Cuts 'could hit attempts to tackle headteacher shortage'

FUNDING cuts could jeopardise attempts to tackle a shortage of headteachers in the East Riding, a report has warned.

Latest figures show there are 65 headteachers in the borough who are over 55, the age at which they can access their pensions.

This, in conjunction with a shortage of applicants for headteaching posts – particularly on the coast –has prompted East Riding Council to introduce a series of measures to combat the problem.

But external funding cuts would put the strategy at risk, a report to a key council committee next week has said.

The shortage has led to some heads being shared between schools.

This is currently done between Beswick and Watton Primary School and Middleton-on-the-Wolds Primary School, and between Hessle High School and Penshurst Primary School, also in Hessle.

These arrangements have been considered a success.

The chairman of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Julie Abraham, said: "It's an issue of concern which is why we've put it on our work programme.

"We try to develop our own headteachers because geographically we are quite disadvantaged. It's very important we put these measures in place and try to give some priority to this funding.

"The best thing would be to have a head at every school, but we have to be more inventive if we can't achieve that."

Some of the problems experienced in recruitment concern the location of some schools in the largely rural county, plus the level of salary offered, which is linked to the school's size.

Relocation packages do not form part of the usual offer to applicants as school budgets do not allow them.

Several vacant headships have had to be re-advertised, some at least twice, and in the worst cases there have not only been no applications to some jobs but no expressions of interest.

The council established a leadership development programme (LDP) in 2007 to train and support its own headteachers, but this is now under threat.

The programme is largely supported by a 27,500 grant from the National College.

The report said: "The number of people going through the LDP in full is not diminishing and there is clear demand for this, which has so far been run at no cost to either schools or the council.

"Possible threats to external funding support, coupled with restructuring within the council team, could jeopardise the future potential of the local authority to continue this work.