Where have all the good heads gone?

13th October 2000 at 01:00
Angela Swire on the struggle to fill the pound;70,000 top job at her failing school

THE staffing committee had

agonised over the wording of the advertisement for a new head. After hours of tortuous negotiation, we agreed to lay our cards on the table.

There was to be no glossing over the fact that the school is in special measures, exam results are way below national averages, the senior management team needs a strong guiding hand, and the words "challenging" and "pupils" fit snugly together.

A tough job, admittedly. But we thought that by opening the post to deputies and by offering a package in excess of pound;70,000, hordes would jump at the chance to head our 1,000-pupil north London comprehensive.

Our optimism appeared well founded when the telephone lines started buzzing. Soon more than 30 application packs were in the post. It seemed there were plenty eager to take on the task of turning the school round in the two-year time limit imposed by the Office for Standards in Education.

In the meantime, an interview panel of five, including a local education authority adviser began practising ts interviewing techniques on fellow governors. Three months later, they're not even close to showing off their cross-examination skills. And it will be some time yet before they get the chance to.

Of the 30 who expressed an interest, only five, including the current acting head, have formally applied - despite a two-week extension to the original closing date. All of them are deputies with less than 10 years' senior management experience between them. An interminable amount of time was spent scrutinising each application before it dawned on us that not one candidate was suitable for interview.

The education authority is sympathetic and agrees that the search will have to be resumed.

Meanwhile, we are six weeks into term and staff, pupils and parents are asking when the new head is going to start. They are anxious for some stability. Pointing to the teacher-recruitment crisis is not going to satisfy them. After all, pound;70,000 is not exactly small change.

Angela Swire is a governor at a North London school in special measures. Her name has been changed to protect the school's identity

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