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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 16:55 GMT
Heads challenge 'blame culture'
Head teachers
Schools need to be given time to make improvements, say heads
Head teachers are warning the government against school reforms making it easier to remove heads and senior staff in struggling schools.

Sacking heads after a poor inspection report is an ineffective, "knee-jerk" response, says the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

It says the government's White Paper on schools will encourage a de-stabilising "blame culture".

The union warns that it could cause a recruitment crisis for headships.

The head teachers' criticism comes as the government prepares to mobilise support for its controversial White Paper plans - with the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly to speak in its defence later this week.

'Career destroying'

The warning from the ASCL (formerly the Secondary Heads Association) is against plans to hasten the pace of change in underachieving schools - which it says will make schools leaders "risk averse".

John Dunford
John Dunford says heads should not be made "risk averse"

"In the education White Paper, the government is proposing that local authorities consider, as an immediate option, sacking heads of schools that receive a poor inspection report," says the union's general secretary, John Dunford.

"The White Paper also states that the rest of the leadership team will be at risk," he says.

"This level of pressure is difficult enough on experienced heads, but it can be career destroying for young leaders.

"In an increasing number of cases handled by the ASCL legal team in the past two years, heads and deputy heads have lost their jobs after an adverse Ofsted report, even when they have been in the school for as little as two terms."

Rather than sacking heads and deputies "at the first opportunity", Mr Dunford says schools needed long-term support and sufficient backing to allow them to innovate.

If school leaders were not confident of such support, it would create "risk-averse leadership that aims for quick remedies rather than the long-term solutions that can be sustained as the school develops".

The government's education White Paper has already faced criticism from its own backbenchers - and a report from the education select committee into the school is set to be published later this month.


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