Save heads from these indignities

20th February 2009 at 00:00

The experience that Kenny Frederick describes is by no means unique ("We're taking a few knocks on the road to recovery", February 13).

From research I conducted with the National Association of Head Teachers last year it is apparent that headteachers who have taken their schools through inspections that have been critical of the school can be exposed to all sorts of pressures and what Mrs Frederick describes as "indignities".

Mrs Frederick, for all the work she has done in raising pupil aspirations in east London, thoroughly deserves to be well-regarded, rather than the uncomfortable way she is automatically slipped into a kind of "pariah" position until her school wins fresh approval.

The research I carried out (UCLan, 2008) suggested that there is a deep-seated anxiety among many heads and would-be heads about being judged, and then stigmatised, for being a leader of a "failing" school. This perceived professional risk may be impacting on headteacher recruitment.

It appears there are no centrally held figures on the links between unsuccessful inspections and numbers of heads resigning or being passed the "brown envelope" at the town hall. This lack of transparency about the price that heads can pay does not help.

Headship is incredibly demanding, yet we let even the best of them, such as Kenny Frederick, be put through a kind of punishment for not being perfect.

Phil Goss, Senior lecturer, counselling and psychotherapy, School for Nursing and Caring Sciences, University of Central Lancashire.

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