Superheads wait in action zone wings

28th November 1997 at 00:00
The Government is proposing to send in "super" heads and governors to take over+ clusters of schools in education action zones. The idea is outlined in the + Government's centrepiece standards legislation, to be published next + week.Stephen Byers, school standards minister, told chief education officers at+ their annual conference at Warwick University that one head could take charge + of secondary schools and their feeder primaries in areas designated an + education action zone.These "super" heads and governors will be in the vanguard+ to raise standards in deprived parts of the country. The education action + zones will co-ordinate with health and employment action zones.But even before + the ink is dry on the legislation, there are signs that the plan could run into+ trouble. Headteachers in the east London borough of Newham are furious that + their local education authority is proposing to bid to become an action zone. + They point to the recent performance tables, which show their schools are + improving and fear that a superhead will be parachuted in.David Hart, general + secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said local authorities + would have to treat the issue with sensitivity. He said: "The concept sounds + potentially exciting and could be of great benefit to pupils from deprived + backgrounds. But will the schools in an education action zone necessarily be + failing or on special measures? "They could be labelled as underperforming, but+ may have had satisfactory inspections. We are all in favour of good heads + being brought in to take over difficult schools, however we are concerned that + policy in education action zones is being made up on the hoof."Mr Byers said + the scheme would start with five action zones and eventually reach 25. He said:+ "These plans are new and exciting. This is an example of flexibility being + used to spread best practice."The Schools Standards and Framework Bill will be + published next week. It will run in parallel with the Teaching and Higher + Education Bill, which was launched in the House of Lords this week and + introduces tuition fees, new arrangements for student loans, a year's induction+ course for new teachers, a General Teaching Council, a professional + qualification for heads and a new focus on literacy and numeracy.Ministers won + their argument to hive off the potentially troublesome tuition fees legislation+ from their standards Bill which will tackle failing teachers and introduce + target-setting and foundation schools.A Government source said: "Education is + being treated very well. It's managed to get space for two Bills. It means + that we are not going to have the distraction of debating about tuition fees . + . . so we can concentrate on school standards. The agenda is not going to be + sidetracked. It's good news."He added that the standards Bill would differ in + parts from the White Paper because the Government had taken note of points made+ in the consultation period. The Bishops have now been appeased by a change + which retains voluntary-controlled status and concessions on admissions policy.+ There were more than 8,000 contributions, more than half responses to leaflets+ displayed in supermarkets. The Government fears its own backbenchers could + cause problems over tuition fees. The announcement of the Goverment response to+ Sir Ron Dearing's higher education report resulted in embarrassment this + summer when it appeared that gap-year students had been ignored.The most + controversial part of the standards Bill is the creation of foundation schools,+ the successor to grant-maintained schools.

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