The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says a more concerted effort is needed to improve teacher supply and to attract higher calibre leaders to schools in challenging circumstances.
The government scheme, unveiled last week, will see 100 “outstanding” middle leaders invited to spend a year in underperforming schools, including those in deprived, coastal and rural areas.
The secondment scheme follows the launch of the Talented Leaders programme last year, which aims to place outstanding headteachers in such schools for a period of at least three years.
Schools minister David Laws said that while on secondment, the middle leaders would be expected to “share excellent teaching, diagnose issues and put in place an improvement plan to ensure long-term sustained progress”.
Participation will be voluntary for both schools and the middle leaders and the Department for Education is now to appoint a delivery organisation for the scheme.
Malcolm Trobe, ASCL’s deputy general secretary, welcomed the announcement, but warned more needed to be done.
He said: “It only scratches the surface of wider issues around recruitment and retention. More concerted effort is needed to improve the supply of teachers in general and to find longer term and sustainable solutions to attract more high calibre teachers, middle and senior leaders to schools in challenging circumstances or which are geographically isolated.
“What is required is a culture of professional learning which enables us to prepare and nurture the next generation of school leaders. This means providing appropriate preparation, succession planning and support together with coaching and mentoring programmes to support newly appointed senior and middle leaders.
“There also needs to be a recognition that school improvement doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to embed sustainable improvement.”
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) gave the scheme a “cautious welcome”. Louis Coiffait, chief executive of NAHT Edge, its middle leadership organisation, said the chosen middle leaders’ existing pupils must not be allowed to suffer.
Mr Coiffait said: “(We are) concerned that while the principle behind the secondment programme is a good one, the middle leaders’ host schools should not suffer. School leaders will not wish to be without their highly skilled heads of department, for example, and risk disrupting the progress of their pupils. Consultations will need to ensure, therefore, that any secondment arrangements have been agreed by all sides.”
Mr Laws said: “This new programme will allow schools facing some of the greatest challenges to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge of an exceptional middle leader who can drive improvements and raise standards.”