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What makes a good leader?

Union canvasses members about choice of new general secretary. Dorothy Lepkowska and William Stewart report.

Does the leader of a headteachers' union need to have an education background or even to have been a senior trade unionist?

Is a strong relationship within the profession more important than a constructive one with the Government? Or does an understanding of the issues facing education count for more than respect for other unions?

These are some of the questions that the 30,000 members of the National Association of Head Teachers will consider as the union seeks a new general secretary.

Head-hunter Veredus Executive Resourcing is canvassing members as the union launches a consultation exercise to determine who will take over from David Hart next year as its general secretary.

The NAHT is one of three teaching unions facing a change of leadership.

Also up for election are the posts of general secretary at the National Union of Teachers, and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

The NUT will be the first to announce the outcome of its ballot on who will replace Doug McAvoy. Voting ends at noon on Monday with the result expected the following day when the winner will take over.

NUT members are choosing between John Bangs, head of education; Ian Murch, West Yorkshire national executive member; Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham branch secretary, and Steve Sinnott, deputy general secretary.

Chris Keates is favourite to become general secretary of the NASUWT, succeeding Eamonn O'Kane who died last month.

She is acting general secretary and so far the only senior figure in the union to have declared an interest and is expected to enjoy overwhelming support from the union's national executive committee.

However, Hank Roberts, founder of Professional Unity 2000, intends to challenge her as part of his continuing campaign for a single merged classroom teachers' union.

He would need to secure nominations from 25 local NASUWT associations to stand against Ms Keates if she gets national executive backing.

Mr Roberts, an NASUWT member who is also on the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and NUT national executives, said he would "give it my absolute best shot because professional unity is so important for teachers".

The NASUWT executive is expected to approve a timetable for deciding the leadership next week. It is understood the new general secretary will be in place by January 1, 2005.

A questionnaire for NAHT members can be found at

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