Problems plague first non-teacher head

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
Catalogue of woes threatens to put future of government's flagship management initiative in doubt

The first state school to be run by someone with no classroom experience has been hit by a host of problems and lead to heavy criticism of giving headships to non-teachers.

Peter Noble was appointed chief executive of the Richard Rose Federation in Carlisle last year after a career as a health service manager. But Richard Rose Central Academy, one of two academies under his control, has been beset by problems since it opened in September.

Ofsted made an emergency inspection before Christmas, the first of its kind in an academy, triggered by complaints, including unruly behaviour. Now staff are threatening strike action over proposals for a radical overhaul of the school's structure, staffing levels and pay.

Fears have been raised that the changes could leave experienced class teachers Pounds 10,000 a year worse off and up to 49 teaching and non-teaching staff could lose their jobs.

Sources at Richard Rose Academy are concerned that Mr Noble's lack of expertise in education have exacerbated its problems.

The National College for School Leadership, which has said half of all heads could retire by 2012, has suggested non-teachers could take on the top job to help fill the shortage.

An international report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has also recommended that non-teachers could join school leadership teams.

Mr Noble told The TES he had a record of improving public sector organisations, including a hospital and a university medical department. "My role is strategy and transformation; the day-to-day running is down to the educationalists," he said. "Blending the strengths of people is what great organisations do."

He said his task at the academy had been made harder because its opening had been brought forward a year, so consultation on changes could not be completed in advance.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has drafted in an experienced academy head to advise him over the coming weeks.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the experience in Carlisle showed that headship should be reserved for people with extensive classroom experience.

"This should put an end to ideas that anyone can take over a school with a few management techniques in their tool box. Being in charge of a school requires real expertise because that is the way you get the respect of teachers and support staff."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he supported the idea of promoting non-teachers to headships, but only after they have been a non-teaching member of a school's leadership team.


As Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States this week, people around the world waited to see what it would mean for them.

But for pupils at Bootham School in York, there was no such uncertainty - it meant the possibility of mingling with Malia and Sasha, the daughters of the new president.

Bootham is twinned with Sidwell Friends, the Washington school attended by both Mr Obama's daughters. This March, Malia and Sasha's schoolmates will visit York. And next year, Bootham pupils will travel to the US capital.

While the leader of the free world is unlikely to put in an impromptu appearance at the school gates, Bootham teachers hope they may one day play host to one, or both, of his daughters.

Full report, page 6.

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