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Heads set to take back power from governors

HEADTEACHERS would get major new powers to hire and fire staff and decide on salary issues without consulting governors under a dramatic shake-up proposed by the Government.

Ministers plan to give heads full responsibility for key staffing decisions - including appointments, dismissals, incompetence procedures, promotion and pay.

They claim the move is designed to reduce the burdens placed on governing bodies and to make them more effective.

And, while governors would retain responsibility for the overall budget of a school, heads would be given the freedom to decide on discretionary pay awards within this framework.

Governors would be left in charge of personnel matters relating to heads, deputy heads and members of the leadership team.

Schools minister Jacqui Smith will announce a period of consultation at the National Governors' Council's conference tomorrow.

Other measures being considered include reducing the size of governing bodies, ordering councils to cut paperwork passed to governors and introducing a mechanism by which, in exceptional circumstances, a whole governing body can be forced to step down.

Any changes in the roles of heads and governors would require legislation, but ministers are likely to make them a priority if they win the next election.

The proposals were welcomed by heads who have long called for greater powers in line with their role as chief executives of scools.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I do not see how we can talk about heads being the vital factor in raising standards without giving them the powers that underpin this role."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, added: "It will clear up a lot of grey areas of responsibility between heads and governors and will enable heads to move quickly on issues of recruitment and disciplining pupils."

However, Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said giving headteachers greater powers would be a dangerous step that made them less accountable.

And John Adams, chair of the National Association of Governors, said heads may be driven more by short-term staffing needs rather than the long-term good of the school.

A recent TES survey carried out by the National Association of Governors and Managers found governors felt increasingly burdened by some of their administrative and quasi-managerial duties.

But they are keen to hold on to their strategic responsibilities and Chris Gale, the NGC's chair, said any attempt to reduce governors to a rubber-stamping role would be resisted.

She said: "We support a clear strategic focus for governors, provided responsibilities are not undermined so that governors become rubber stampers."

Governors, 29, 30

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