Let us have a royal college of heads;Letter

16th January 1998 at 00:00
The prominence of headteachers in the New Year Honours list is in principle to be welcomed. It is really good to know that someone important values your work, but can anyone explain exactly how this is supposed to show the importance of education? Given that only a very small proportion even of heads, for example, could receive some patronage from this relic of our class system, what may it say to everyone else working in education?

To the majority who have no acquaintances who have been "honoured" it can surely make no difference in terms of morale, pride or anything else. To those who do know someone in the list it may make a difference, but if - as one has reason in some cases to suspect - there is incontrovertible evidence that some of the achievements being honoured are largely spurious, it will be a negative difference. Given a law of averages and the essentially political nature of the exercise, the likely outcome will be neutral - or to put it more plainly, meaningless.

As there is still no clear agreement about what the indicators of excellence in headship are, it might be more productive if Government and professionals worked together to develop further the medical model (emulated in the general teaching council idea) to establish a Royal College of Headteachers along lines similar to those of the Royal College of Surgeons, for example.

This proposal has been put to the Government and not rejected out of hand, "provided it does not clash with the purposes the Government intends for the GTC". But this passive response leaves some doubt as to whether there is any real intention at Westminster actively to raise the morale and public value of the leadership of our schools.

While the medical royal colleges are not free of accusations of patronage, a properly structured Royal College of Headteachers using clear and explicit criteria to determine membership, fellowship and merit status could do infinitely more than the archaic and arcane honours system to signal a high level of appreciation of real quality in the leadership of schools. At the same time it could link in very constructively to other ideas foreshadowed in the White Paper - though not yet in draft legislation - like laboratory schools. Apart from a small amount of initial financial input - which it might not be too difficult to gain private support for - it need not prove expensive either.

ROGER PASK

The Worralls

Pound Bank? Rock? Kidderminster, Worcestershire

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