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Those of us who spend our working days hacking a path through the dense jungle of education, desperate to find a clearing of good sense within the overgrowth of government policy, have become used to odd ideas and peculiar statements.

Now we can celebrate the idea of the "Superhead", a highly motivated visionary who will swing in like Tarzan, take responsibility for a group of schools, and lead the lost and disoriented into a happy, shining future.

Oh dear. The best that can be said is that it is an idea for which the world is not yet ready. It seems to have sprung into being at some distance from the daily realities of school. And it is there, within its twisted undergrowth, that the pygmies lurk who will ambush such absurdity and paralyse it with their poisoned darts.

Headteachers are figureheads, people who must come to represent their school. They must promote it. They must believe in it. They must live it. Yes, when you become a head you are selling yourself almost into slavery.

It is accepted without question that the senior position in the school should be filled by someone who knows the students and their parents, who can talk to them in the supermarket and knows to whom they are talking. As the lead professional he or she must be a significant person within that community and act as a recognisable role model.

But heads also lead their staff. And it is in the staffroom that the position of the visiting head would quickly become untenable. Teachers are notoriously cynical. What credibility would such a head have who didn't know the students as a teacher knew them? Who didn't teach, who didn't cover? Someone who materialised like an alien and then disappeared instantly into another dimension? Without an intimate knowledge of the institution - the problems on the buses, the leaking sink in the staffroom - the person would be held in contempt by those he or she should be leading.

I'm afraid this idea won't work. It won't work in primary schools, where parents want to know the head and want to see him or her at the gate. And if it makes no sense there, why should it be the big idea in secondary schools?

Education is not a business and it doesn't need ideas grafted on to it from business. Schools can learn from each other. But do we need to be grouped together into consortia to do this? We work in schools for heaven's sake. We know that not one of us ever stops learning. But we also know that schools are communities that deserve a respected leader to believe in them - not a stranger with a mobile phone and an ulcer.

A school is a community before it is anything else. It requires a sense of belonging, of ownership, loyalty and identification. These are the vital components of a healthy school. They may appear old-fashioned in the glowing half-light of this brave new bureaucratic dawn. But it doesn't mean they are wrong.

If I sound like a Luddite, it is not because I oppose change. It is because this idea is flawed in its ignorance of reality. It reflects a wish to re-define and to over-complicate, so that we can spend more money on management and less on children. Our children.

If the issue is that there are too few headteachers to go round because no one wants the job, that is another thing and needs addressing in a different way. Sharing a head is not the answer. It would require a seismic shift in perceptions if schools were to accept this concept as some sort of chief executive.

Anyway, we already have figures who offer strategic leadership and vision to a group of schools. They are directors of education.

Geoff Brookes

Geoff Brookes is deputy head of a Swansea comprehensive

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