A job advertisement for an assistant head teacher has attracted widespread criticism after it warned candidates they would have to work “ridiculously hard”, be “wedded” to their job and that “We cannot carry anyone”.
The candidate for the role at Mercia school, a Sheffield secondary that has been described as “Britain’s strictest school”, is expected to supervise detentions on Saturdays and attend meetings during the holidays. They must also be “highly talented”, “ooze leadership” and be “a great orator”.
Before applying for the role, which attracts a salary of up to £62,561, the advert suggested candidates should ask themselves: “Are you ok with the team contacting you in the evening? Meeting in holidays and being prepared to do detentions on a Saturday morning?
“Can you cope with huge demands throughout the day, which include teaching a high load, managing pastoral issues and being on alert from 7am through until 6pm, once we have walked the pupils safely down the road and finished detentions?”
The job description continued: “High energy and sacrifice are required to excel in this position. We cannot carry anyone. We need a commitment from our assistant head teacher to stay until the job is done.” The candidate should be someone who handles authority well, is willing to hold the line and “lead with bravery”, it said.
“We want someone who rolls up their sleeves, a doer and a grafter. Not just a visionary, but someone who also walks the hard yards.” The job, the advert warned, “may dominate your life on occasions”.
The list of requirements was so extreme that some commentators thought it was a spoof. By Monday the advert had disappeared from the Tes website, and the school did not respond to requests from the Guardian for clarification and the number of applications received so far.
The advert came to prominence as teachers prepared for further strike action in England, Scotland and Wales, in pursuit of a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise. Excessive workload is believed to be a key contributor to the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
In England, members of the National Education Union are due to strike in the north, north-west, Yorkshire and Humber areas on 28 February, followed by the Midlands and eastern areas on 1 March.
Using the hashtags #weddedtothejob and #mercilessmercia, one teacher commented on Twitter: “Remind me why there’s a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching again??” Another said: “This job advert from a Sheffield secondary is reason #417 why I will never teach in England again.” The advert also prompted conversations in schools about senior leadership wellbeing.
Not everyone was critical. Many thought it was just honest. Chris Dyson, a former headteacher at a Leeds primary school and now deputy chief executive of a Birmingham academy trust, wrote: “This advert seems to be dominating #EduTwitter today. My opinion – it doesn’t offend me … better to see this pre applying than be disappointed after.”
“It may be contentious in the way it’s written but it’s honest,” said Phil Sharrock, who describes himself as “6 x a headteacher, consultant and coach.”
Mercia school in the Millhouses area of Sheffield is oversubscribed and popular with parents, with its long school days – all pupils stay in school until 5pm Monday to Thursday – its strict uniform code and zero tolerance approach to mobile phones.
The Department for Education was approached for comment.
Niamh Sweeney, the NEU deputy general secretary, said: “It is unlikely that this approach will attract many applicants. People in senior roles can certainly expect higher demands of their time, but we will never get anywhere in dealing with the workload crisis in this country by embedding it further in working culture.”