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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Question by Rob Bird to Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education and Young People

July 20, 2014 10:59 AM

With increasing demands on teachers it is vital that schools are led by Headteachers who are healthy, motivated and happy in their roles. Across the country it is increasingly difficult to find suitably qualified Headteachers who are capable of taking on the stress and challenge of improving under-performing schools.

Can the Cabinet Member for Education and Young People highlight what steps KCC are taking to ensure that the health and wellbeing of our Headteachers is supported to increase retention in an ever-decreasing vocation in Kent?

Answer

Kent County Council has a strong commitment to supporting all schools to improve and to securing the best educational outcomes for all children and young people. As the champion of families, children and young people our priorities are to ensure a good or better school is available to all learners; we secure and support the highest quality school leadership and governance; we promote the best educational practice; and we broker the influence of the best schools by facilitating strong collaborations between schools and with the local authority.

This means providing strong support for Headteachers to be effective, so that we achieve continuous improvement in standards, a significant narrowing of achievement gaps for vulnerable groups of learners, and a rapid rate of improvement in the number of good and outstanding schools.

We recognise that the best education systems have highly effective school leadership and consistently good and better teaching. Instructional leadership and system leadership are highly prized skill sets that we strive to develop and promote across the county.

The majority of schools in Kent are well led and are on a secure pathway to further improvement. 76% of schools are currently (July 2014) rated good and outstanding by Ofsted, compared to 80% of schools nationally. This includes 72% of Primary schools, 83% of Secondary schools and 79% of Special schools in Kent. We have been and continue to close the gap with national levels.

The quality of school leadership is key to success. Our strategy is to work directly with and support school leaders to be highly effective; to support and advise governors to make the best appointments to headship; to provide mentoring and leadership development opportunities for newly appointed headteachers and those in the early years of headship; to provide leadership development opportunities and succession planning for aspiring headteachers and senior leaders; and to facilitate peer support and collaborative work among school leaders that helps to spread the most effective educational leadership skills across the county.

We provide advice, practical help and support, training, headteacher mentoring, and regular contact with experienced headteachers who are Kent or National Leaders of Education and joint work through collaboration with other schools.

All schools have a designated LA officer / consultant who links directly with the school, undertaking monitoring and support visits. These visits are undertaken to support Headteacher's in their role and are an opportunity for the Headteacher to raise pressing issues and request support.

Newly appointed Headteachers are assigned an experienced Headteacher to be their mentor and they have access to the LA Headteacher Induction Programme consisting of six one day sessions which are funded by the LA. One key focus of this programme is the wellbeing of these Headteachers.

All Headteachers have Dedicated Headship Time by right, being up to ten percent of the working week. It is the responsibility of the governing body to ensure that their Headteacher has a reasonable workload, in support of a reasonable work-life balance, having regard to their health and welfare. To that end, through the Appraisal procedure, governing bodies are duty bound to make sure that this time is being taken and that work-life balance is monitored.

The LA also runs targeted leadership programmes for Headteachers, particularly those leading challenging schools where significant improvement is required. These programmes are generally six sessions across the academic year where the strategic role of a Headteacher is discussed and a key part of that is the Head's own wellbeing and health.

Most schools in Kent are now part of collaborations and peer to peer Headteacher support is a fundamental underpinning principal of this structure. Increasingly schools are also formed into triads or pairs with Headteachers in a coaching role. To that end the LA also runs three day Mentor Coaching courses for teachers, senior leaders and Headteachers; which are very well attended. The LA works in very close partnership with the Kent Association of Headteachers to ensure that support for school leaders is equitable across the county and is targeted towards those in need of additional support. .

Each District facilitates Headteacher Briefings; these are designed to keep Headteacher abreast of current development nationally and locally with the express aim of helping to reduce individual workloads.

The majority of Kent schools still buy in to 'Support Line' which enables teachers and senior leaders alike to access six confidential counselling sessions by trained counsellors. The LA Recruitment and Retention team have also facilitated 'Wellbeing sessions' targeted towards Headteachers and senior leaders.

In addition to this support, Kent teach.com, a KCC trading unit providing recruitment and retention advice to schools, also offers a Wellness Programme. This aims to support Headteachers in both managing their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their staff, highlighting potential problem areas and giving advice and guidance for making improvements. The team is also currently exploring other ways in which we can support Headteachers' wellbeing in cost effective ways for schools of all sizes.

Overall, therefore, we believe Headteachers in Kent are well supported professionally and have access to a wide range of networks and opportunities to promote their wellbeing and professional development. Currently there is not a high vacancy rate for headteacher posts, 17 schools out of 600 are without a permanent headteacher and all have effective interim management arrangements in place.