Heads don't need that vision thing

29th November 2002 at 00:00
AFTER the grand rhetoric about creative, visionary heads to lead us in the new millennium comes the mundane reality: what schools really want is someone to balance the books.

In a recent survey governors were asked to rank the qualities they most rated in a head from a list of 20. Top came good planning, being logical, being good with money, communication skills, and organisational abilities. Vision was near the bottom, at 15th, with creativity 17th, and team-working 19th.

The headteacher who carried out the research said the downgrading of "feminine" qualities such as creativity could explain why men still beat women to senior positions, despite the increasingly female teaching workforce.

Georgiana Sale, head of Matthew Murray high school in Leeds, questioned more than 200 governing bodies as part of research for a masters degree at Hull university. Local authority officers were also given the list. They, in line with national policy-makers, went for visionaries.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke, speaking at last week's conference for new headteachers, said he wanted them to be "leaders as well as managers". He said heads should develop their team, including non-teaching staff; provide a vision and establish a strong ethos; innovate and take risks; focus on pupil achievement and be keen to develop relationships with external agencies and the community.

But governors seem to be stuck in a 20th rather than 21st centurymodel of leadership, said Ms Sale. "I once went for a headship and didn't get it. In feedback, the governors said: 'They said in your reference you were creative. We don't want that here'."

Neil Davies, chair of the National Governors' Council, backed Ms Sale's call for visionary and creative leaders. He suggested governors needed more training more inclined to appoint them: "Some governing bodies do not have human resources skills. Anybody on the appointment panel, not only of a head but of key members of the management team, should expect to have selection and recruitment training from the LEA."

School management, 24

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