Why I am the right man to lead NAHT

17th December 2004 at 00:00
Your piece last week "Hawker takes on the load" must have left the 30,000 members of the National Association of Head Teachers wondering what kind of a person I really am (TES, December 10). I am used to ignoring personal criticism but, for their sake, I need to respond.

First, I am greatly looking forward to taking on the role of general secretary of the NAHT, if my appointment is endorsed by the membership. I see it as an immense privilege as well as a challenge, and I shall be wanting to spend a lot of time listening to members' concerns, so that I can represent them effectively.

Your piece gives a very unbalanced view of my relationships with school leaders in Brighton and Hove. By and large they are very good, and I have had numerous letters of congratulation on my new role, including one from the local NAHT branch secretary. There are bound to be times when a director of education has to take a different line from individual heads.

We have always worked through these differences, and mostly resolved them satisfactorily.

As I am also responsible for children's social care and associated services, I have to leave most direct dealings with schools to two of my assistant directors. It is not true that secondary heads have pulled out of regular meetings with me. I agreed with them some years ago that there was no longer a need for us to have separate monthly meetings. But I continue to chair the heads' steering group twice a term, and I also meet with groups of heads when specific issues require my involvement. Visiting schools has always been, and will remain, one of the most pleasurable parts of the job. I would not be even contemplating taking a post with the NAHT if I didn't have the highest regard for headteachers.

I am certainly robust, but I do not seek confrontation. I would rather work with the Government than against it, and it is true that I am more enthusiastic about some policies than others.

My views on the role of local education authorities are indeed in line with those of most NAHT members, but I believe they are also pretty close to the Government's views. It is not about power remaining in the hands of LEAs, as your article says. It is more about strategic leadership and co-ordination.

But the fact is, on this issue as on many others, I am prepared to stand up and be counted. Although it is never intended, this is bound to leave one or two people disgruntled at times. What drives me is a passionate commitment to improving children's life chances. I believe that the vast majority of people I come into contact with see this. I have no doubt whatsoever that NAHT members share that commitment, which is why I have been pleased to accept the executive's nomination.

David Hawker Director of children, families and schools Brighton Hove city council

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