To whom do we owe our loyalty?

14th January 2000 at 00:00
I AM disturbed that among the reasons for upholding the dismissal of deputy head Jo Withnall (TES, December 24) were "a breech of all the expectations of loyalty and trust" and "misconduct by going behind the back of the headteacher". At least two serious questions inevitably arise.

First, is a teacher's loyalty due only or even primarily to the head? Some years ago as a head of department I resisted the head's plans to reorganise the work of my department, which were in the interests of neither my colleagues nor the pupils.

Convinced that my loyalty lay primarily to them, I submitted a copy of my objections to the governors. I was astonished when my head accused me of taking the argument to "people outside the school". The governors would also have been surprised at this cavalier description of them.

The second question which therefore arises is whether onl the headteacher can enjoy direct official contact with the governing body? If so, it is highly likely that unscrupulous heads could easily manipulate governors to carry out thier personal agendas, with little or no attention being paid to dissenting voices. Professional collaboration, with the head as primus inter pares, is all too easily replaced by dictatorship.

The role of the teacher-governor is surely vital here in providing a legitimate conduit between individual teachers and the governing body, without any suggestion of disloyalty or going behind the head's back. Governors are legally responsible for matters of school policy and should not simply be the headteacher's poodles.

Some of the reasons given in the Withnall judgment carry a hint of encouraging a dictatorial situation.

Michael J Smith

10 Hillview

North Pickenham, Norfolk

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