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NAHT job rivals on the spot

The contenders for headteachers' votes answer 10 crucial questions. William Stewart reports

This week National Association of Head Teachers' members will begin voting on who they want to replace David Hart as general secretary in September.

The contenders are David Hawker, head of children's services for Brighton and Hove council, who is the NAHT executive's official candidate, and Mick Brookes, a Nottinghamshire jun-ior school head who was NAHT president in 2001.

The TES put the same 10 questions to each of them: Why should NAHT members elect you as their next general secretary?

David Hawker: "Because of my experience working nationally with government, as a leader in education, and my focus on the best possible services for children."

Mick Brookes: "Because of my experience of working in school, strong track record of local and national NAHT involvement and grasp of what NAHT members think on key issues."

Should the NAHT withdraw from the workforce agreement? If not, how would you handle a decision by Wednesday'sextraordinary general meeting to pull out?

Hawker: "No. The ultimate goal in terms of a reduced workload and the reshaped workforce is worth the struggle.

"Some schools are finding it difficult and we need to help and support them, but that is not a reason to pull out. If the EGM voted to pull out, I would have to reconsider my position with the executive."

Brookes: "We have now been in the agreement for about two-and-a-half years, and as yet the funding to guarantee teachers 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment time from September simply isn't there.

"If pulling out is the only way to make headway, then we should. Withdrawal makes a strong statement that this isn't feasible."

What does the NAHT need to do to face the changes in education over the next decade?

Hawker: "The NAHT has a golden opportunity to take hold of the new agenda for children's services and make extended schools work. It needs to broaden its base so it is not just the key leadership organisation but for the whole system, for the new children's centres as well as schools."

Brookes: "We have to make sure we canvass the opinion of grassroots members. I don't think that has always been done properly before. We need to take a long, hard look at extended schools - is it right that children should be in school from 8am to 6pm, and where does that leave family life?"

What would be the first thing you would do as general secretary in September if you were elected?

Hawker: "I would get out on the road and find out what members' concerns are. I would spend a lot of my time listening."

Brookes: "Externally, supporting and protecting schools that can't implement PPA time. Internally, we need an NAHT which is far more united than it is at the moment. We need to make sure the council properly reflects the views of local members."

What do you see as the role of NAHT general secretary?

Hawker: "As a leader, an advocate, a negotiator and a strategist and also as a manager of a complex and demanding organisation."

Brookes: "Promoting the views of NAHT members in the media, having a relationship with the makers and breakers in education as a critical friend and being agood leader of the NAHT's own workforce."

Is the NAHT benefiting from its close partnership with the Government?

Hawker: "I believe it is. The NAHT needs to remember it is a membership organisation and it is independent and is going to be critical. But it should always work positively with government."

Brookes: "At the moment the Government is benefiting from its close partnership with the NAHT. We need to be a little more critical and a bit less of a friend."

What will be the biggest challenges facing NAHT members over the next decade?

Hawker: "Resources, behaviour management, schools' relationships with parents, ensuring schools are at the heart of their communities, getting to grips with personalised learning and the challenge of showing leadership in a service always undergoing major change."

Brookes: "The difficulties in implementing planning, preparation and assessment time, the whole issue of pensions, changes in the 14-19 curriculum and the threat to early-years education from children going through Sure Start instead of school nurseries."

What is your view of Labour's record on education?

Hawker: "Broadly speaking, I think it is good. There has been huge investment and an improvement in standards. But the question is, 'How much extra investment has got to the front line?'"

Brookes: "Labour has a very strong record. Capital funding has improved, there are more people working in schools now than ever, and ICT is light years ahead of where it was when Labour came into power. But the Government is in danger of losing these gains unless it grasps the funding nettle over PPA."

Should the NAHT merge with the Secondary Heads Association?

Hawker: "I would see great value in a single headteachers' association but it takes two to tango."

Brookes: "That must be a long-term aim. It makes no sense whatsoever to have two headteachers' associations."

Which film or literary character do you most identify with and why?

Hawker: "Figaro from the Beaumarchais plays, because he is quite funny, quite sharp and a bit of a subversive. He goes along with the system up to a point."

Brookes: "The central character in Robert M Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, who successfully links philosophy with practicality, which is the art of good leadership."


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