It’s all getting very confusing. Every child matters, no child left behind and every child has potential. Yes, I think we get the point. There’s a glaringly obvious snag in all this: the ever-growing shortage of headteachers…

…or rather, the shortage of heads able and prepared to lead our most challenging schools.

It’s a seemingly intractable problem and when we hit those, history tells us we tend to wriggle into a corner until something has to give. This time, the weakest link in the chain seems to be the requirement for heads to serve their apprenticeship in the lower ranks of schools before gaining experience in senior management and eventually bagging a headship. This has been introduced in a no-nonsense way. What do we want? Heads! When do we want them? As soon as possible if No 10’s education gurus have anything to do with it. And so ‘Future Leaders’, based on an idea from across the pond, was born. Those from within education and outside it, with the wit to win against rising child poverty, social deprivation and other such challenges are invited to join the programme. Future Leaders is supported by the National College for School Leadership, Absolute Return for Kids (a global charity focused on breaking the cycle of underachievement) and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. It is designed to get participants ready for headship of some of the toughest schools within four years. Those on the programme are likely to have:

  • Experience teaching in challenging schools.
  • An ‘unshakeable’ drive to improve the education of all children, regardless of background and race.
  • A track record of successful leadership which has led to the improved performance of those you led.
  • An ability to improve learning through your teaching.

Yet the programme may have too narrow a focus. Headship shortages are more widespread than our inner cities and even relatively ‘affluent’ towns are seeing difficulties in recruiting suitable candidates. It’s just an anecdote, but at a recent local meeting of heads, several of whom had just undergone successful Ofsted inspections, the overwhelming view from each was that they will have left the profession before the next inspection in their school. Not retired, but left. Something isn’t right; maybe your school is different. Yet we shouldn’t paint too bleak a picture. The Future Leaders programme has nine different competencies against which candidates are assessed. Having such a list is useful for any promotional tier, and some CPD coordinators have devised such competency overviews for posts in their schools. For those contemplating leadership in any school – and there’s no reason to believe this group has totally dried up – these are useful pointers against which to self-assess before getting deeper into this career move. The competencies are:

  • mission and personal responsibility
  • personal character
  • interpersonal skills
  • building teams
  • self-awareness and life-long learning
  • results orientation
  • conceptual and abstract thinking
  • accountability, rigour and consistency
  • leading teaching and learning

Find out more

If there are members of staff at your school who are up for the challenge of Future Leaders, they should visit the programme’s website.

Issues and information: Supporting Children With Autism Across the Curriculum

In 2006 the Department for Education and Skills published information for teachers on how best to support children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Research confirmed that ASDs are no longer rare and most teachers will have first-hand experience of working with such children. If teachers in your school would benefit from focusing on the needs of children with ASDs, the following sources will help:

Click here for the 1998 University of Birmingham review of the research on educational interventions for children with autism.

The Medical Research Council’s review of autism research on epidemiology and causes can be downloaded here.

For the National Autistic Society click here.

Parents will find information on special educational needs on Directgov  and at the Parentscentre.

The Autism Society of America can be found here.

The DfES advice on helping pupils with Autism can be found here.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2007

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes is the author of CPD Week