Cut in the middlemen

16th July 2004 at 01:00
Nurturing the potential of school managers is vital - they are the heads of the future, writes Kenny Frederick

The system of management allowances was abolished in April, following an announcement by the Secretary of State. A replacement has not yet been decided. We are still able to appoint to posts but only on a year's contract. Such points must only be awarded for the management of teaching and learning. Am I the only one to be worried?

The effects of this decision have yet to be seen. We have no idea about the new framework under discussion. However, it is clear that the change is part of the workforce reform agenda. The implication is that support staff can take on most of the admin presently done by middle-leaders, freeing them up to teach more.

Middle-leaders play a very important role in our school. They are central to our school improvement agenda. We invest heavily in their training and in developing their leadership skills. Heads of faculty are the curriculum leaders and they manage the teaching and learning in their area. However, they also manage a large team. They have a complex role in establishing the vision for the faculty. They decide (with their teams) the curriculum and on the method of curriculum delivery. They motivate and encourage their team. They induct new staff, monitor, evaluate and review the work of the faculty and the team. They are responsible for managing the performance of individuals in their teams. They coach and mentor staff to become better teachers. They also have the difficult task of challenging underperformance and of implementing strategies for improvement. They administer a budget and manage faculty resources. Crucially, they develop the potential in their team.

Heads of year have an equally important leadership role. They lead a large team of tutors. Research shows that good tutors really do make a difference to the achievement of their pupils. The head of year and the tutors are learning managers. They track the progress of individuals and groups of pupils and ensure that intervention strategies are employed. They are key to the social inclusion of our pupils.

The pastoral care of pupils can be enhanced by the work of teaching assistants and other para-professionals. In my school, a team of support staff and adults other than teachers provide additional support for many pupils who have a range of individual needs. They work alongside teachers to ensure a quality education for pupils in our care. They must be led, directed, managed, monitored, supported and developed. The role of the head of year is vital in this.

Teachers need a career structure and a clear progression route. There are a number of stages to go through before becoming a senior leader. In our school, we see succession planning as part of our work. We develop people.

We distribute leadership and we encourage and enable them to become better teachers and managers.

As a training school we train huge numbers of initial teacher training and graduate teacher programme students. Over the years we have inducted, supported and developed large numbers of newly qualified teachers. The role of teacher-mentor is an increasingly important one. It takes time and it needs commitment. It is a big responsibility. Who do we expect to carry out this role if we cannot award management points for such roles?

Leading a school that has been reforming the workforce for years, I was delighted with the introduction of the workforce reform agenda. But I am becoming increasingly disillusioned. I know that those who opposed it claimed it was all a ruse to save money.

But the model we adopted in our school works. Support staff support teachers in their efforts to include all our pupils. Their work is highly valued. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement - a partnership. We cannot have one or the other: we need both.

The middle-leadership team are the backbone of any secondary school. They are accountable for the work and for the output of their team.

Middle-leadership is the training ground for future headteachers. They are the scaffolding that supports the school. Take the scaffolding away and the school will collapse.

Kenny Frederick is headteacher of George Green's community school in Tower Hamlets, east London

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