Tories would allow teachers to sack heads

19th February 2010 at 00:00
David Cameron's co-operative worker plan hands `dramatic new powers' to public sector staff

Original paper headline: Tories would allow teachers to tell heads, `You're fired'

Teachers will have the power to sack their heads, if the Conservatives win the general election, it emerged this week.

This week the party re-launched its co-operative worker plan that will allow public sector staff to take control of their own organisations.

Under the proposals, teachers will be given "dramatic new powers" to run their school, including the ability to decide the management structure, where to cut costs and even share any financial surpluses among the staff.

The plans will allow teachers to decide whether they should fire their headteacher, if they are unhappy with the direction of the school, without fear of intervention from Whitehall.

Following the speech by Tory leader David Cameron launching the new proposals, a Conservative source said teachers in a co-op school would effectively become sponsors of the school, as is the case with academies.

"They would decide who would sit on the board of governors, they may decide to make it up from their own number, or bring in parents or such to sit on the board. The board would then be responsible for hiring and firing headteachers," the source told The TES.

But Martin Ward, deputy general secretary for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the unions would take a "dim view" of the powers, adding they would be "extremely dangerous" when it came to existing schools.

Mr Ward said: "It might work if it were a new school and one of the teachers would volunteer to be the head. But applying it to existing schools would be extremely dangerous as it would create all sorts of conflicts. ASCL would take a particularly dim view of it as all of our members placed into that position would be put at risk.

"All the pressures from government are on the headteacher and they are forced to manage their staff in a very direct and appointed way to be sure that they are working to the best of their efforts to get the best outcomes for our children. That inevitably makes school leaders unpopular people.

He added: "It would be very difficult for them to do that if the outcome would be that all of the teachers could come together and decide `this isn't working for us, clear off'."

John Bangs, head of education at teaching union the NUT, said the suggestion that teachers could fire their school leader would have "massive ramifications" for schools.

"It's an off-the-wall idea," he said. "[Schools Secretary] Ed Balls has been promoting the idea and I think David Cameron is saying he can go further - it's a crowd-pleaser."

According to the Conservatives, the new co-op schools would be similar to the party's proposed free schools, which will allow charities, private education providers and parents to set up their own schools.

Clarissa Williams, past president of heads' union the NAHT, said that in her 24 years of being a head, she learnt that teachers just want to get on with teaching.

"We know enough about what good leadership should be and we should be building on that rather than creating another stratum of models," she said. "Teachers don't want to be involved in the day-to-day running of the school and having opportunities of falling out with their head, they want to focus on helping children learn."

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