Stop heads paper-pushing

5th October 2007 at 01:00
New union boss wants to improve the current poor image of school leadership

TEACHING HEADTEACHERs how to resist the pressure to "push paper" so they have more time to teach and learn is big on the agenda of incoming National Association of Head Teachers Cymru president Sue O'Halloran.

And, as delegates from the education union assemble in Cardiff 's Future Inn Hotel today for their annual conference, she will be pushing her own agenda for the year, Leadership for Change, which challenges the way Wales's heads work and operate.

Miss O'Halloran, the 46-year-old head of Garth Primary School in Bridgend, is keen that heads unite to end rising red tape and say "no" to unreasonable form-filling.

However, funding or lack of it at the chalk face will also be a hot issue for her this year.

She wants members to become more savvy about the system, holding the local authority to account if it doesn't deliver by attending forum meetings.

"My school would be in huge deficit if it wasn't for the funding we receive from extra Assembly grants during the year it takes time to keep going hand to mouth for them," she says.

The union is a fan of ring-fencing funding to stop local authorities hanging on to cash instead of putting it into education. She wants to see a transparent, fair funding system for education that will stops heads "juggling accounts and filing paperwork in order to deliver teaching and learning for their schools".

During the conference she will call on the Assembly government to sit around the table and make plans for a new funding formula a commitment in the One Wales policy document.

Heavy-duty workload is also going to be a major issue for Miss O'Halloran over the next year.

"It doesn't surprise me that heads feel overworked," she says.

New workload management courses, being offered by the union as a must for heads feeling the strain, aim to make the job appear more attractive to a new generation of school leaders.

But a shortage of heads is not an excuse for opening up school leadership to unqualified staff with qualified teaching status, something being hotly pursued over the border in England but held in contempt here.

"Reducing workload, increasing training and celebrating success is what we are all about," she says.

The three-year budget is near

Propsals for the introduction of three-year school budgets are imminent, the Assembly government said this week.

But the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru is concerned that other recommendations to come out of a landmark report on school funding last year have still not been acted on yet.

These include making funding distributed to local authorities clearer and fairer, taking into account different needs such as pupil numbers and deprivation. Latest figures to come from the union, released last week, show 14 out of 22 LAs spent below what the government expects in the indicative base assessment (IBA).

Iwan Guy, NAHT Cymru school funding consultant, said: "At the moment, the Assembly government is saying enough money has been given to each authority to run its education service, but the LAs are saying that they don't have enough."

But an Assembly government spokersperson said it had no powers to impose sanctions on low-spending local authorities.

"All authorities complied with our request to report to their council, schools forum and the Assembly government on their budgets set for this year. This has helped to improve transparency of funding and local accountability."

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