School leadership: characteristics and trends

Teachers with a senior leadership role (headteacher, deputy or assistant headteacher) form a small proportion of the overall teaching population, smaller in secondary (10.8%) than primary (18.5%) schools, which has grown since 2010 (up from 9.7% and 18.1% respectively). This growth was mainly in assistant heads, which have increased from 3.5% to 5.2% of teachers in primary schools and 5.6% to 6.5% in secondary schools between 2010 and 2016.
The number of teachers retiring peaked between 2010 and 2011. This has provided an opportunity for some teachers to advance to leadership positions sooner in their careers than their older peers, and has consequently resulted in an overall younger population of teachers in leadership roles. The median age for headteachers has reduced from 51 in 2010 to 48 in 2016.
Women and ethnic minority teachers are under-represented in leadership roles compared to the wider teaching population, but this is improving – those new to post for all grades were more representative of the grade below and so over time, this will improve on the current position for all roles.
Teachers took less time, on average, to reach a leadership role in secondary schools (50% achieved this by seven years) than in primary schools (50% achieved this by nine years). However, progression to a headteacher role was faster in primary schools where 50% of new headteachers had been qualified for 17 years or less, compared to 20 years or less in secondary schools.