Page last updated at 09:14 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

'Record numbers of heads' sacked

By Hannah Richardson
BBC education reporter at the ASCL conference in London

John Dunford
Dr John Dunford said many good people had been lost

Record numbers of head teachers lost their jobs last year because of poor exam results and school closures, the leader of a union has said.

Association of School and College Leaders head Dr John Dunford said 163 of his members lost their posts in 2009, compared with 150 in 2008.

He links the increase to schools federating and becoming academies and to intense pressure over poor results.

And he predicted that more would go because of new complaints procedures.

Parents are being given a right of complaint over schools to the local government ombudsman (LGO) in a government bill currently going through Parliament.

'Voting off'

Dr Dunford said: "We have lost a lot of very dedicated school leaders who are unlikely to return to any headship after such a bruising experience."

He explained that when a school was criticised because of poor raw results, head teachers were often made to take responsibility.

In a speech to his annual conference in London on Sunday, the out-going ASCL general secretary will say: "This is one of no less than four new complaints mechanisms introduced by the government in the last couple of years.

"Complaints to Ofsted, complaints to the LGO - and two of them announced personally by the prime minister - year 6 surveys - and the latest manifestation, parents voting to get rid of school leaders."

These measures all increased the head teachers' vulnerability and were likely to discourage more of them from applying for senior positions, he will say.

However, it was head teachers' challenge to "over-ride this negative approach to parent/school relations and engage parents positively in the education of their children".

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools & Families said it was right patients were given guarantees of discipline policies; close contact with teachers; intensive catch up classes if their children are falling behind, and education and training for all 16 and 17-year-olds.

"This is not telling schools to reinvent the wheel - they should already be doing this. It is about setting out in law what pupils and parents should expect from their schools and making sure that happens wherever they are in the country.

"This simply will not lead to a flood of court cases against schools. There will be a clear process so teachers, heads, governing bodies and local authorities can deal with any complaint - as they already do with the vast majority of issues.

"If they do not, we've now given the Local Government Ombudsman powers to hear parents' complaints and recommend that schools takes remedial action. If they still will not, the Secretary of State will be able to intervene and direct schools to act."

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