‘better work-life balance’ (75%), a ‘less punitive accountability system’ (63%) and the top answer, ‘a real-terms increase in school funding’ (82%).
This is building on pressure raised by the research of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), published last month, calling for the end of performance tables and inspections forming the backbone of the accountability system – which was said to be doing more harm than good.
Absentee staff is a familiar issue for SBMs, and the growing mental and physical health issues faced in the industry, are a tangible result of the crisis schools are facing; for example, 75% of respondents to a survey by the Education Support Partnership said they faced physical and mental health issues in the last two years because of their work.
These pressures are not limited to frontline staff only; while teaching figures are well-reported, it’s known that SBMs, and those on SLTs, face similar pressures and have similar concerns. The size of their task is overwhelming, as reflected in Andy Mellor’s comments as he implored the government to increase funding.
“All of these issues are too big for schools to fix on their own. We know from our conversations with the government that they are well aware of all these problems, and some progress is being made, especially on workload, but now we have to move forward faster — and with more purpose — on accountability and funding.
“The school funding crisis is something that school leaders cannot solve alone. We have done what we can by making savings, but now there’s nothing left to cut. Only new money from the treasury is going to make a difference.”