Wednesday, May 16, 2007

One School, One Head

Faced with an alarming shortage of headteachers the completely predictable has come to pass, the government are calling for ‘federations’ and a ‘chief executive’ to oversee four or five schools. Yes, you can just imagine the scenario, there is a lightning visit from Ofsted, the chief executive is ‘on a course’ and the deputy head has to deal with it. So no prizes for guessing where the next recruitment crisis will manifest itself.

At the National Association of Head Teachers Conference (NAHT) their chosen messenger of the glad tidings was the chief executive of the National College for School Leaders (NCSL), Steve Munby. Regular readers of the blog will know that Steve does have a bit of ‘previous’, despite never being a head he did work for a few years as a teacher – when the government think heads don’t need any teaching experience let’s be grateful for small mercies.

Munby made his name as Chief Education Officer of Knowsley, through judicious use of GNVQs, GCSE results went up from 23% in 1999 to 43% in 2005. A few months after Munby left Knowsley for the NCSL the Government, aware of the GNVQ scam, reconfigured the GCSE league tables to include passes at Maths and English. Knowsley plunged to the bottom of the national league table, below that regular whipping boy Kingston-upon-Hull. Still as Frank Sinatra used to say, ‘timing is everything’.

In his speech to the NAHT Munby blamed heads for ‘trying to do everything themselves’, ‘refusing to admit their weaknesses’ and that the ‘hero head was no longer viable’. This from the people who organise conferences on ‘The Courage of Leadership’ with inspirational speakers who have ‘lead from the front’. This must be the most blatant example of the criminal blaming the victim.

Why don’t teachers want to become heads? You could start with workload, targets, ‘initiatives’, paper work and Ofsted. Rather than deal with those issues the government have come up with the idea of ‘federations’ or secondary schools ‘taking charge’ of primary schools.

Was there ever a golden era? Maybe in the 1970s when the Plowden reforms were working their way through, most LEAs had abolished the 11 plus there weren’t any league tables and LEAs employed former heads as advisors. Becoming a head teacher was viewed as the pinnacle of your career, albeit that in a profession 70% female, 70% of heads were men.

Let’s be honest people don’t exactly shout from the rooftops that they want to be a head teacher, they might mumble or half suggest it, but they know the reaction, the looks of incredulity, does this person harbour a death wish, is this the first sign of impending insanity? Step forward all workaholics, insomniacs, people with personality disorders, Billy No Mates and megalomaniacs. It really shouldn’t be that way…

See also - Why no one wants to be a head teacher


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