Sunday, 20 September 2015

Should parents have the power to sack headteachers?

As reported in the TES, an organisation that advises groups on setting up free schools proposes that parents be empowered to require a regional schools commissioner to take urgent action to improve the school, which might include sacking the head. 

We can thank US models for this. Some states, including California, have a “parent trigger” law compelling school boards to listen and act if a sufficient number of parents petition. It’s not surprising that it’s an American concept, in view of the long-standing entitlement of many US voters to have ‘recall’ elections  if their representatives are not performing properly.

The UK already allows parents to complain to Ofsted and thereby trigger an inspection – but less than one inspection in a thousand is a result of this.   However, I suspect that there would be more interest if parents believed that a petition presented with sufficient evidence would trigger a dismissal rather than an inspection.

The main concern of course is the potential for injustice. A reforming headteacher is likely to break many an egg while making their omelette, and a powerful clique of parents (and I have seen such cliques at many schools) may persuade themselves and others that if the head doesn’t run the school according to their ideas, then it’s a badly-run school.

I’m also uncomfortable about the lack of accountability. Thus, even though the parents do not hire the headteacher, they would have the ability to dismiss them if they do not get the service they expect. We don’t hire the person who serves us in Tesco, but if we are not served the way we like, would we then have the right to petition for their dismissal? I think that Tesco would prefer to use their own management structure to check on the quality of their staff, and in the same way the governors of the school (advised by the local authority and Ofsted) have the professional experience necessary to make a judgement on whether the headteacher is a fit and proper person to operate the school. Best stick to whoever does the hiring, does the firing

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