Head hunting

The news that primary heads are among the most unpopular bosses in Britain (page 2) gives some insight into why so few now want the job. Once, they were much more "first among equals" in the staffroom than their more remote secondary colleagues. But with increased delegation they have had to manage their staff more directly, while keeping a tighter grip on resources. And since 1988 much of what they have been required to do has been dictated from outside the school - by reforms frequently at odds with prevailing staffroom values.

Leading a school effectively is not necessarily a popularity contest. But the Office for Standards in Education has also highlighted poor management in many primaries. Leaders who are unable to secure the respect and confidence of staff are likely to produce schools which are neither happy nor effective.

It is not fair to blame the heads. It was clear 10 years ago that they needed proper management development - not just because of their new responsibilities but because they were required to manage rapid and radical change. The training programme for serving heads launched last month is certainly too late; it remains to be seen whether it is also too little.

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