Preventing the abuse

10th October 2003 at 01:00
I recognise Ewan Chalmers's bull-headed headteacher, just as he must recognize my occasional reactionary teacher malcontent (TESS, September 26).

Headteachers and teachers are required to carry out policies and innovations, whatever their reservations, sent down from the politicians whom they have elected at local and national level. Teachers may resent these policies because they did not vote for the parties in power, or because the policies are unworkable, unsustained financially, or because they themselves are committed to the status quo.

Although I chose to illustrate the vulnerability of new headteachers in response to Ewan Chalmers's "urban myth" accusation, my initial interest was triggered by established headteachers who had suddenly found themselves conspired against by elements in their staffs.

I have examples of people whose school reports had been exemplary, who had been seconded by their authorities for special duties, whose schools had been progressing happily, smoothly and seamlessly over a number of years, and who suddenly found their backs to the wall, with unjustified accusations of bullying, harassment and incompetence, and with their authority shaping up against them or failing to defend them adequately.

My concern, apart from the vulnerability of headteachers, and the impotence or unwillingness of some of their unions to defend them, is the fact that the means by which the legitimate or contrived complaints of their staffs are dealt with varies alarmingly from one education authority to another.

The recent agreement on A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century leaves scope for locally negotiated disciplinary procedures - a recipe for continued lack of transparency, inconsistency and injustice to threatened heads.

All disciplinary procedures for all staff should be uniform throughout the country, in detail as well as in principle, to prevent abuse.

Colin Campbell Shuttle Street, Kilbarchan

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