Rebel takes the helm

The new president of the Secondary Heads Association Cymru may have taken to the streets in 1960s Paris, but she never turned to violence.

"Did I ever throw a rock in anger? No, but did I demonstrate? Yes," says Hel ne Mansfield, headteacher at Croesyceiliog secondary, Cwmbran, who takes up the presidency at SHA Cymru's annual conference today. Mrs Mansfield, 59, grew up in France but has been living and working in Wales since 1977 and has a clear view of how she wants education to progress in the coming years.

She believes there is a radical side to all heads because they have to cope with change and innovation. It is these two qualities she hopes to bring to the fore in a bid to make the current system "more coherent".

"Although the Assembly government is doing a great job, at times the various initiatives are not thought through coherently," says Mrs Mansfield. "We could provide a framework to bring together all the initiatives that focus on learning."

Of particular concern is the current emphasis on assessment. "Instead of creating flying squads of assessors and interrupting learning and learners, we should be looking at raising achievement by developing teachers'

expertise and doing work that directly benefits the learner."

Another big issue is workload. While many teachers have noted improvements, heads appear to be taking on more so that their schools meet the requirements of the 2003 national agreement.

Mrs Mansfield was born in Brittany and pursued a passion for languages by studying at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1966.

The course took her to Cambridge for a year, where she met her husband, Roger Mansfield, former director of Cardiff Business School, now a professor of business at the university. After graduating in 1970 she moved to London, where she took her first teaching job. There was a spell at a school in Middlesex before taking a position at Bettws high school, Newport, in 1977 after her husband was appointed to Cardiff university.

Posts at Duffryn high in Newport and Llantarnam comprehensive in Cwmbran followed, before she was appointed deputy head at St Julian's comprehensive in Newport in 1987.

She says the move into management was a tough decision because it meant leaving languages behind. But these concerns did not hold her back and, by 1991, she had won the headship at Croesyceiliog.

After 18 years in management she will be SHA Cymru's last president. On January 1 it is changing its name to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in recognition of its members working in FE.

Mrs Mansfield and her husband have two grown-up daughters who both work in business.

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