Wanted: head to do the talking

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Bradford heads are clubbing together to pay for an pound;80,000-a-year official to improve standards in the city's secondaries.

Bradford Secondary Heads association (BSH), which has 28 members, aims to appoint someone to represent it and its governing bodies at the raft of meetings it has to attend each year.

John Patterson, 53, head of Bingley grammar, Bradford, an executive member of the association, said: "Heads feel strongly that we need to out of school for too long to attend meetings run by the Department for Education and Skills and the Learning and Skills Council. Our time could be better used in schools."

Mr Patterson defended the salary, likely to be pound;80,000 and met out of school funds. "If you want an effective head of a successful secondary to take on a job which is an unknown quantity, you have to expect to pay a competitive salary," he said.

Bradford council was branded very poor by the Office for Standards in Education in 2000. In July 2001, Education Bradford, an off-shoot of Serco, won a 10-year pound;360 million contract to run education in the city.

The BSH director will work with Education Bradford's new pound;95,000-a-year director of secondary school improvement to pinpoint good practice and share it with other secondaries.

Mark Pattison, Education Bradford's managing director, said: "Teachers do not phone each other and say, 'We are doing this and you should do it too.'

This is a more effective way of making that happen."

Margaret Platts, the chair of BSH and head of Belle Vue girls' school, said: "The director's post will be a point of reference for Education Bradford and its new director of secondary school improvement. It will allow our agendas to meet more often."

Schools must work together to boost standards, said Gareth Dawkins, former BSH chair and head of Challenge college. Mr Dawkins, 45, who is on a year's secondment at Darwen Moorland community high school, Blackburn, said:

"Schools have recognised that they can move forward quicker if they work together.

"There would be no chance of getting a penny out of any of the heads if they did not think it would work. Heads do not part with money for an area like this unless they are persuaded it is going to move them on."

A similar scheme, which could prove even more radical, has been set up by heads in Essex.

The county's Association of Secondary Heads has established a "collaborative" along with representatives of the local authority and the DfES which gives heads a greater say in how the council allocates resources and how it handles school improvement.

Carey Bennet, head of school services for Essex, said: "The association executive used to meet and decide things, and the council would meet separately and decide things. Now we do it together."

Terry Creissen, a collaborative member and principal of Colne community school, said the scheme was a step towards a future in which heads could make councils redundant.

"Local authorities are a waste of time - a very expensive money-laundering service," he said.

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