A head of the game;School management;The sweeney

26th March 1999 at 00:00
Farry must go! Jim Farry, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, has been sacrificed to the demands of the baying mob. He was described as arrogant, overbearing, pedantic, and he refused to let Celtic and Rangers have their own way. Farry's crime is not embezzlement, fraud or even absenteeism. No, he has been guilty of failing to register a player on time. Serious, but hardly life-threatening. Celtic chairman Fergus McCann expresses his wholehearted approval of the decision.

Wee Fergus himself encountered the fickle faithful when the league flag was hoisted at the magnificently refurbished Celtic Park. He was booed by those who could sit in comfort to watch the match, although their failing club was on the brink of extinction before McCann's arrival. McCann's father was a headteacher, and he must have experienced the vicissitudes of popular approval at an early age.

Football brings out the best and the worst in people. Staff and pupils show enormous zeal for the sport and turn out in all weathers to represent their schools. Training after hours, refereeing on Saturday mornings with the rain running down your neck - this is all part of the supreme sacrifice required to participate in the beautiful game of football.

Mrs Ferry, mother of Stephen and Kevin, is leaving the area soon, and that will mean one less parent on the touch-line to cheer on the Holy Rood team. She accepts with equanimity the undeserved defeats and the unfavourable decisions. Other parents scream and growl and gnash their teeth as they live out their fantasies on the touchline. One local school football team recently had to be disbanded because of the unrestrained behaviour of an over-zealous parent supporter.

Football superstars are eagerly pursued by senior clubs, who sign them up on "S" forms at an early age. While these young hopefuls are offered wonderful opportunities and splendid training facilities, they may also be deluded into believing the clubs will nurture their careers and set them on the glittering road to stardom. This rarely happens, and my filing cabinet is littered with the debris of unfulfilled footballing ambitions.

Girls' football is popular in Holy Rood. Kathie Devine and Angela Ward train the team, which recently brought back an impressive trophy from a regional tournament. The girls show total commitment to the game, and have no sense of inferiority about their right to full participation.

Headteachers often suffer a similar fate to football managers. Those on the sidelines always know what is best, and while some accept decisions and initiatives with quiet resignation, others howl defiance, confident in the knowledge that they will never have to take decisions themselves. Those who are willing to dip a toe in the turbulent waters of decision-making are much more likely to display tolerance of decisions made by others.

Picking the team is one of the most contentious aspects of the headteacher's remit. The process of recruitment and selection can be an agonising business, with candidates of high quality rejected simply because of the scarcity of opportunities. The spectators demonstrate infinite wisdom in judging who should have been appointed and in discerning the conspiracy behind decisions. In the face of compelling pressure from the grandstand, headteachers have to appoint the best person for the job in every case, regardless of the righteous indignation of the partisans.

Timetable, subject options and budgets are scrutinised for Machiavellian sub-plots that flatter our ingenuity, as we do our best to ensure equitable treatment and to involve staff in deliberations.

Jim Farry and Fergus McCann have been condemned by the distorted values of the media circus. Those who assail them have no responsibility for the outcome of the business in which they operate, and little knowledge of the implications of their actions. Innocent or guilty, they deserve the sympathy of headteachers, who all have days when they can identify with the crestfallen image of Ally McLeod in Argentina.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High School, Edinburgh

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