Head teachers wary of reform

Teaching unions in East Anglia gave a frosty reception last night to the suggestion that head teachers should be replaced with accountants, personnel managers or company directors.

Teaching unions in East Anglia gave a frosty reception last night to the suggestion that head teachers should be replaced with accountants, personnel managers or company directors.

Heads and teachers have expressed concerns about the ideas outlined in a government-commissioned report. The report, Independent Study into School Leadership, by PriceWaterhouseCoopers said the job of running a school is now so complicated, calling for skills from accountancy to architecture and human resources, that the job should be opened up to people with a non-teaching background.

It added that leadership roles should be distributed more widely among senior staff, and that the pay system needs to change. If the proposals are adopted, head teachers could be replaced by chief executives. But there would still be a qualified teacher in charge of teaching and learning.

Yesterday's report also said heads were having to spend time unblocking toilets, filling dishwashers and supervising pupils before and after school. It added that most spend little or no time teaching, do not have enough time to devote to the long-term direction of the school, and do not prioritise developing and keeping staff even though that is one of their most important responsibilities.

Schools minister Jim Knight said: "A modern school requires modern leaders. Many schools will go through major rebuilding work in the next decade or so.

"They will become extended schools open to the community far beyond the school day and throughout the holidays. This requires new ways of working and a new approach to leading a school."

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Geoff Kitchen, head teacher of Harford Manor special school and Norfolk president of the National Association of Headteachers, said: "There are real conflicts between leadership and management of the school and leading and managing the teaching and learning. I can accept that there may be people with a commercial or non-school background that could be better managers, but whether they could progress to being the head teacher is something that needs a lot of debate.

"It would be a huge change in terms of our profession, because headship is the pinnacle of that profession."

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has produced its own report, which found that most heads were against the idea of putting people without classroom experience in charge of schools.

Tony Mulgrew, Norfolk secretary of the NUT, said: "I would be totally opposed to this move. A school is about teaching and learning and the leadership should be about teaching and learning.

"If you get finance people in from outside they will be looking at things their way, which is the cheapest way, and not necessarily in the best interest of education."