Leader of the pack steps on the gas

15th April 2005 at 01:00
The next general secretary of the NAHT talks to William Stewart about the tough road ahead

With his 1000cc Honda Firestorm motorbike, rock band membership and his support for withdrawal from the workforce agreement, it is easy to see why Mick Brookes attracts the rebel tag.

But it is one he rejects, pointing to nine years' national council membership at the heart of the National Association of Head Teachers'


Even so, he plans to take a tough line with ministers when he takes over as the association's leader in September, and warns them that thousands of heads will be unable to implement the final phase of the deal that guarantees teachers 10 per cent planning, preparation and assessment time (PPA).

"Some serious talking at both national and local levels is going to have to happen to avoid a catastrophe in September," he told The TES in his first interview since trouncing David Hawker, the association's headhunted official candidate, by 8,863 votes to 4,374.

It is a mandate the affable head of Sherwood junior school in Warsop, Nottinghamshire, believes will serve him well as he calls for new money to reduce the 30 per cent funding gap between secondary and primary schools.

David Hart, whom he succeeds as general secretary, described the result from the 40,000 electorate as the biggest upset since trade unions were required to elect their leaders by law.

Mr Brookes could find himself getting a rough ride from senior members within the association, some of whom have dismissed him as "just a provincial primary head". That - together with the rejection of his leadership application at the first hurdle before he decided to force an election - still rankles.

"That is so demeaning to our profession," said the 56-year-old. "Why we didn't try to recruit one of our own remains a mystery."

Grassroots members' rejection of Mr Hawker, the smooth apparatchik who will now continue to head children's services at Brighton and Hove council, is the second major reversal for the NAHT council in a month. It follows the decision, backed by Mr Brookes, to withdraw from the workforce deal.

Now he is eager to "mend fences" and bring the association back together.

Rona Tutt, NAHT president, said she would work with Mr Brookes but was disappointed by the result.

Mr Hawker, who had to compete for a job he thought was already his, said:

"Members are angry about the workforce agreement and a vocal minority have made their voices heard."

Mr Brookes will go from running a school with a pound;600,000 budget and 32 staff to a national pound;7 million organisation with 40,000 members and 75 employees.

It is a prospect he takes in his stride, saying that heads' skills are transferable, but he admits his new routine will have a personal cost. From September he will have to leave his Nottinghamshire home before 6am every Monday morning for the NAHT's Sussex HQ, and not return until Friday.

But the time the grandfather does spend with his family will be even more valuable as he will be relying on Karen, his wife, another Nottinghamshire primary head, to keep him in touch with the classroom. Certainly, leaving his headship will be a wrench.

"I found that very difficult - I have put 20 years of my life into this school," he said after announcing his departure to an emotional assembly on Friday when his pupils burst into spontaneous applause.

His successor will have an easier ride than many heads because Mr Brookes has already introduced PPA time a year ahead of schedule, although he stresses that it has left a pound;10,000 hole in the school finances.

He will be encouraging heads to highlight under-funding by producing one budget with PPA time and one without. He fears many could end up worsening their own conditions by struggling to put the deal into practice.

* william.stewart@tes.co.uk

Leader 22

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