Heads bullish over staffing

15th June 2001 at 01:00
Headteachers want to call the shots on personnel issues, reports Karen Thornton HEADTEACHERS are still betting on the Government's on-going proposals for school governance and secondary reforms giving them more management freedom, particularly on personnel issues.

At their recent annual conference, they called on ministers to "return greater freedom of independent executive action to heads, in the interests of conducting school business expeditiously".

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers warned governor vacancies were becoming increasingly difficult to fill because of the onerous duties involved. In a show of hands, more than half indicated they had had problems finding governors.

And they said it was unrealistic to expect part-time, unpaid volunteers to carry out effectively and efficiently all the duties placed on them.

"We know we're good enough to run schools effectively," said one.

But the 6,514 responses to consultations by the Department for Education and Skills show governors are divided over whether heads should be given more responsibility for recruiting and disciplining staff, with 51 per cent saying they shouldn't.

That figure is much closer than other surveys have previously suggested. A TES survey of members of its governors information network (see TES, May 4), based on 815 responses, showed two-thirds wanting to retain their involvement in appointments and an overwhelming 94 per cent in favour of keeping their hand in with staff dismissals or appeals. But only 44 per cent had or would start capability procedures against incompetent staff. The two main governor organisations, the NationalGovernors' Council and the National Association of Governors and Managers, insist that their members want to remain involved in staffing decisions, which they see as a key part of their strategic role.

The responses to the government consultations show governors strongly support proposals on approving school budgets, health and safety issues, admissions, and gate-keeping to prevent additional new responsibilities being given to governors.

But more than a third were unhappy with the prospect of becoming responsible for nutritional standards in school meals, and 18 per cent wanted no truck with accessibility plans - a development arising out of new special educational needs and disability rights law.

And they remain opposed to reforming the size and membership of governing bodies so soon after they were expanded to include more parent representatives. But they are less opposed to schools sharing a governing body than NAGM and NGC leaders, with nearly two in five in favour.

With the election out of the way, the Government's working group on the proposed reforms should be reporting back to ministers soon on what to do next - particularly about the areas where there is least agreement, such as staffing, responsibilities, and reforming governing bodies.

But the NAHT remains bullish that things will go their way on staffing. General secretary David Hart said: "My guess is there will at least be an extremely strong steer, and maybe more than a steer, to let heads, senior managers and middle managers manage their schools."

See the governors' section at www.dfee.gov.uk for the government report on the consultations

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