29th November 2002 at 00:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

AS chair of governors in a big comprehensive I am concerned about our deputy whose performance is seriously unsatisfactory. This woman has fallen down on every task she has been given. We have three first-class senior teachersassistant heads, one especially who does all the staffing, curriculum and examination work; another who is concerned with discipline, pastoral care, out-of-school activities and pupil records; and a third who does budget, premises, and external relations. The deputy has had some of these responsibilities but has lost one after another through her general neglect or incompetence. If the head is not around she takes her place and in fairness she is excellent at representing the school with the parents and public.

It is what used to be called "walking the job". Yet she produces nothing. The head is frantic.

Walking the job may have been the formula at one time but every year adds more to senior management than that. I take it there is no health problem but perhaps voluntary early retirement is a possibility (though that has been tightened up a lot).

You will need a lot of help from your local education authority. It may take time - your head must be blunt with her about what she isn't doing. And also you need proper written records of failures.

The competence procedure involves target-setting at various stages and there is always scope for a fresh start, but not for any fudging.

A school your size would often have two deputies. Has this been considered?

At present four people are grossly over-worked and the school will soon show the marks of this.

* In Joan Sallis's answer on November 15, about appointing an acting headteacher, editing gave the impression that the legal ban on a head's involvement in choosing a successor also applied to an acting post. Joan wishes to make clear that the regulation does not mention an acting post as such. The sentence concerned went on to say that the same principle applied, and gave her reasons.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205,

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