How some schools changed

10th November 1995 at 00:00
A flat management structure with widely-delegated resp-onsibilities and no deputy heads has enabled Kemnal Technology College in Bromley to respond to change, according to headteacher John Atkins.

The senior management team is now made up of John Atkins and seven senior teachers called vice-principals, five of whom have curricular responsibilities. The sixth looks after staff development, while the other member of the team, a non-teacher, is in charge of many of the areas traditionally handled by deputy heads, including finance, contracts, buildings and support staff.

Other responsibilities are delegated to teams for particular issues which are disbanded once they the task is complete. John Atkins sees these flexible teams as the key to the college's ability to respond to change. Since 1990 it has become a grant-maintained school and grown from 570 to 800 pupils.

"With this structure we can form a team and once they have carried out the strategic planning and we are into systems maintenance and evaluation, we can dismantle the team and reform it, maybe to look at information technology or another issue."

These fluid teams give middle managers and staff lower down the career ladder a breadth of experience they might not gain in a more traditionally organised school. Mr Atkins believes the staffing structure also senior management team members the kind of strategic and operational experience they will need if they apply for deputy headships and eventually headships in other schools. But he makes no apology for the lack of internal promotion prospects. "My responsibility is to the pupils here and to their parents."

South Manchester High School.

If one of South Manchester High School's two deputy heads were to resign now, the school would not be able to replace him. Situated in Benchill, one of the most deprived parts of Manchester, this 11 to 16 comprehensive faces tough competition. Pupils numbers have fallen from 580 to 500 in the last three years and the school has lost two of its three senior teachers' posts.

While two deputy heads' posts may be difficult to justify on financial grounds in this situation, headteacher Phil Taylor believes that for educational reasons they remain important.

"Good deputies are worth their weight in gold," he says. "You want people with a wider view than classroom teachers are able to have, and because of the jobs they do deputies build up a feel for a wide range of issues."

Mr Taylor sees no conflict between holding on to deputy heads' posts and encouraging the rest of the staff to take part in decisions affecting the whole school.

When he was promoted from deputy to head in 1988 he introduced a more collegiate management style, expanding the management team to take in two teachers on C allowances and reserving an extra space for anyone else who wanted to join for a term. Members of the team, which includes a teacher turned "super bursar", take it in turns to chair meetings, which are open to all staff.

Since becoming head, Mr Taylor has also scrapped head-of-year posts, redistributing their non-contact time among class tutors, who rather than referring problems up the line are now able to deal directly with matters affecting their own pupils. All 29 members of staff, including Mr Taylor and his two deputies, act as tutors.

"That's not just because of budget cuts," he says. "It was a conscious decision that if a tutor's job is the most important in the school, then the highest-paid people should be employed to do it."

Homewood Comprehensive When Derek Adam became head of Homewood Comprehensive, the senior management team consisted of six directors of faculty and a qualified teacher employed as a school manager. That structure is still in place, but this grant-maintained school in Tenderden, Kent, now has a director of finance and administration instead of a manager. The directors are called assistant headteachers.

"I found that the directors were becoming very much involved in day-to-day operational issues and problem solving, and time had moved on and I needed them in a more strategic role, planning, developing, evaluating and monitoring what was going on," explains Mr Adam. "I also felt that the long-term promotion prospects of the directors of faculty could be limited by that particular nomenclature."

As assistant headteachers, the six are effectively doing the work of deputy heads, and Mr Adam believes that a job title reflecting this level of responsibility improves their chances of eventually moving on to headships. They each receive five additional points for responsibility on the teachers' pay scale. At the same time the school still has a senior management team that brings together those responsible for all curriculum areas. This would have been difficult in a traditional hierarchy with just two deputies.

William Howard School.

Paul Diggle is the only deputy head at William Howard School, but two of his senior management colleagues are on the deputy heads' pay scale - Tony Roper for taking on the school's information management systems and Janet Simpson for heading its initial teacher training programme.

Both senior teachers were at the top of their pay scale and this was the only way to reward them for the extra work they had taken on, explains Roger Alston, head of this 11 to 18 comprehensive in Cumbria which became grant-maintained last April.

William Howard School has had just one deputy head since 1992, when one of its three deputies retired and another moved elsewhere. The saved salaries created a new main-scale teaching post and beefed up the school's administrative and finance function.

These arrangements have not been affected by the decision to reward the two senior teachers for the extra responsibilities they have taken on. In Janet Simpson's case the extra cash comes out of income generated by the teacher training programme, while Tony Roper's top-up comes from savings the school has achieved by managing its own information systems, rather than buying this service from the local authority.

Ms Simpson and Mr Roper are both gaining the leadership experience which the role of deputy head has traditionally offered those going on to headships. But Roger Alston sees no point in changing their job titles from-"directors" to "deputy headteachers".

"You only need one deputy, who steps in when the head is not there and takes over the school," he says. "It is only because people have hierarchical systems that they feel the need to have more than one deputy head.

A roll rising from 925 three years ago to 1,040 today and control over its own finance has provided William Howard School with enough money "on the margins" to continue to improve its management and reward those who take on new responsibilities.

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