6th April 2001 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Our school has been in special measures and with a lot of support I think we are emerging. We had an acting head who was very good indeed and our previous head went off on long sick leave with a stress-related illness. She is now returning and she would be the first to acknowledge that she is somewhat daunted by the responsibility.

There were a lot of problems which were not of her making. At the same time, though she had great strengths in some directions, she did not have the stamina for some of those problems and was probably not a strong leader.

We all want her to succeed and the school to succeed in her care. Have you any advice?

What admirable realism all round. Your head deserves to win. I'm sure she has lernt a lot and so have you.

Whoever was acting head will be an enormous strength, as he seems to be concerned only for the school. You probably have a list between you of key factors in the decline and the move towards recovery, even if not formalised.

Use this as a basis for a realistic but inspiring plan of action, broken down into manageable units. Share it with your head - it is important that she feels ownership. Establish a group of governors - sensible but not threatening personalities - to meet with her frequently, fortnightly say, to review progress. Make it clear that it is a supportive, not pejorative process. Let her suggest changes in the objectives if they seem unrealistic. But don't lose sight of the school's needs or let her panic.

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