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Home   Kent   News   Article

Anger as head teachers treated 'like football club managers' amid Kent County Council plans for 'hire-and-fire' policy

11 March 2014
by Paul Francis

Head teachers of under-performing schools in Kent will be put on gardening leave and replaced under proposals that have come under fire from unions.

A leaked draft paper outlining the action Kent County Council will take where schools have received a poor Ofsted report also suggests that if heads refuse to go on "gardening leave", they will face formal target-setting that would go on their records.

Head teachers say the "hire-and-fire" policy fails to reflect the challenges schools face and will lead to recruitment difficulties.

Teachers at failing schools will be replaced under plans

Teachers at failing schools will be replaced under plans

One primary head told KentOnline he had staff who were quite capable of becoming good head teachers, but were reluctant to apply for positions in Kent.

"They won't go near head teacher jobs because they know what is at stake," they said. "If anything goes wrong, KCC will be out to get you."

Another said being a head teacher in Kent was like being a football team manager.

The draft KCC document outlines protocols for heads who have been in charge at failing schools for two years or more, outlining how they will be put on gardening leave and replaced.

Heads say improving and turning round under-performing schools will not be achieved under a climate of fear.

John Walder, secretary of the Kent National Union of Teachers

John Walder, secretary of the Kent National Union of Teachers

John Walder, the Kent National Union of Teachers representative, said he was dealing with an increasing number of cases involving members who were effectively being forced out.

"There are three heads I know of who are being dismissed from their posts because of this. I don't disagree with KCC's assessment of the situation, but where I part company with them is the way they are going about it.

"The way they have gone about it in one case has led to the complete disintegration of the school."

He added: "The tone of the document does not seem to inspire confidence or morale. The losers in all of this are the children."

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Ian Bauckham, president of the Association of School and College Leaders and head of Bennett Memorial Diocesan school in Tunbridge Wells, said: "I would want to be assured that each school is being considered on its own merits and that we do not have a hire-and-fire culture creeping in. 

"There needs to be recognition that school improvement takes time and quick fixes are not sustainable."

A Kent County Council spokesman said: "This paper was prepared by the council at the request of the primary head teachers' forum and sets out what any local authority is expected to consider when a school fails an Ofsted inspection."

The statement added: "We work closely in partnership with schools judged to be inadequate and those that most require improvement.

"On occasions, this requires a change of leadership and, as part of government policy, it is usual to move to a sponsored academy arrangement. Kent county council is proud of its supportive structure for head teachers."

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