Rumblings of a heads' revolution

28th April 2006 at 01:00
Heads as revolutionaries? Now there is an image to conjure with, as mild-mannered Mrs Jones considers whether or not to go to the barricades against key stage 2 league tables at St Cuthbert's primary.

Yet perhaps the real surprise is that such a radical suggestion has never before been seriously raised by a headteachers' organisation.

The whirl of initiatives - accelerated when Labour came to power in 1997 - has transformed the school landscape, and along with it the jobs and workloads of teachers, and particularly heads.

Teachers, buried in planning and assessment, finally won back some quality of life with the workload agreement.

That same agreement has been the final straw for many primary heads, who find themselves teaching extra hours to cover their staff's statutory preparation time. Some headteachers implode dramatically, like the Hull man who told a heads' meeting "I have lost the will to live", and left doing the Morecambe and Wise dance before resigning. More go quietly. Many struggle on after stress-related illnesses.

Mick Brookes, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, is using his conference speech to urge members to take back control of their schools - and suggest English education, like its UK counterparts, might be better off without KS2 league tables.

The government response is predictable, but Ruth Kelly should take the underlying mood seriously. Since being swept into power by an NAHT members'

revolt, direct from his own headship, Mr Brookes has been meeting his members. They are not extremists. If their mood suggests he can make this threat, the situation is perilous. Both heads' organisations are warning loudly that the demands of the job are leading to a recruitment crisis. It is time for the Government to listen properly and then act on those pressures, both through the mechanism of the pay review body and also by truly empowering heads. The barricades may not yet be manned, but the gauntlet has been thrown.

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