Let's talk together
But the Association of Secondary Heads in Essex was one of the keys to Paul Lincoln, the director or education, building bridges with the grant-maintained sector. Establishing good communications and an open dialogue with schools was his first priority on taking charge in Essex.
"When the White Paper 'Excellence in Schools' was published by the new Labour government, I said to the heads (contemplating foundation status): 'Look, you've changed; we've changed. You won't know how we've changed because you've lost contact with us. But we're not talking about going back to old ways - we're talking about a new way forward. I think they've been pleasantly surprised."
Guy Naylor of Appleton School in Benfleet, the chairman of ASE, says:
"Paul Lincoln is certainly seen as an effective communicator and heads identify strongly with his personality. There were many tensions as we moved out of GM and we've worked through all that."
There are regular, programmed meetings between heads and the director - something that did not happen before. "It's very different from having a paternalistic authority directing from on high," says Mr Naylor.
"What Paul did," says David Franklin of Chelmer Valley High, Chelmsford, "was very skilfully maintain a link with ASHE. Then in the last two or three years, as we've moved back together, we've had heads working together with officers on budgeting, value added, school improvement - these groups have done good work on behalf of all of us."
Mr Lincoln's going public about teacher shortages has done the authority some good. "Paul put his head above the parapet," says Guy Naylor."It took courage, and it endeared him to heads."