Without portfolio

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Heads in their time are called many things, and us old-timers have used every name - occasionally about the same head. Until now, however, nobody has been sent flying from the head's office with the tyrannical bootmark clearly visible on the pedagogical behind, muttered "portfolio", and spat.

This is all about to change. The portfolio head is the coming thing. The portfolio head is also the going thing. Many have been the heads who decided, soon after taking on a school, that leaving it in favour of mushroom-picking in Azerbaijan was a career move much to be desired. The portfolio head differs only in having booked the tickets to the capital, Baku, in advance.

Portfolio head has no intention of staying: headship is just a brief sojourn, a torn motivational poster in the school corridor of life, to be endured for a brief period before moving on to somewhere which doesn't involve 2B on wet Thursday afternoons. PH arrives in a school with an exit strategy already in place.

Some people find this a worry. They think that heads are going to run out as they go off to explore other avenues. They are concerned that the reservoirs of hope might run dry (I did not make that up), and accordingly they wish to address the professional development needs of portfolio heads.

(Why? Surely if you want them to stay you should make certain they're no use to anybody else.) We at St Jude's are at a loss to know what the fuss is about. We have watched heads running out for years: the record for getting from the office to the school gates is 19 seconds. None of them has seemed inclined to explore any avenues, although one of them did go up the cul-de-sac behind the science block by mistake. Clearly the exit strategy needed work. Come to think of it, so did he; St Jude is not the patron saint of lost causes for nothing.

This is a portfolio-free environment, and most of our headteachers don't have futures, only pasts. They're not looking for a way out; they think they've found it. Then they meet Maurice, and they wish they'd listened to their mothers. Quite often they call out for her. As a kindness, I detailed Maurice to dig a reservoir of hope. He produced the slough of despond instead. One of our heads fell into it.

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