School leaders urged to face up to age of uncertainty

13th November 2009 at 00:00
Government training boss asks new generation to look beyond their own boundaries as recession takes its toll

Leading a school in a "climate of uncertainty" caused by the recession will be a major test for the new generation taking up headships during the economic crisis, the man appointed by the Government to train them has said.

Public spending cuts, changes in technology and the more complex nature of the post will bring "serious" challenges, according to Toby Salt, deputy chief executive of the National College.

Mr Salt has called on new heads to "look beyond the boundaries" of their own schools at the National College's annual conference for new headteachers in London.

He also predicted a rise in the number of federations to tackle failing primaries or secondaries and announced that from next year every new head will have a professional mentor to support them.

"Headship is exciting and rewarding in a way that is unlike any other role.

"This generation of heads are the best prepared we have ever seen, but leading in this climate of uncertainty will be a test in itself," he said to the 400 delegates.

"Some stark challenges threaten to hold us back from making the most of them: an ageing workforce, a world in economic and environmental flux and, I'm afraid, tighter public spending.

"These and other issues will change the dynamics of our lives and our communities - they will define our children's lives and how they go on to shape the future world."

Federations would be used "where pupils are being let down" and "excellent" heads and their teams will be asked to help, Mr Salt said.

He and schools minister Vernon Coaker, another speaker at the event, also encouraged the heads to make more use of the talents of their staff, giving them increased responsibility and employing specialists to perform tasks in which heads lack expertise.

Just 30 per cent of primaries have school business managers compared to 90 per cent of secondaries.

"It is the whole team that make the difference, but too often you may be tempted to do things alone - school business managers are a case in point.

"The impact they are having in terms of supporting heads to be more effective leaders is profound," Mr Salt said.


Thousands of teachers have signed up to a union-organised protest against the proposed "licence to teach".

Members of the NUT have voiced their opposition to the scheme, due to start next September, which will require teachers to be "re-licenced" every five years.

The union issued every member with a card they could return if they object to the initiative.

Some 10,000 have been returned in less than two weeks.

Organisers claim that the recent postal strike could mean many more are on their way, and the union says "hundreds" more are arriving daily.

General secretary Christine Blower said: "Teachers already face a raft of accountability measures from initial teaching training, performance management and Ofsted inspections.

"Rather than introduce a licence to practise, the Government would have done far better to introduce a comprehensive professional development strategy for all teachers based on the principle of an individual, funded entitlement for each teacher.

"In contrast, the licence to practise will be awarded by head teachers against a background of inequitable CPD funding, which currently ranges from approximately 0.5 to 14 per cent of school budgets."

The NASUWT has taken a more neutral stance. General secretary Chris Keates is waiting to have a meeting with Schools Secretary Ed Balls to weigh up whether the scheme is "supportive" or "punitive".

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