Leader: ‘They could do much to drive up standards’

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THERE are obviously many pitfalls in comparing the running of a school with a top flight football club.

It is tempting to say that out of the biggest differences is that headteachers are expected to enforce higher standards of behaviour.

But we shouldn’t dismiss the idea that we can learn in other walks of life from top sports coaches, especially when it comes to changing systems, delivering results and motivating staff.

Those acknowledged masters of motivation and team building, Jack Charlton and Martin O’Neill, both belief any boss has a “shelf life” in a particular job, and after that loses the ability to motivate themselves and their team.

There are always exceptions, such as Sir Alex Ferguson, but the basic point about new faces and fresh challenges surely applies in other walks of life.

The instincts of the city council in looking to move headteachers on from one post to another after a maximum of seven years is absolutely right.

Of course, parents will not welcome the idea of successful heads who want to stay at their schools being forced to move.

But there is a lot to be gained from rotating the person at the top, especially in spreading best practice.

A successful head who has introduced a “winning” ethos at one school should get the chance to do that elsewhere.

And the school they leave will not necessarily lose out. After seven years, their ideas will be well established, the practices they introduced won’t be lost overnight.

Staff will keep the best of what they learned from the outgoing head – and be ready to take on fresh ideas from someone new.

It is true there is a risk of drift as one head approaches the end of their tenure, but is the risk not at least as big when the person at the top thinks they have a job for life?

Fixed-term contracts for headteachers might not be universally popular but they could do much to drive up standards.