Is this really the way to go?

6th July 2007 at 01:00
Headteachers demand something in return for business-style appraisals more control over their schools

HEADTEACHER ASSOCIATIONS have warned that acceptance of Glasgow City Council's plans to introduce a business-style appraisal scheme for heads will come with strings attached.

Bill MacGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, set out two conditions for endorsement of the proposal one of 65 recommendations in the council's education commission report, published last week.

The first was that the quid pro quo for tougher appraisal would be greater autonomy for heads.

The second was that the appraisals should be carried out by someone with knowledge and experience of the secondary sector.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said his main proviso was that more rigorous appraisal for heads should apply equally to classroom teachers.

Mr MacGregor said there was no point in introducing more business-style appraisals if heads were simply "doing as they are told by the local authority".

He added: "If they are given more power and independence in running their schools, they should be subject to appraisal."

Mr MacGregor also insisted that, if secondary heads were to be subject to more rigorous scrutiny, it would have to be carried out by people who had an awareness of the conditions of the job.

"Appraisal of headteachers of secondary schools should be done by someone who has experience," he said, "But that is all but impossible in Glasgow, as the directorate does not include any former secondary heads. An appraisal such as this cannot be conducted satisfactorily by a quality improvement officer who has no experience of running a secondary school."

One solution might be to set up "school improvement partnerships" similar to those operating in England, which involve an experienced headteacher from elsewhere.

Mr MacGregor welcomed the proposal to set up a leadership academy within the city, but questioned whether the authority could find the money to do so.

While the HAS does not have a position on specialist secondaries, Mr MacGregor gave his personal backing for the commission's plans to create more schools specialising in areas such as science and technology, as long as they were not city academies by the back door.

"If that means children who live in Glasgow stay in Glasgow, as opposed to moving over the borders to East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire, that would be welcomed," he said.

Mr Dempster said most primary heads would welcome a robust appraisal system because it would mean that their local authority would have to know their schools better than they do at present in some areas. It should also help eliminate the situation where local authority officials and HMIE came to different conclusions about the effectiveness of a school.

Larry Flanagan, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland and a principal teacher of English in Glasgow, welcomed the commission's focus on literacy and numeracy.

But he warned that his union would not countenance Glasgow trying to opt out of class size maxima set by the Scottish Executive.

The commission placed greater emphasis on teacher competency than small classes, and cited research that cast doubt on the effectiveness of cutting early years classes, only for them to rise again later on.

Last month, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, announced plans to cut class sizes to a maximum of 18 in P1-3.

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