Problems solved at the drop of a hat

3rd October 1997 at 01:00
A few years ago the clothing industry began to realise that fashions were changing. As the "natural" look developed, people stopped wearing headgear.

Some advertising executive, shrewdly deciding that an appeal to personal ambition might work, came up with the neat catchphrase "If you want to get ahead, get a hat".

The news story about the reluctance of many teachers to become heads of schools reminded me of this clever slogan. Applications for headships have plummeted, as deputies and senior teachers decided they would not touch one of the most important jobs in our society with two barge poles tied end to end. Unfilled vacancies have soared, and numerous schools began the year with an acting headteacher.

The advertising slogan for hats could be adapted for schools without leaders. For chairmen of governing bodies who want to be able to walk all over the new incumbent: "If you want to get a head, get a mat." To emphasise the ability to deal with pests of one kind or another: "If you want to get a head, get a cat."

The crisis cannot have been helped by a startling headline in the national press recently.

It read: "Head removed in surgery." Curious to know whether this was the latest method of dealing with the leader of a failing school, I read on eagerly. Had the poor beggar perhaps clung so firmly to his desk when they tried to fire him, that only a scalpel could prise him off? Did they give him an anaesthetic? Or was he made to write mission statements until his whole body turned numb and unfeeling?

The story had nothing to do with headteachers. Apparently a team of surgeons had succeeded, for the first time, in detaching someone's head and then reconnecting it. I realised immediately that this new surgical technique could solve several problems in educational leadership.

There has been a suggestion, from time to time, that money could be saved if two or more schools shared the same headteacher. Another idea was that heads who do well in school inspections might also have an oversight of other, less successful schools.

Up to now these proposals have been thought to be impractical - too much stress, not enough time, geographical distance, and so on. The new surgical technique solves everything. The successful headteacher's bonce can simply be detached and put on a stick.

Remember when iced lollipops were called the "drink on a stick"? Well this would be the "head on a stick". Brilliant. It will be named the "Worzel Gummidge solution" after the beloved children's television scarecrow character who had a series of detachable heads on sticks, allowing him to assume different characters.

The school down the road is having a riot? No problem. Get an ambulance and rush Worzel's nut over in a crate. Then all you have to do is attach it to the body of the poor beggar who cannot cope. Easy.

The head-on-a-stick approach could have many other effective applications. Suppose the head is feeling jaded. Simply take a fresh Worzel out of the cupboard, dust it down, screw it on to the weary shoulders of Mr or Ms Knackered, pour a glass or two of Phyllosan ("fortifies the over-forties") down its throat, and all will be well.

There must be considerable commercial possibilities here for a financial killing.

My new limited company will surely be a commercial blockbuster and our 1988 catalogue is already rolling off the presses. We at Rent-a-Head will be offering a series of versatile Worzels for schools with problems.

The 1998 range includes a number of exciting new screw-ins. I fully expect the Machiavelli to be a best seller, guaranteed to turn the most innocuous headteacher into a wily scheming manipulator. If you want to get a head, get a rat.

Is the head unable to persuade the governors? Rent-a-Head has the answer. Screw in our Dame Edith for the acting performance of the century, not a dry eye in the house. The Branson model will also be ideal for schools struggling financially. Heads who are clueless about raising extra cash will develop into brilliantly successful entrepreneurs.

Are assemblies boring? Worry not. The 1998 Spice Girls range offers a set of five detachable heads all with different attractive and vivacious personalities. Hymn practice need never again appear to drag. The Posh Spice model is aimed at working-class heads wanting to improve their image.

Nor has school security been forgotten. Top of the range here is our Woodhead. This hand-crafted Worzel is a bargain at Pounds 39.99, complete with short cropped wiry hair and severe glasses. Stick it on a pole by the front gate to keep out undesirables.

As an ambitious new company, Rent-a-Head will be extending into related fields. Any local authority with a dreary chief education officer will surely purchase our Brighouse, certain to inspire heads and teachers with fresh enthusiasm and ideas.

Our Pavarotti will also be a winner. It is not guaranteed to improve performance, but it enables the CEO to comment acidly to the chairman of the education committee on any lack of cash for schools with a quick burst of "Your tiny hand is frozen".

A few years ago someone suggested that people who had failed in industry might retrain as teachers and then become heads, as if inadequate management in one field would somehow, magically, become good management in another.

There may be a crisis in the recruitment of new heads, but desperate solutions would be the last straw. The message is clear: if you want to get a head, don't get a prat.

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