Authority at fault in the first place

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Your unconditional praise for the action of Trafford education authority in securing the resignation of the head and the governing body of Stretford high school ignores the LEA's own responsibility to the school, (TES, April 30). While I accept entirely that schools are responsible for their own improvement, the 1998 Act gave LEAs considerable powers to intervene in schools, especially in those giving cause for concern.

It is increasingly common- and all too easy - for LEAs to bring about the replacement of the head as an indication of strong action, when the LEA has itself failed over a long period to give adequate support to a school in difficulties. This is not a sensible way for LEAs to carry out their responsibility for school improvement and The TES should not be endorsing it.

Trafford LEA is by no means the only culprit. Another north-western LEA has withdrawn delegation and suspended the head of a school put into special measures, despite the fact that only a few months before the Office for Standards in Education inspection, the LEA removed the school from its "causing concern" category and the chief executive officer wrote to the head congratulating the school on its results and suggesting that the head might share her good practice with other colleagues within the authority!

Heads have to accept LEA intervention within the framework laid down by the Act, but are too often dumped by that same LEA when things go wrong. If the LEA has cause to believe that there is something lacking in a head's performance, this should be addressed. If that is not done, the LEA should take some of the responsibility for the situation.

It is hardly surprising that deputy heads who observe heads being treated in this way are disinclined to take on a job that they see as increasingly vulnerable and lacking in protection.

John Dunford General secretary Secondary Heads Association

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