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Are you on the head's hit list?

Joan Sallis answers your questions

OUR head has many fine qualities. He is wise, energetic, cares passionately about the school and all the children, whatever their ability and background, and is great with parents. There's just one thing that bothers us. He takes strong and seemingly irrational dislikes to a number of staff members.

We have a staff of 65 or so and it seems that at any time about a dozen are in his bad books. He'll complain to any passing governor, but especially the chair, that this one and that one are bone idle, insolent, useless or even Welsh! As far as we can tell he doesn't act on these prejudices and the hit list does change regularly.

Idon't suppose you have any experience of this sort of thing, but any advice would be welcome. We are very conscious of the responsibility such a large staff represents.

No, I haven't experienced this personally, but from listening around I don't think it's all that uncommon. It's indiscreet and it's not pleasant (especially the bit about the Welsh!), but I suspect it may be no more than a way of releasing tension. Considering the number of people they employ, schools are very tight communities where tesions build up and break out all the time, and we all know the stress levels in schools can be high.

If your head is such a paragon, I'd be surprised if this goes deep, especially as you imply that it is a fluid hit-list. He obviously feels very at ease with your chair (which is a good thing) and he may even be winding him up a bit in which case a similarly light rebuke might be the right response.

You were careful not to say or hint that it affected any action or official judgment this head makes about people. It would be serious if the hit list candidates of the moment were treated badly or if the more regular victims failed to progress in their careers. In this case I think your chair would have to speak to the head very seriously and express the concern of the rest of you.

You are right to say it is a big responsibility to have a say in the careers of a large staff, and legally, as you know, governors have that reponsibility.

You must watch very carefully such things as job adverts, vacancy notices (especially internal ones) and job descriptions, for any sign of partiality, and exert your right to have a say in their wording if you think fit.

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