7th January 2000 at 00:00
I AM just a parent in a large mixed comprehensive in a tough area. Our head has been with us for 20 years, not an easy time. Still, he is respected by parents, children and most staff.

Where he is not popular it is because he expects hard work from staff, is willing to take unpopular decisions and has high standards.

Now we hear he is to take early retirement. Neither he nor the governors will say why, and I can't help suspecting that a few disaffected staff are behind it. The teachers concerned are very open about their feelings.

My concern is the secrecy, which could lead to people thinking our head has done something terrible.

The governors have gone down in my estimation because I think they've been used. We are disappointed in our parent-representatives.

THIS IS the second time in a week that I've had a question about secrecy and early retirement, which probably follows the Government's recent announcement that they would support, for a limited time, the early retirement on favourable terms of long-serving heads who are feeling the strain.

I don't like secrecy either, and I understand what you say about people assuming the worst. It is normal, however, to keep the details confidenial to avoid jeopardising what is essentially a private settlement. More to the point, I can assure you that no head can be forced to take early retirement against hisher will.

There may be factors which give the person concerned limited choice in practice, for example poor health, poor relationships, or very occasionally some minor irregularity or concern about performance.

I think it much more likely in your case that, simply, the terms are attractive and the workload and hassles with staff have at last got your headteacher down.

Remember that your education authority, as employers, will have been involved as well as the governors. I am sure that they are experienced enough to put any views of disaffected staff in perspective. Indeed they will probably be aware of their identity. You can help by acquainting parents with these points.

Don't be too hard on your governors: these personnel issues are exceptionally difficult.

The December 17 Agenda, on the role of staff governors, should have noted that teachers and support staff may not: be elected to the chair; chair a pupil or staff disciplinary committee; or be pre-sent to discuss the pay or app-raisal of another staff member.

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