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GENERAL SECRETARY'S SPEECH TO HEAD TEACHER CONFERENCE

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National Association of Head Teachers general secretary David Hart's speech to the union's annual conference, in Ca...
National Association of Head Teachers general secretary David Hart's speech to the union's annual conference, in Cardiff, yesterday:

'George Bernard Shaw once memorably said 'The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school'. Unfortunately, today, the education of too many children is interrupted by truancy or non-attendance. And, when in school, they are often the children who present the greatest challenges to teachers. So, with accountability at the top of the agenda, it is worth remembering that it is these schools, with a disproportionate number of such pupils, that can be judged most unfairly by current performance measures.

Those who seek to assess schools should remember the realities on the ground:

-Too many homes lack good parental role models. The media has been full of it of late. Atrocious diet leading to obesity. TV or play stations used as 'free' babysitters. Children glued to computers. Arriving at school half asleep. Parents neglecting to ensure that homework is done.

-Too many parents collude with truancy and condemn their children to a pattern of crime. Two thirds of persistent truants have committed a criminal offence.

-Too much disruptive behaviour amongst pupils. And it is appearing further down the age range, to a worrying degree.

-Too many incidents of violent conduct leading to permanent exclusion. Nearly a half of young people in custody have been permanently excluded.

This government cannot be faulted for its attempt to break the vicious link between social and educational under achievement. But money does not necessarily buy parental responsibility. Nor do new criminal sanctions necessarily change the mind set of those who commit or condone anti-social behaviour. It is the attitude of these families, who know all about rights, but precious little about responsibilities, that has to change. That is why schools must be supported in their attempt to:

-enforce discipline: when teachers and s taff are subjected to abuse

-eliminate disruptive behaviour: it is too frequent and too damaging

-impose detention as a sanction: too many parents think their children can opt out

-crack down on bullying: the most degrading behaviour that mentally and physically scars

Parental support for behaviour policies is crucial. This means not spuriously asserting that sanctions attack the civil rights of their children. This means not defending the indefensible.

For some it might actually mean presenting their children properly equipped with the right social skills. School staff are not surrogate parents. They are not social workers. They should not be expected to waste valuable teaching time doing the job that should have been done before the child sets foot in the school.

Parents can be a profound force for the good. And a substantial majority are. But the problems faced by schools are steadily increasing. So politicians of all parties need to recognise the bigger picture. Government cannot control how families behave. But it can understand the context in which schools operate

and support their staff in their struggle to raise standards. Too often against the odds. Teachers continue to be blamed, unfairly and illogically, for underachievement that is so often home based.

Heads, who seek to enforce discipline, are entitled also to the full support of governing bodies and education officers. Too often LEAs are intimidated by lawyers, barrack room or real, or by self appointed pressure groups, waving the civil libertarian flag and threatening damages or other mayhem. This spreads to Independent Appeal Panels which are still reinstating on flimsy grounds.

And why is this so important? Because school leaders feel that the balance between rights and responsibilities needs redressing. Because those who seek to place accountability with headteachers tend to talk almost exclusively in terms of targets, tests, performance tables and OFSTED inspections. B ecause too often they ignore the extent to which many schools face serious challenges, thrown up by dysfunctional families.

Other challenges for school leaders come thick and fast. The National Workload Agreement is a top priority for all of you. Ironically, there is nothing revolutionary about the Agreement. Transferring tasks, changing the rules on cover and introducing leadership and management and PPA time, have been rallying calls for years. Refocusing teachers on their core job of teaching is sheer commonsence. But there are issues that remain to be grasped:-

-Some teachers will lose management allowances, previously given for tasks now transferred. This is an issue which cannot be fudged.

-Some teachers actually will see their teaching commitment increased,

-Unacceptable inflexibility has to be removed. The new provisions on Gained Time could bring about the total collapse of secondary school trips with damaging educational consequences. Hardly the greatest advert for an Agreement designed to raise standards.

-Workload should not be such a perpetual 'parrot cry' that every activity has to be judged by its workload implications. Some workload is necessary. Some is actually beneficial. Its loss would hit standards. Workload Reduction must not be allowed to become the slogan of those whose real agenda is to work a minimal week.

-Support staff in a quasi teaching role is the most controversial element. Those in favour have deployed their case poorly. Strong suspicion exists that the argument is economic, not professional. But it needs to be said, and said again, that it will be you who decide whether Higher Level Teaching Assistants are used. So, let us be quite clear. Read my lips. No union. No local authority. No other external agency, can, or will, be allowed to tell heads otherwise. Heads will be driven by curriculum need. First. Last. And always.

-The whole purpose of the Workload Agreement is to ensure t hat High Quality Teachers are working with High Quality Support Staff. Otherwise it will have failed to raise standards. That is why the investment of£100 million in support staff training this year is right. But what about the needs of teachers? When will we see an adequate national response to OFSTED's concern over the one-third of primary teachers who are insecure in their subject knowledge? When will we have a national response to OFSTED's report of inadequate teaching at Key Stage 3, not least in maths? Investment in training is not a luxury. It is not a 'bolt-on'. It is not a short term issue. For far too long the teaching profession has been short-changed on training investment. A government commitment to turn this around needs immediate action.

-The funding settlement for 2004/5 has bought time for the government though there are plenty of schools that remain in financial difficulty. For them, indeed for all schools facing large Workload Agreement costs, one hell of a lot rests on the settlement for 2005/6.

I want also to take this opportunity to deliver a few other Workload Agreement home truths:-

-this Association's position on the Agreement has been under sustained attack from the largest teachers organisation. Yet, there is nothing in the least principled about its opposition. If it was, the NUT would have advised its members not to benefit in any way from the Agreement. But, of course, they have not, And they will not. I do not call that a principle. I call it hypocrisy.

-The NUT has failed to lobby effectively for funding to enable the Agreement to be delivered. The NAHT has made pretty well all the running on this point. And our perseverance is paying off. Intensive work is going on to identify additional costs and the funding to underpin them.

-The NUT, by its absence from the talks, has failed its members. NAHT, by its presence, has represented its members forcibly and effectively.

-Threats of industrial action by classroom teacher unions, where contractual change is not delivered, will be counterproductive. If the budget does not sustain change, or the solution is professionally unacceptable, it will be the union members who suffer. It is their jobs that will go. We could, of course, face the ultimate irony. Two teacher unions taking action to enforce the Agreement. And the NUT taking action to prevent its implementation, by means it regards as unacceptable. What a farce.

It was the same NUT that accused the NAHT, and other organisations, of betrayal over the Performance Related Pay deal. Some betrayal !

-A UP3 salary of nearly£32000 as the salary to which all good, I repeat good, classroom teachers can aspire. More if you teach in London.

-No change in the criteria for UP progression. A major goal achieved,

-Big increase in government grant. Another real gain.

-The particular cost needs of primary and special schools recognised.

-New money to support leadership pay. Produced solely as a result of NAHT pressure.

For me, however, there is one aspect of performance pay that deserves special mention. I mean the salary needs of heads, deputy heads and assistant heads. Although NAHT has achieved real progress over the pay levels of school leaders, there is still more to do:-

-We are the only organisation that publishes recommended salary ranges for the leadership group. And we do it because we want to see the most responsible jobs in schools properly paid.

-Thousands of classroom teachers will earn nearly£32000 soon. Add management allowances, and their pay becomes anything from£33000 to£42000 (or£39000 to£48000 in Inner London). This could mean unacceptably narrow differentials between these salaries and those of the leadership group.

-Too many governors refuse to give school leaders additional performance pay because they say their budgets will not sustain i t. This is borne out by the fact that 39% of heads, 39% of deputy heads and 49% of assistant heads failed to receive extra performance pay in 2003.

So, let me say this, I regard the budgetary excuse as both unacceptable and short sighted. It shows a strange sense of priorities. Good classroom teachers will be rewarded if they achieve their objectives. They will move up the Upper Pay Spine. School leaders can hit their targets and still fall foul of governor discretion. If a governing body cannot understand that rewarding and motivating the school's leadership team is a paramount need, then, quite frankly, it does not deserve to be a governing body.

School leaders hold down some of the most responsible jobs in any sector. So there is absolutely no reason why:

-the head of a small primary school should not earn well over£40000,

-the head of a large primary school anything up to£60000,

-the head of a typical secondary school some£80000,

-the head of one of the largest secondary schools£100000.

Anything less betrays the people upon whom the education service depends.

But this is not the total story. What about those schools that:-

-have higher than average numbers on free school meals,

-have higher than average proportions of ethnic minority pupils and pupils with English as an additional language,

-have pupil mobility greater than the national average,

-have attendance rates lower than average,

-have crime and disaffection as contemporary realities,

-have large numbers on at-risk registers,

-have recruitment and retention problems higher than normal. And widespread reliance on temporary staff,

-have more pupils who are unhealthy, are affected by poverty, have troubled home circumstances and who are prey to involvement in anti-social behaviour and crime.

Leading schools in conditions like these is even more dem anding. That is why the acute recruitment and retention problems they face at head, deputy head and assistant head level, make matters doubly difficult. That is why NAHT argues for a special range of salaries to attract and keep school leaders in our most challenging schools.

Yes,£70,000 or more for primary heads. And up to£120,000 for secondary heads. And let me say this. To anybody who says that these salaries are of the fat cat variety, I say we need no comparison with the Private Business Sector. A sector where, too often, the salaries for chief executives are up when profits are down. Bonuses are up when returns to shareholders are cut. Pension pots are hiked up when endowment policy payouts are slashed. No. School leaders have to earn their performance awards in a way that would put many other organisations to shame.

I welcome the debate about accountability and the need for a new relationship with schools. The government's Better Regulation Task Force revealed two years ago the scandalously large number of bodies involving in delivering the education agenda. Clear lines of accountability and responsibility were absent. Public money was being wasted. No activity was tested to see if it added value.

Too little government money was targeted at improving the quality of teaching and learning, at supporting school leadership, at enriching the curriculum and at raising levels of attainment. Cash spent excessively on government agencies, or on micro management at the centre, was cash wasted. Initiatives grew like topsy.

At last, bureaucracy, red tape and duplication is being tackled in earnest. But the real problem is that policy making is based largely on a four year electoral cycle. Long term planning is the exception rather than the rule. So the Secretary of State is right to seek to map out a new relationship. To change the culture of command and control at both central and local government level. That is why the attempt to build a new relationsh ip based on the concept of a single conversation between the head and a consultant school leader, backed on to annual self-evaluation and a shorter sharper OFSTED process, is so crucial.

We support the concept of personalised learning, a key feature of the new relationship. But major issues need attention before we can be sure that it will operate to the satisfaction of school leaders:-

-Subject specialism, secondary school recruitment difficulties, and subject mismatch remain significant issues.

-Workforce Reform is vital. But the method of delivery, not least in the areas of PPA Time and Leadership and Management Time, needs more attention. Many practitioners are unhappy about the role of Higher Level Teacher Assistants. Yet remodelling could materially assist the Primary Strategy by delivering a broad curriculum.

- Every Child Matters will need a very clearly focused 'roll out', that genuinely creates effective partnerships. Great care needs to be taken to prevent the role of heads, as Chief Executives, diverting them from their prime function as leaders of teaching and learning.

-Data and benchmarking is essential. Yet there is no general acceptance of some of the data and benchmarks, for assessment of performance or value added. Look at a specific example. Pupils who achieve Level 3 at KS1 cannot 'produce' added value when they achieve Level 5 at KS2. The current DfES value added approach does not permit this! So the most able are prevented from showing value added. Yet schools are urged to invest in the able and talented agenda! This is totally and utterly unacceptable. We are happy to endorse a 'data rich agenda' but the data has to be 'fit for purpose' or it simply will not work.

-NAHT supports the concept of a School Profile. But performance tables are a blockage. They should not exist at all. If government continues to insist upon their retention they have to be radically changed. The current format is totally wrong. Ab sent pupils counted as present. SEN pupils treated inappropriately. Value added all over the place. Grossly unfair treatment of very bright children. The government's consultation document on the 2004 performance tables is woefully inadequate. A new relationship and a single conversation, accompanied by unintelligent performance tables, will get off to a very bad start. You will know how tempted NAHT has been to refuse to co-operate with the Performance Tables in their present form. But there are real legal obstacles. Equally the government needs to recognise how difficult it is for our members to understand why it is so obstinate on this issue. It certainly has the potential to seriously sour the relationship between government and headteachers.

-Self evaluation is a crucial process. However, early experience of the new OFSTED Framework demonstrates how it can be misused by external inspection. Honesty can be misinterpreted as a confession of weakness. Leadership and Management are criticised even when the self evaluation clearly indicates action to remedy deficiencies.

-The Ofsted complaints procedure is demonstrably defective with the dice loaded against the complaining school. The time is well overdue for a truly independent investigator who has real power to override judgements that are clearly unfair and lack a decent evidence base.

-It would be wrong to imply that the primary accountability 'setup' is operating with universal success. Some LEAs are not fulfilling the KS2 target-setting agenda appropriately. Some Primary Strategy managers (they used to be called Inspectors or Advisers) are still far too prone to act prescriptively and to patronise heads. There is more to do to achieve real 'independence' for primary school leaders.

-The role of the LEA, in connection with school improvement partners, looks unsatisfactory at present because there is a risk that education authorities will seek to control the agenda.

But, for me , by far and away the biggest issue of all is the need to put the New Relationship in the context of the drive for higher standards. This has been brought into sharp relief by the new OFSTED Framework and by changes to thePerformance Related Pay System. These will undoubtedly influence every school's Performance Management process.

It means that the vital importance of classroom observation will be further influenced by the assertion that 'satisfactory teaching is no longer satisfactory'. If, to quote the OFSTED Framework, satisfactory teaching is only 'adequate, with scope for improvement', then satisfactory will be rejected as the benchmark. Good teaching will 'become the norm' against which all teachers are assessed. As Ofsted's Annual Report put it.

'The new handbooks for inspection set out a clear specification of the standard required for teaching to be judged as good. It is teaching that ensures that individual pupils achieve well, and responds to their needs; that expects pupils to work hard and leads to a high level of interest. This is the kind of teaching, at least, to which all schools and teachers should aspire. To pick up a theme that I (ie. the Chief Inspector) raised last year, it is right to say that satisfactory teaching is a general measure of acceptable competence. However, it is not a powerful enough engine to drive continued progress. Schools where satisfactory teaching is the norm are inadequately equipped to tackle the tough challenges we still face and which are described in this report.'

So the time has come to spell out emphatically the implications of these changes:-

-the classroom teacher organisations have signed up to a deal that says only good teachers reach UP3. This means that satisfactory teachers do not qualify.

-the Workload Agreement is based fair and square on the centrality of the teacher in the classroom. The quality of the teaching and learning is key to the standards agenda. Whether the classroom teacher unions li ke it or not satisfactory is becoming no longer good enough.

-classroom observation has to become a key feature of the performance management process. Reliance on tracker information is not sufficient. All senior and middle management in schools should be proficient in the art of classroom observation.

-if we all wish to eliminate social inequality then good teaching is the key to creating social equality.

This, however, is not the full picture. Because, if heads are to deliver higher and higher standards, they will need much better support. The role of government, LEAs and governors will have to be teased out. In particular, if school leaders are at the heart of the standards agenda, they will need far higher quality backing from local authorities, whenever heads seek to tackle inadequate teaching. An increasing number of heads are becoming absolutely fed up with the failure of LEAs to support them fully in carrying out their responsibilities. Not all local authorities are to blame. But too many are excessively cautious, even frightened, when the teacher unions threaten action.

When the head tries to improve standards, and the staff are unwilling to 'raise their game', in too many instances they get their retaliation in first. Allegations of bullying and harassment are thrown at heads as a deliberate spoiling tactic. LEAs then back off from supporting heads in carrying through competency procedures when the going gets tough.

This is becoming a fundamentally important issue. Not only is the attitude of too many LEAs a significant barrier to raising standards. It also means that heads are 'hung out to dry'. They become disillusioned. They leave the profession. It is one of the causes of the current massive increase in job adverts for headships.

Quite frankly, local authorities can employ all the inspectors, advisers, strategy managers and target setters they like. If they do not back heads to the hilt, when action has to be taken to improve teacher quality, they are wasting precious resources that would be better employed on the front line.

All developments since 1997 point in the direction of heads having a crucial role to play in determining the success of this country's education system. I take it as axiomatic that a head needs a strong leadership (or senior management) team and that they rely heavily on all their staff, teaching and support, for the effective delivery of their school's strategic plan. But the quality of leadership exhibited by the head is, by common consent, the key factor.

It is against this background that I argue that there is little point in merely complaining that the government is too prone to be prescriptive, too

liable to issue one initiative after another, or too wedded to bureaucracy and red tape.

These issues clearly need to be addressed. But the time has come for school leaders to take the lead and seize the agenda of the future.

Remits to the STRB talk about heads and senior staff with high expectations, pioneering ambitions, innovative ideas for raising standards, making most of new freedoms, committed to remodelling school staffing, and influential beyond their schools.

Now these aspirations need to be tested against reality. If my analysis is correct, heads have a golden opportunity to 'rewrite the rules on accountability'. For too long they have been accountable to too many clients or 'customers'. 'Customers' are not the government, not the local education authority, not even the governing body. They are the pupils and their parents. Transformational Leadership has to be based on forging a partnership with the parents and their children.

Such a partnership brings with it its own accountability. Heads will want to hold fast to the concept that 'every child is of equal worth'. But parental choice, more diversity, successful school expansion and greater innovation and autonomy has 'sharpened up the marketplace' despite the greater emphasis place d upon collaboration. For such an environment we need to have a clear focus on a core concept.

We have seen a step change in early years and primary standards. Outstanding issues include the need for a genuinely broad, balanced and well resourced curriculum. The new and understandable emphasis on secondary education, both at Key Stage 3 and 14-19, must not divert attention from the primary and early years sectors.

Yet the core concept I wish to rehearse is common to the entire age range.

A 'quantum leap' in levels of attainment should lead to new expectations for all pupils. Not surprisingly there has been a great deal of focus on the needs of those families where truancy, absenteeism and disruptive behaviour has reached unacceptable levels. Recovering the 'lost' pupils has been a major priority. But, using 'OFSTED speak', there has to be real concern over the pupils who are 'coasting'. I am not talking about pupils and parents 'in special measures or serious weaknesses'. I am referring to a broad band of families where expectations remain too low. Just as schools have worked hard to ensure that bright students from poor families stay on at 16, or go to university, so we ought to fulfil the potential of others who are failing to maximise opportunities throughout their school careers. 'Lifting the barriers to learning' is not exclusive to families who are struggling for reasons of poverty. Deprivation is not confined to the poor. There are affluent families where inadequate parenting leads to deprivation.

Transformation cannot take place unless a 'learning contract' is entered into with every pupil and every parent/guardian/carer, irrespective of background. Every child of equal worth would then have real meaning.

The relentless crusade for public sector reform is in danger of telling the Great British Public that their public services are failing. This is demonstrably untrue. Yet the reference to bog standard comprehensives still rankles. The ever expanding div ersity programme does not really address the pr7oblems of many secondary schools serving very difficult neighbourhoods.

And still nothing is done to materially assist the many primary schools which are situated in deprived communities. Reform has its place. But reform for reform sake is a measure of political impatience. Tied to impossible timeframes, it is, by no means, a guaranteed passport to success. It might not be so glamorous. But the government will secure more if it concentrates on some simple basic policies:-

-Reduce bureaucracy and make independence for heads a reality.

-Enhance the back office support for school leaders.

-Invest a great deal more in the training and development of the profession.

-Ensure that money really goes to the front line and that it meets schools' needs.

-Plan properly over the long term for the Children Matters Agenda.

-Use falling rolls as an opportunity for improvement.

-Treat primary schools as First Class Citizens when it comes to capital spending.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day it is the empowerment of heads that will pay the greatest dividend. Working with strong senior management teams, and good staff, they can make the difference. Working with committed parents, they can go the next mile. We know that the government wants equality for all. But it cannot deliver that ideal if its desire to build a New Relationship with schools fails to address all the issues I have set out here. A Relationship built on these foundations will move the mountains that have to be moved. And it is to that Relationship that I, for one, subscribe today.'

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