'Outstanding leaders' of first federation face axe

4th February 2011 at 00:00
Half of SMT to go in bid to cut costs under new headship

Half of the management team at the country's first school federation - rated outstanding for leadership by Ofsted - are facing redundancy just months after a new headteacher took charge.

The senior staff at Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School in Tower Hamlets, east London, have been told they face the axe as part of a "restructuring" to make budget savings.

The move comes amid wider fears about the vulnerability of senior leadership jobs as school budgets come under pressure. The trend towards federations could exacerbate the problem, heads' unions have warned.

It is understood that five of the 10-strong senior leadership team at Bishop Challoner, which recently moved into new #163;47 million buildings, have been told their jobs could go.

Insiders at the school, which comprises a boys' school, girls' school and mixed sixth-form, say morale is at "rock bottom" since the job cuts were announced by new executive head Jackie Johnson. The previous long-standing head, Catherine Myers, retired in July last year.

The school has been feted for its pioneering work in leadership, with inspectors reporting in 2009 that the overall effectiveness of its federated model of leadership was "outstanding".

The school's governing body this week confirmed that the school had entered a consultation process on a "restructuring of the senior management team", but said no other staff reorganisation was being considered.

"We are anxious, as always, that our resources are focused as much as possible on the needs of the children in our care," a spokesman said. "We very much hope that all those concerned will participate in this consultation."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said members from "all over the country" had contacted the union because their jobs were under threat.

The trend towards academies and federations was also responsible for "restructuring" and job cuts as much as fears over funding, he said.

"We will expect job losses on all levels but cutting senior jobs may cause long-term problems," he said.

"They can retain frontline staff in subjects, but they will not have the capacity to perform leadership functions for development of the school."

Heads' union the NAHT claims that up to 15,000 of the 24,000 state schools in England and Wales face spending cuts. General secretary Russell Hobby last month warned that senior managers and support staff were especially vulnerable.

BISHOP CHALLONER - Prize assets

- Number of pupils: 1,700.

- Ofsted 2008: girls' school - "good with outstanding features"; boys' school - "good and improving".

- Number of languages spoken: 73.

- Award from Lithuanian government for its work with Lithuanian students.

- TES Schools Award 2010 for Outstanding Community Involvement for its youth services provision.

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