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Head takes pop at headline-grabbers

Roger Pope realises that he will probably never be a pop star. But, generally, the 49-year-old likes to give things a go.

The head of Kingsbridge community college in Devon, is one of the runners-up in the TES competition for an article he wrote about government plans to deal with coasting schools.

He decided to put pen to paper purely to see if he could. "When I read well-written pieces in newspapers, I wish I could write like that," he said. "I thought, let's see if I can. Because I'm never going to be a pop star now."

His choice of subject matter was not difficult: he is often infuriated by government policy pronouncements. "They can be ill-considered," he said.

"They're crafted for headline potential, rather than for the effect they're likely to have in schools.

"I find myself churning things over. And I find it satisfying to take an inchoate kind of idea and force it into a given structure."

It is a skill honed through years leading a school: "The best teachers are the best communicators. Above all, they're concise and clear. Then it's a real adrenaline rush to take an assembly and see students listening to what you're saying. But, of course, my mum can't see an assembly. She can see me in print."

RUNNER-UP

Extract from Roger Pope's entry: It was one of those ludicrous DfES announcements that explode like a firework across the front pages and fade just as quickly into dark oblivion. "Coasting schools are to be given 15 days to produce a plan for improvement, or be taken into direct local-authority control." A pronouncement to send a shiver down the spine of any coasting head? Or just a wry smile: a Number 10 sofa-boys' jape to divert attention from the bashing of academies at the unions' Easter conferences?

As the head of a school at the end of the most beautiful estuary in Devon, I must admit I was worried. I misread the headlines and thought they were out to get coastal schools. The idea that local authorities might sort out coasting schools is like appointing Homer Simpson to solve binge-drinking.

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