Where should we put stale heads?

THE House of Commons select committee on education is right to be concerned that many heads are serving for far longer than the optimum span of maximum effectiveness, energy and creativity. But their solution that stale headteachers should be moved on (TES, November 6) begs two enormous questions: By whom and where to?

The plain fact is that nowhere in our highly disaggregated system is there the managerial leverage to move people around, even when their own wish might be to be moved. The education service lacks the strategic management capability to address issues of senior staff deployment and mobility which regarded as essential by large companies. Partly as a result of that deficiency, early retirement came to be used more and more as the only solution to the problem of the head who had been in post for too long. Now even that opportunity has been lost.

The current wisdom remains that a high level of institutional autonomy is one of the key components for rising educational achievement. Does the select committee's report provide welcome evidence that we may at last be able to question some of the less advantageous consequences of running a national education service on the basis of 20,000 small business?

John Williams Director of education and community services City of Sunderland Civic Centre, Sunderland

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