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Old rocker Mick finds harmony

Mick Brookes will today don his leathers and rev up his 1,000cc Honda Firestorm motorbike for the drive to Harrogate.

Becoming National Association of Head Teachers leader has made it harder for him to enjoy his hobbies - he recently quit playing bass guitar with his band The Rockets and cancelled an order for a new Triumph Sprint motorbike.

But the 57-year-old has formed a new rock band with other association members called Rather Than. "The last word's an anagram of NAHT," he explains.

Mr Brooke's reputation as a rebel and experiences as a junior school head made him an attractive choice for grassroots members last year.

They went against the wishes of the NAHT's leadership, first by voting to withdraw from the workforce agreement with the Government and then by choosing Mr Brookes over the official headhunted candidate.

With the association in danger of splitting, Mr Brookes began a tour of the UK, meeting as many of its 28,000 members as possible and listening to their concerns.

This approach has done little to please the Government or its partner unions, who muttered that Mr Brookes should have devoted his attentions to bringing the association "back from the wilderness".

But his tour seems to have helped to unite the association. Rona Tutt, a former NAHT president who had been critical of Mr Brookes' appointment, said that even she had been impressed and felt he had got his priorities right.

Mr Brookes' leadership style has been very different to his predecessor David Hart, a former lawyer with a knack for soundbites who ran the organisation like a one-man band doing much of his work from London.

In contrast, Mr Brookes has built a team, starting with Carole Whitty, a former secondary head, who becomes the association's first deputy general secretary in more than a decade.

He has bought a flat in a converted asylum near the association's headquarters in Haywards Heath, Sussex, which he travels to each week from his home in Nottinghamshire.

He regrets spending less time with his wife Karen, a primary head who he says keeps him grounded in the realities of school life. But the bachelor lifestyle has its advantages. "I can spend time practising on a handmade guitar in the flat - so my six-string playing is improving," he said.

The figures

The proportion of headteachers who...

... will consider quitting if their workload is not cut 27%

...still have to teach 66%

... are working longer hours because of changes to reduce teachers' workloads 71%

... admit taking on unqualified teachers (primary) 35%

... admit taking on unqualified teachers (secondary) 73%

... have no intention of offering extended services at their schools 37%

... admit they do not follow their schools' admissions codes strictly 25%

Source: first two statistics from NAHT surveys, rest from the GuardianEdComs "Headspace" survey - more details at

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