I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few months now, but we’ve had to keep this confidential until we worked out some of the details.
Our school has been looking for a new headteacher since the previous head left 18 months ago. We’ve been through the recruitment process – the advertising, shortlisting and interviewing – five times now. And still, we have not been able to find a head.
We’re not an isolated case – you don’t have to go far to hear stories of headteacher shortages:
- Headteacher crisis: the numbers tell the story
- Primary schools hit by shortage of heads
- Government ‘in denial’ of headteacher shortage
- Head teacher shortage growing
- Headteacher vacancies expose schools crisis
- Where are all the heads going?
- Lib Dems call for action on headteacher shortage
- Schools face headteacher shortage as stress grows
- Pitfalls in staff recruitment
- Workload concerns fuel head shortage
- Parents warned of ‘superhead’ pitfalls
A few months ago, as we were wearily looking at going into our sixth attempt at the recruitment process, we were approached by the local authority who suggested an alternative approach. Their suggestion was ‘federation’.
Federated schools are where a collection of different schools have a single management body – one headteacher and one board of governors for the federation. It’s a relatively new concept – given legal status as a structure for school governance in the Education Act 2002.
The suggestion was that our school could join together with another local school – with the leadership and management of both schools restructured so that the current head of the other school would lead both schools. The governing bodies of each school would be dissolved, and a new joint governing body for the federation would be formed.
There is distinction between this and ‘merging’ the two schools. The two schools each retain their own name and identity, uniforms, teaching staff, buildings… they are still separate schools.
That said, with a single management body, it is entirely likely that other opportunities will be found to take advantage of the two working closer together – pooling resources, sharing expertise, and so on. Both schools would continue to be funded as separate entities. In some ways, it could become a bit of an ‘economies of scale’ argument – where it might be more possible for two schools each using a bit of their budgets to together buy a special resource, or source some staff training, or anything which might not be possible for either school individually.
The consultation with parents and staff starts now – a letter was sent to parents this afternoon, and between now and next February, we’ll try and gather as much opinion as possible. It will be interesting to see how people react.
(And who knows… it is entirely possible that I wont become a governor of the new federation if it is created. I might be recommending myself out of a job! )