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Pay-off for heads ruffles feathers;News;News and Opinion

HEADTEACHERS' unions are receiving hundreds of calls a day in the rush to take advantage of the new government programme to pension-off jaded headteachers.

But some heads have been upset as local authorities struggle to put together applications in time for the pound;10 million scheme's December 3 deadline.

Liz Paver, a former president of the National Association of Head Teachers and the head of Intake first school, Doncaster, fell victim to the council's policy of indiscriminately inviting all eligible heads to apply.

She was surprised to have been thought eligible for a package designed for heads "who are not able to carry forward the major changes envisaged in improving education".

"Perhaps the authorities were under pressure, but I don't think that the hurt caused by contacting people in this way was thought out," she said.

"I would have thought the local authorities would have done some sifting beforehand. I have every intention of going on until natural retirement with enthusiasm."

Meanwhile, John Hayden, the high-flying head of Wymondham College, Norfolk, was disappointed that he wasn't invited to submit an application.

Although chief inspector Chris Woodhead has declared Wymondham one of the best schools in the country Mr Hayden, who has served 18 years as a head, said he was still interested in the scheme.

"I was not phoned or written to and I was interested to find out why I hadn't been. Anybody who has done more than 10 years as a head has done a fair stand," he said.

One unnamed headteacher said he felt he had shot himself in the foot by helping to achieve a good Office for Standards in Education report this year.

As unions fielded hundreds of calls from heads interested in early retirement, it emerged that many would not have the chance to apply.

The scheme is limited: heads in Wales are not covered(although Welsh civil servants have promised a similar scheme will be introduced), as are heads of failing schools or schools with serious weaknesses. Only the 10 per cent of heads aged between 55 and 59 can apply and there is only enough money to pay for 200 of them to retire.

But councils appear to be curbing it further. Stockport Council is one of a number which are not submitting applications because of the scheme's very tight deadlines, restrictive criteria and uncertainties over its cost implications for councils.

Kerry George of the National Association of Head Teachers said there was also widespread concern about a head's future relationship with governors and the local authority should the Government decide not to fund an application. Heads would be in an awkward position having declared themselves unable to carry forward reforms and the governors and authorities would have accepted that assessment.

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