As if the responsibilities of an academy company secretary were not onerous enough, many academy schools are also now facing a looming leadership crisis, because of the difficulties in attracting a new head teacher. 26 per cent of academy heads left their roles over the last academic year, according to research by UHY Hacker Young, leaving schools with limited replacement options.

The study focused on a sample of academies and free schools, and found a slightly higher turnover of heads at secondary schools, 32 per cent of heads at these schools having left during the 2013/14 academic year. Furthermore, the last year also saw 12 per cent of all schools lose their school business manager.

UHY Hacker Young attributed part of the turnover to retirement, while also suggesting that governing boards may be coming under pressure to remove current heads because of a tougher Ofsted inspection regime, which also may also be deterring candidates from applying for the resultant vacancies.

A trial of ‘no notice’ Ofsted inspections, for example, led to the downgrading of 23 of the 40 assessed schools. Secondary school leadership also came under particular criticism from the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who said that their rate of improvement trailed that of primary schools. The leadership of 84 per cent of primary schools was judged “good or outstanding” by Ofsted inspectors in 2013/14, compared to the equivalent secondary school figure of 77 per cent.

Allan Hickie, Partner and Chairman of the national academies group at UHY Hacker Young, commented: “We have been hearing anecdotally that there is a high turnover of head teachers, and also that making replacements is proving highly challenging. With as many as 1 in 4 having to replace their heads in the last academic year, that is not surprising.”

“Both the extra vacancies, and the recruitment difficulties seem to be influenced by the more demanding Ofsted inspection regime, and more challenging league table criteria that check what ‘added value’ a school is delivering based in its intake, rather than looking at results alone. Where academies have been downgraded by Ofsted, there is huge pressure to replace the leadership team.”

UHY Hacker Young added that current budgetary restrictions were making it difficult for schools to offer the competitive salary necessary for attracting a new head teacher.