In the middle - Under pressure to perform

Paul Ainsworth

I have never been in a school where the head was under pressure to resign, but I have watched, fascinated, the strain various prime ministers have been placed under to leave office.

Whatever your political persuasion, it is impossible to deny that Gordon Brown is a highly talented politician, being one of the key architects of New Labour and chancellor of the exchequer for more than 10 years. However, during the past year, newspapers have regularly proclaimed that he is not up to the job of prime minister.

National newspapers rarely call for the removal of a head, but there are occasions when local newspapers fill front pages with such stories. So what evidence could be pointed to for a heads' removal?

To continue the political analogy, one focus for reporters' condemnation of the Mr Brown has been the economy, with papers running regular analyses of inflation, the housing market, unemployment figures and the woes of the banking sector. In a school this would equate to exam results, attendance figures or exclusion rates. But, just as the state of the economy nationally can be blamed on the world situation, school statistics could be laid at the door of a certain cohort.

Another pressure on Mr Brown has been the writings of senior politicians, such as Charles Clarke and David Miliband. A head may suffer a similar lack of support from teachers, perhaps demonstrated by a reluctance to implement new initiatives.

For a prime minister, the final straw can be the parliamentary party in open mutiny, when MPs regularly voice their disapproval and vote against the government. In schools, a breakdown in pupil discipline can be a signal that the leadership is struggling. But a head can be shielded from the consequences of this.

It is said that the public anger over the community charge was what ended Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Similarly, when parents begin to make their feelings known, whether in frequent letters to local newspapers or public meetings, that can be when nameless people in grey suits call on the head to step down.

I just hope I am never in school where the head's position becomes as difficult as Mr Brown's has appeared.

Paul Ainsworth, Deputy head, Belvoir High in Bottesford, Nottinghamshire.

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Paul Ainsworth

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