Wanted: 100 heads for England's most challenging schools
A network of 100 "talented leaders" will be sent into England's most challenging schools over the next two years, the government has announced.
The scheme aims to recruit "the nation's best and brightest" heads and aspiring heads with a track record of transforming tough schools.
It will focus on poor coastal and rural areas and the cities that often struggle to recruit head teachers.
Strong heads "make a real difference", said Schools Minister David Laws.
"The importance of high-quality leadership in our schools cannot be overstated.
"We know there is a strong link between school leadership, quality of teaching, and outcomes for pupils.
"The Talented Leaders programme will spread the excellence and expertise of some of our brilliant school leaders", said Mr Laws.
The government says it wants the first of the new heads to be in post by this time next year, with the rest by September 2016 .
They will go to local authority schools and academies in areas where educational attainment and school quality is "often lower than pupils deserve", say ministers.
Four areas have already opted in:
- North Lincolnshire
The Future Leaders Trust, which will operate the scheme, says the new heads will fill vacant posts rather than replacing existing school leaders.
They are expected to stay for a minimum of three years, working in small clusters with other local head teachers to support improvements across several schools.
Chief executive Heath Monk said: "Great head teachers make great schools, but finding great heads is much harder in some areas in England."
They will receive specialist training and mentoring and a government grant of £50,000 to spend on boosting leadership skills in their schools.
The scheme has the backing of the Association of School and College Leaders.
Deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said successful candidates would have "a high sense of wanting to improve the life chances of young people in areas where it is particularly difficult to do so".
But Mr Trobe warned it would take more than simply putting in a new head to turn some schools round.
"They will need the support of their deputies and heads of key subjects and also an arrangement with Ofsted," he added.
"The inspection regime will need to be adjusted to give heads time to have a significant effect on their schools."
Mr Trobe advocated co-operation with other local schools - similar to the previous government's city challenge schemes in London, Manchester and the Black Country.
Labour's shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt said the current success of London's schools "did not happen by accident".
"The last Labour government had a laser-like focus on improving the quality of leadership and teaching in areas that had long borne the scars of educational underperformance," he said.
"Under David Cameron's government, that focus on great heads working across schools to raise the quality of teachers in the system has been lost, and in other parts of the country we're seeing persistent underperformance, notably in coastal towns and rural areas.
"We need great heads supporting underperforming schools - with schools working together to raise performance across all parts of the country."
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We need our best heads in our most challenging schools. These jobs are challenging and inspiring in equal measure, calling on all the talent and energy of the people who work there.
"This initiative gives them the backing and status they deserve, reinforcing the point that it is a badge of honour to seek out the children who need help the most."
Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for education and skills, Councillor Lisa Chambers, said: "An exceptional and forward-thinking head teacher can have a hugely powerful impact on a school and the quality of education it provides to children.
"That's why Suffolk has signed up to the Talented Leaders programme."