Defensive, but still remaining undecided

31st January 1997 at 00:00
Frances Rafferty examines the election wish-list of the Secondary Heads Association, and samples three individual views

Finding a headteacher who will admit to voting Conservative is not easy. Michael Preston, head of The Chalfonts community college, Gerrards Cross, is prepared to defend the Conservatives' record, but is undecided how he will vote.

He believes schools are now more accountable and offer value for money. He said: "Cutting the apron-strings from local education authorities to schools - either by grant-maintained status or local management - has allowed schools and heads to grow up. Now we are allowed to discover how much things cost, and have the power to buy them."

Mr Preston, head of a GM school, believes the 1988 Education Act, which brought about GM status and local management, was a radical and innovative piece of legislation, despite some parts not being best thought out. Schools once occupied for only 13 per cent of the year are now open all hours providing services for the community and funds for the school.

And while there are problems with league tables, they do give parents vital information about the performance of schools.

The Chalfonts has been a technology college for two years and Mr Preston believes schools should be able to play to their strengths and offer parents choice and diversity. He said: "The days of the 11-plus are over, instead schools should be able to develop in different ways and select in different ways. We got together and raised our part of the money for the technology college and it has brought about many improvements for the pupils."

He supports the setting up of the Teacher Training Agency and the move towards more school-based teacher training, and also believes that most teachers can now live with the revised national curriculum.

Like all heads he would like more money, but he says teachers have to be realistic. He said: "The country cannot afford to spend vast amounts of money on education, and tax-payers do not want to pay more. Whichever party gets in, that will remain the same."

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