In many cases where a school is identified as failing, a successful head is drafted temporarily into the school. However, the study of such arrangements in 12 local education authorities suggests that special deals for seconded heads can be a source of aggravation and discontent where they create local anomalies.
In some LEAs, successful heads transfer at the going rate for the failing school or they receive an adjustment to ensure they are not out of pocket. OFSTED said the more effective system was found in LEAs that had recruited a pool of potential heads who could be placed quickly into schools.
According to the survey, heads who transfer to failing schools have been able to negotiate "dowries". The survey cites a local authority that provided extra supply teachers and Pounds 10,000 in resources for the first school that failed its inspection. However, comparable resources were not available for other schools identified as failing at a later date.
The survey suggests heads need to be told the length of time they are likely to be in their new post and they should not be set unrealistic targets. On average, the survey says, two terms are required to move a school forward.
The survey also warns that removing successful heads can create problems for the "donor" school. In one, the speed at which the head was seconded left no time to find suitable replacements. The report suggests local education authorities need to monitor both the failing school and the school that temporarily loses its headteacher.
It concludes that seconding heads to failing schools usually works well. The most successful are those with proven experience and who can rely on a deputy to run their own school.
In general, the needs of the donor school are less well-handled, the report says. Few LEAs check that the school can deal with the re-organisation of staff. Financial arrangements tend to be piecemeal. Few LEAs have specific budgets to deal with weak schools and the ripple effects caused in donor schools, the survey says.
'Making Headway' can be obtained from OFSTED Publications Centre, PO Box 6927, London E3 3NZ