Heads are just ordinary people

23rd December 2005 at 00:00
The reality of the pressures headteachers are under is at last beginning to dawn on policy-makers and the education media.

What is odd is how long this has taken, and what is harder to understand is the way the Government and society have been so willing to make the head the scapegoat for failures which are often beyond the control of one person.

The difficulty we have in seeing beyond the black-and-white of the head as either "heroic" or "inadequate" has left many casualties among hardworking, long-serving and often self-sacrificing school leaders.

It is only now, with a looming recruitment crisis for leadership roles in our schools, that the penny begins to drop.

As Mick Brookes, the new National Association of Head Teachers secretary, also says (TES, December 9): "We will not solve the recruitment problem among heads while the Government is saying that, if a school goes into special measures, the head will be sacked."

The difficult truth which needs to be faced is that the head has become an iconic figure in contemporary British society, someone who can apparently solve any problem.

Someone who can do the political work of central and local government - work miracles with children's learning and tackle the often deep-seated problem of local communities, which politicians and policy-makers would rather not face up to.

The flip-side is that this has made the Government trigger-happy about dismissing heads - both literally and psychologically. Thankfully, the teaching profession is not buying into this.

What we need is a cooling of our idealisation of the job.

Yet another feature in The TES last week ("Remedy for a suffering head") reinforces the need for society to recognise the humanity of the head as being often his or her greatest asset. Without this, schools will have to get along without them. Then who would carry the can?

Phil Goss Former headteacher 22 Ruskin Drive Kirkby Lonsdale Carnforth, Lancs

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