Listen to heads' outcry of despair

6th May 2005 at 01:00
David Hart's letter (TES, April 22) is, as usual, totally cogent and states the obvious fact that it is probably better to be in the workload agreement "tent" than outside it.

All the speakers at the special conference which eventually voted to come out expressed their belief in the principles of the agreement and I would guess that most of those who voted to come out also shared the view that David Hart espouses.

Many, like myself, who have followed and so often admired David's performance as general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, felt a sense of l se-majeste in not following his advice on that occasion. We hope that the vote against does result in a pyrrhic victory but the reasoning behind it , I would suggest, is the result of a long period of concern among heads that no one was really listening to them.

This issue is only the latest of many problems that have perplexed, angered and demoralised heads and a large part of the teaching force. Since 1988, when Kenneth Baker's first great initiative on a national curriculum was allegedly drafted on the back of a menu that Jamie Oliver would probably not have approved of, the teaching profession has been deluged with initiatives: good, bad and downright stinkers.

Schools have been given so many new ideas which they have dutifully started; been trained for (sometimes); seen the funding taken away; been given a new idea; had it inspected, monitored, evaluated and either scrapped or superseded by "Mark I..." when the secretary of state changed or Tony Blair wanted a good spread in the Press.

Children (the most important people in the system, though you would not always think so), support staff, teachers and senior managers now need a rest from the Department for Education and Skills "Generation Game"-style conveyor belt.

We need time to consolidate, polish or discard things that we have started.

We are fed up with initiatives which are badly thought-out or badly timed and the omens for the change from management points to teaching and learning points bode very ill indeed.

Voting to come out of the workload agreement was for very many heads a protest and a cry of despair at the total overload they face daily. It was also, for many NAHT members, a signal to their leaders that the senior leadership had lost touch with the membership.

This may be more perception than fact but the result is the same and it is made all the sadder by its coming at the end of David Hart's outstanding period of office. The whole teaching force needs to make it clear to the new Government that it is tired of being pushed around and treated with so little respect.

Tony Roberts 144 Cop Lane Penwortham Preston, Lancashire

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