In search of the right one

Geoff Brookes os deputy head of Cefn Hengoed comprehensive, Swansea

The process of finding a new headteacher moves on. The appointments committee of the governing body has met for the first time.

They take their responsibility very seriously, are proud of the school and want someone who will share their commitment. If an applicant isn't going to invest in our school personally, they will be wasting everyone's time.

The governors' devotion and loyalty to the school is such that they find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly turn down the opportunity to apply. However, those of us involved in education know that it won't be easy.

The first thing we have to do is to fix the head's salary. If we don't re-grade the post, no one will apply. Leadership pay has slumped in the school because of the awful financial problems we have faced. None of us felt we could accept a rise, given the state we have been in. But, as a result, differentials have eroded, and it is easier to address now when we are looking for someone else.

The next job is to pull together an application pack. We need all the usual stuff - the action plan, the inspection report. But we also need other elements that speak of different things.

What are we like as a place where adults and children work every day? I have asked the prefects and a delightful class in Year 8 to provide me with some comments about the school that we can include. It is important they have an involvement.

They are both excited and unsettled by the prospect of a new headteacher.

From what the Y8s have said so far, the key item in the appointment has to be school toilets. Sort out toilet paper provision and the job is yours.

As we start to assemble our material, the job looks daunting. Everyone has a piece of you. You might think you are going to make others dance, but there are plenty of others who will call the tune for you.

Are there that many people ready to take all this on, to accept a minor role in local politics, be a role model, representative and figurehead? Even as we discuss what we are planning to include, we are aware of how careful we need to be. We only need one right person, and if we have that person it doesn't matter who else applies.

We are made aware of how some people eliminate themselves from the process right at the beginning. For other jobs we have had applications that have been churned off the computer with no regard for the specific requirements of our school. All schools are different, and it is a gross insult to think that any old letter will do. In a couple of cases, we have received recycled letters in which the name of the school hasn't been changed.

It is hard to believe that this could happen with a head's appointment, but the representative from the local authority assures us that it does. We lightheartedly consider including in our advert the words "no time-wasters"

but we have always tried to be polite. Certainly we will ask applicants to address particular issues in their letter. This should ensure that at least part of the letter will be addressed to us, and not just platitudes copied from a hard drive. But, at the same time, we don't want to put people off by including too many restrictions.

It is hard to believe that there are those who apply for such an important job in such a casual manner. Do they really think that governing bodies are so stupid, or that they can bluff their way to appointment? And, if they do manage such a deception, do they really believe they can actually bluff their way through the job?

Perhaps our confidence that we won't have a problem is misplaced.

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