13th August 1999 at 01:00
I suppose you'd call me a dinosaur among heads, if that means having had my formative experience in different times and finding it hard to adapt.

My country-town comprehensive still has a few of the staff we had 20 years ago, when I was senior master. Since becoming head, I have tried to value people, which I still think gets results. I also try to make allowances for any who are going through bad patches and work around them.

But the result is that I have one deputy and perhaps two departmental heads who are not working to the highest standard and, in my view, never will. We manage, and it is a happy school.

Following our OFSTED report, which was not good, I have been under pressure from governors, encouraged by the LEA. To my astonishment, what comes through is that I am thought to have shown weaknesses in leadership. I suspect there is a move to force me into retirement, five years early.

Can I really be held responsible for colleagues whom I have tried in vain to support? And why is it not acceptable when I have not grumbled about going the extra mile myself?

I understand your feelings. But 20 years ago governors, with the head, did not have the same total responsibility for managing a school. Heads are now fully accountable to the governors for the quality of a school's teaching, including the performance of team members. This accountability will be seen to cover the communication of high expectations, targets, counselling, professional development and a judgment as to whether the best that can be done is good enough.

It's true that you can't put teachers on the pavement with their belongings; I would never want to see such a possibility. There is a long road, and a series of steps, to be travelled first.

If you have never transmitted high expectations, given guidance or organised professional development, then by present standards you have failed to provide leadership. The fact that you have worked hard to make up for the shortcomings of others must be advanced in mitigation, but is not a substitute for a challenged, high-performing team.

There may be time to save the situation, but only if you accept that the new freedom schools have carries a bigger responsibility for everyone's performance.

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