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The call xxxx from the National College for School Leadership for sounded rather like another push to recruit superheads. However, the National College has recruited 68 heads to the scheme and stresses there will be no educational tourism or superheads. Three of those heads explain their role and tactics in helping struggling schools.

 

Richard Thornhill’s story

Mr Thornhill and the management team at Loughborough primary in Brixton, south London agreed to step in at nearby King’s Avenue primary in November 2006. It had been announced the head at King’s would be leaving. Both schools are in deprived areas. But while Loughborough is thriving, King’s Avenue was on Lambeth council’s ‘causing concern’ list. Motivated to volunteer for the project because he was upset by children with potential being let down by the system, Mr Thornhill became executive head of both schools.

Tactics for change:
The priority was to transform the appalling standards of behaviour. Thornhill laid down strict rules and made sure everyone, from staff, to pupils and parents, knew what they were. He says control has already been re-established in the corridors and the next task is to focus on the school’s management and curriculum. It is hoped that by 2009 the school will be able to recruit a permanent head. “This way, King’s Avenue doesn’t have to start from nothing,” Mr Thornhill said. “We are developing leadership capacity so that improvement is sustainable.”
headteacher of Loughborough

 

Hazel Pulley’s story
The head of Caldecote primary in Leicester, said becoming a national support school for nearby Braunstone Frith infants had given staff a common purpose. “It’s not just about me going in and giving leadership advice,” she said. “We’ve been sharing knowledge on all levels. Even our teaching assistants and office staff have been demonstrating good practice to their counterparts.” She applied for the scheme in order to share her years of experience working in challenging schools. “It’s very fulfilling,” she said.
Lawrence Montagu’s story

The extent of involvement a support school has with its ‘client’ can vary from full-on management to a head simply providing a sounding board. Lawrence Montagu,head of St Peter’s high school and sixth form centre in Gloucester, sees himself as a catalyst for establishing teams at his two nearby client schools. Both of these are in special measures. But Montagu is keen not to intervene unnecessarily. “We assist only where there is a problem,” he said.

 

Alternative view
Professor Bernard Barker, of the Centre for Educational Leadership and Management at Leicester University, said he was unsure if the idea was sustainable. “Having a good headteacher advising a bad headteacher will not necessarily help. The scheme can achieve short term results, but the leadership solution is the lie that papers over the cracks.” Professor Barker added that leadership could not solve fundamental problems such as poverty, which have more impact on school performance than anything else.