Cheerful heads cope with change

31st March 2000 at 01:00
HAVING spent a week in Carole Clayson's company last summer on the Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers, I concluded that apart from somewhat lookalike names, we've not got much else in common as far as education is concerned.

Carole believes that most teachers share the eight grievances contained in her November 1999 letter to David Blunkett (Friday magazine, March 17 and 24).

I have come across my fair share of disaffected teachers in 26 years of headship. But my inveterate optimism is sustained by the overwhelming number of enthusiastic and committed teachers I have the privilege of working with every day.

Carole complains about the low esteem in which teachers are regarded - everyone thinks they know how to do the job. My experience is that effective teachers in deprived areas are greatly respected by parents and the wider community. This is especially true of teachers who have successfully implemented initiatives such as the literacy strategy and have the confidence to invite parents into the classroom to see the outcomes for themselves.

Parents do know more about what goes on these days - and a good thing too. Thanks to the high profile given to these strategies, parents are now much better informed about the structureand content of lessons.

Another of Carole's gripes is having to bid for improvements. True, it can be tedious and time-consuming. But as the head of a school with 30 deaf children fully integrated in the mainstream, I have benefited from funds from the Access Initiative. Because we submitted a well-prepared and convincing bid, the school was able to make fundamental improvements that quite simply would never have been possible without targeted funding. What's wrong with that?

Leadership style appears to be the key issue that separates Carole and myself. I believe in an entrepreneurial approach, accentuating the positive to achieve success. There is, in my experience, a danger that if you do nothing but complain you can poison the atmosphere in a school.

Even when the odds are against you, an enthusiastic, cheerful head is more likely to find such an attitude reflected not only in the staffroom but also in the classroom.

We live in a changing world. There is no point in simply moaning about change. Change is a fact of life. Successful leaders in every walk of life have to accept change and manage it effectively. Why should headteachers be different?

Ciaran Clerkin

Selwyn primary school

Cecil Road, London E13

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