England’s school leaders want to prioritise professional development and support of their staff despite budget worries and high workloads.
Eighty per cent of the 122 school leaders questioned in the Outstanding Leaders Partnership survey - supported by Best Practice Network and the University of Chester - plan to maintain or increase levels of CPD investment in their staff during 2018.
Leaders also see their own professional development as important, with 94 per cent saying they would benefit from additional support and professional development. Almost half (48 per cent) hoped to maintain investment in their own CPD during 2018 and almost 31 per cent plan to increase it.
But there are pressures. Leaders say that budget concerns, staff recruitment, wellbeing and retention and accountability make up their top current challenges, while the time taken up by leadership responsibilities mean that for the majority of leaders their own professional development and reflection takes a back seat: asked to rank a list of leadership duties in order of the time they took up each day, SEND, behaviour, wellbeing and safeguarding was the area most commonly ranked top by respondents, chosen by just over 20 per cent. Strategy and planning (18 per cent) and managing staff (16 per cent) were the other most frequent top choices. At the other end of the scale, of the activities rated as having the least time spent on them, personal professional development and reflection was chosen by 66 per cent of respondents.
There was a clear role for professional development and support for new school leaders, according to those surveyed. The top three challenges leaders faced in the first months of headship were pressure of accountability, the need for new skills and knowledge and different relationships with colleagues. Additional workload, managing external relationships and lack of a peer group were other common choices.
Sally Bishop, director of teaching school at West Hertfordshire Teaching School Partnership and chair of the OLP board, said: “This survey presents us with a detailed picture of the challenges school leaders face today, particularly in areas such as key challenges, wellbeing and their professional development priorities and needs.
“It is clear from these findings that school leaders are true to type – prioritising the needs of their pupils and staff first and tackling fundamental challenges such as budget and accountability pressures while putting their own CPD needs – however keenly sought – as a lower priority.
“The survey tells us what kinds of professional development and support school leaders want for their staff and for themselves to help them meet these challenges as effectively as possible, and this will help us to refine and develop our professional development programmes and school improvement services so that they continue helping leaders and their colleagues in their crucial work.”
Of the 122 respondents, 80 per cent were headteachers with heads of school, principals, executive heads and MAT CEOs making up the remainder. Almost 72 per cent of respondents were primary leaders, with 44 per cent leading local authority schools and 39 per cent part of a MAT. Respondents were from across the nine government regions of England, with the majority in the north west and London and the south east.