Tempt talent with a golden hello

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
Is it any surprise there's a leadership crisis? The age profile of the teaching profession isn't exactly a secret
Is it any surprise there's a leadership crisis? The age profile of the teaching profession isn't exactly a secret. What does surprise me is that every time we have a problem in education, the Government always turns to successful leaders for advice. If ministers and civil servants really want to find out how to address the crisis, they need to talk to the heads of struggling schools, or even ordinary or moderately successful ones. If they did, they'd have a better chance of finding out what's putting bright, young, daring teachers off the top job.

They could start by walking into any school and looking at the policy file. How many do you think they'll find? Twenty? Forty? How much time does each represent? How fresh are they? Just reviewing them is probably a year's work in itself.

Then they should take a look into the head's post-bag or inbox, and ask a simple question: how many people who make a living out of education actually do so out of teaching? How much of our work has really come to be about keeping other people in jobs?

Don't get me wrong. Being a head is a wonderful job. Hold me accountable by all means, but not for all the weaknesses and shortcomings of our society. Please stop sending me so much rubbish through the post. And stop asking me so many questions.

Recently, at the funeral of a former friend and colleague, I began to think of the people we had worked with, including 11 who had moved on to become heads. In my current school, I can name two.

We talk readily of creating the conditions for learning, but what we also need to do is create the conditions for leading, nationally and locally. It may sound like a cliche, but we are straitjacketed by bureaucracy. I for one have more than 50 quantitative targets to meet, and a blizzard of forms to sign each week. If we want to inspire today's talented teachers to become tomorrow's leaders, we need to show them that being a head can be the most creative and rewarding job in teaching. To do that, the straitjacket must come off.

I suspect, though, that the response to this crisis will be predictably bureaucratic. Again, there is a simple solution: every time someone is appointed head, award a grant to their previous school of, say, pound;80,000 in recognition of their support and development, with a pound;20,000 golden hello to the successful applicant.

As for me, the budget is healthy, the school is oversubscribed and positive. So very often, though, colleagues say to me, "I wouldn't do your job", and believe me, I'm not superman. I'm nearly 55, and although I love most of my job, sometimes I think longingly of early retirement.

Rob Haylock, Principal of Chilwell School, Nottinghamshire.

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