Heads on the block

25th April 2003 at 01:00
IT goes without saying that all professions, journalism no less than teaching, have apples the barrel would be better off without. No doubt ministers on both sides of the border feel from time to time that if only "superheads" would keep coming over the hill to rescue weak schools all their problems would be solved. But wait a minute: life has a habit of imitating art. Moves in England, reported exclusively last week by our sister paper The TES, in which the Education Secretary has sent signals, not to mention a few e-mails, that authorities should be "ruthless" in "taking out" underperforming heads are as breathtaking in their simplistic approach as in their arrogance.

Fortunately, despite all its (thankfully occasional) rhetoric about sending in the cavalry to turn round failing schools, the Scottish Executive has shown no signs of following suit. This kind of surgical strike from the high command is the last thing that schools need or deserve. To their credit, Scottish ministers led by a former teacher appear to have realised that a sullen and abused profession is never going to deliver anything productive, not least the Government's own agenda. Schools, struggling ones especially, cannot be bombed into improvement. Is this the kind of atmosphere likely to encourage replacement heads to line up in eager enthusiasm? Merely to pose the question suggests the answer.

Our survey of the workload of primary heads (ScotlandPlus this week) shows clearly that one of the problems facing them is that school managers are having to juggle daily with the demands of their pupils, staff and parents while also taking on board a constant stream of initiatives from the very people who always claim to be ushering in "stability".

We have observed before, and will continue to do so, that the mania for quick-fix solutions, egged on by a media demanding instant action, is being driven by a political timetable divorced from the realities of school life.

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