Tired heads

4th January 2008 at 00:00
A failing school is a tragedy for the entire school community, above all for children and their parents. These schools are invariably in socially deprived areas where success is desperately needed.

The success or failure of a school is the work of many minds and hands but at the centre of it is always the headteacher, like the head of any business. Therefore, it is not right for Alan Pelleschi and Pat Downes (Inbox, December 21) to underrate the importance of a headteacher in determining the success or otherwise of a school.

There are headteachers who are tired of children, tired of parents, tired of staff and tired of facing the school and that's where the schools go under. I have seen time and time again, as soon as a tired head retires or is retired and a new head is appointed who connects with children, parents and staff and creates the conditions for effective learning, the school is soon flourishing.

Nevertheless, I do sympathise with heads perpetually under scrutiny, questioning and inspection without anyone listening to them, let alone helping.

But who is there to help? Local directorates of children, young people and families are dead organisations and have been dead for a long time. Heads of failing schools know this too well.

Ofsted, as it is, does only half the job it could and should do. It should not simply give a verdict on the health of the school but also set out how to improve it. With its present role of inspection, Ofsted should combine the developmental role.

Diagnoses, treatment and nursing should go hand in hand. It would be a splendid step forward if the team that inspects a school is obliged to work with its management to bring about the desired improvements.

Vimal Sharma, Consultant in school improvement and former assistant director of schools management, City of Birmingham.

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