Heads pay penalty for success

17th January 2003 at 00:00
Anger as 2,400 secondaries miss out on new pound;375,000-per-school leadership grant. Jon Slater reports

HEADTEACHERS have attacked a new grant to improve leadership as unfair and massively bureaucratic.

They are angry that the substantial leadership incentive grant, worth pound;375,000 per school over three years, will be paid to 1,400 secondary schools in England, but that the other 2,400 will receive nothing.

Headteachers say that many schools which have worked hard to improve standards will face a pound;125,000 per year penalty for success.

While those schools will miss out on the LIG cash all schools in Excellence in Cities areas will benefit. These include the London Oratory, attended by Tony Blair's son and selective schools such as King Edward VI Camp Hill in Birmingham.

The money could be used to pay off bad headteachers. A 21-page guidance document sent to councils over Christmas suggests that local education authorities should consider withholding the grant from schools identified as "causing concern", in an effort to replace ineffective headteachers or encourage schools to form federations.

Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the grant as part of the July spending review as a way of increasing collaboration between schools and ensuring money goes where it is most needed.

It makes clear that the only schools eligible for the money are those with more than 35 per cent of pupils taking for free school meals, fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSEs or which are in Excellence in Cities areas, education action zones or excellence clusters.

Chris Penter, head of Fairfield high school for girls in Tameside, Manchester, is angry that his school, which shares good practice as part of its beacon status, will miss out. "We will not receive the grant because the school is well led and well managed, but it is well led and well managed in difficult circumstances.

"The schools 50 yards down the road will receive the grant because they are in an Excellence in Cities area. They have not thought this through," he said.

Schools who receive the grant will have to write a four-page plan setting out the ways in which they will collaborate. They will be split into four groups based on pupil performance and leadership. Those in the top group will be expected to help those in lower groups within their local education authority to raise standards. LIG consultants, LEA officers, the London commissioner, Technology Colleges Trust and National College for School Leadership will all be involved in monitoring the scheme.

In Redbridge, the consultant, LEA officer and London commissioner will have just one school to monitor as none of the other 16 secondaries in the area qualify.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, described it as "the worst example yet of cliff-edge funding" and said it gave LEAs 10 new powers to "interfere" with schools.

"The LIG has upset the leaders of the 2,400 secondary schools that will not receive it. The bureaucratic nature of the LIG guidance is sure to upset most of the 1,400 schools that will receive the funds. It is quite an achievement to spend so much money and cause so much concern," he said.

A government spokesperson said: "It is not the Government's intention to penalise successful schools. However, ministers have decided that funds should be targeted on schools facing challenging circumstances and schools in cities to ensure that all children receive the best possible education," she said.

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