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« Mike Christie: All secondary schools to become directly state-funded but independent trust schools | Main | Karen Bradley: Single measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines to be available through the NHS »


Chris Palmer

What exactly will parents be voting on? How will they judge whether a headteacher has performed to a certain standard that warrents a pay increase or a decrease? League tables? Government statistics, or just the news they've heard from other parents? You mention the various different standards that Labour has introuduced - but will parents want to trawl through those stats when making a vote?

Denis Cooper

In general I would caution against using the term "social justice", which implies that poor people have been the victims of injustice when they may simply have got their just desserts. But there must be an exception in the case of children, who should not necessarily also get what their parents justly deserved. I would also think in terms of "social cohesion", in the sense that each new generation should be seen as something of a fresh start and each individual should have the possibility of rising or falling on his/her own merits, irrespective of his/her family background, so there's a constant re-mixing of society across class boundaries.

On this specific proposal, it would be worth trying it out to see how it worked in practice. Would some parents take an unbalanced, possibly even vindictive, view of the head's performance if their own child was not doing as well as they hoped?

It would be hard to reconcile this with the voucher scheme proposed yesterday. I also wonder whether the block grant should be set locally rather than nationally, especially as there are wide variations in the cost of living across the country.

Thomas Hobbes

"Would some parents take an unbalanced, possibly even vindictive, view of the head's performance if their own child was not doing as well as they hoped?"

Ofsted find that the parents who comment about schools are the ones who have an axe to grind. Happy parents stay quiet and just let things run - they leave people to get on with the job. Complaints made to Ofsted by parents are investigated during the inspection and are nearly always found to be bogus. The same would happen here. Headteachers would have to spend time showing off to parents rather then educating their children. Generally, in my experience, heads who are good at putting on a show usually have something to hide.

Yet Another Anon

If schools were run by Private Charities Limited by Guarantee then the Boards of those charities could have a free hand with regard to wages and pay whatever they saw fit based on money available and how much was needed to attract the staff they wanted - thus each school would be in competition with every other school and yet would not to be forced to pay more than they needed to to attract staff, they would operate along business lines.

Denis Cooper

If a school is going to operate along business lines then it must be allowed to do what any other business can do - choose whether to turn away customers which it doesn't really want, because they're more trouble than they're worth and won't enhance the profitability of the business.

Account Deleted

I agree with the general thoughts that no parent has pefect information to judge a headteacher on. But either they are better placed to know what is going on in schools than the DfES or they are not - we know what Labour thinks but what we offer is often not that different. Personally I am for trusting parents. Isn't that what we in the Tory Party should be about?

As for 'vindictive' parents, well, if they are in the minority they will be ignored. If they are in the majority probably something is wrong at the school. I have not proposed a few complaints automatically threaten a headteacher.

I continue to stress at the moment choice and accountability is largely an illusion in the education sector and teachers are all paid relatively identikit wages regardless of merit. Either we should admit choice is not something we can support and teachers are all the same or we need to move on.

Finally, I would point out at the next election we will be promising to reform public services to provide value for money. Simply saying "Labour's cash injection has failed" without proposing a different set of policies will leave people wondering what on earth the point of voting Tory is, and how we can provide value for money on the back of the same policies as New Labour.


I'm sorry but I don't follow that 'happy' parents stay quiet. I began to stay quiet because it wasn't worth upsetting teachers that would be working with your child by, for example, disagreeing with a shorter school day, by disagreeing with parents meetings in normal daytime working hours, by disagreeing with the end of written reports on your child at the end of each year - now we get a list with a grade 1, 2 or 3. 1 = working towards aspirational target, 2 = working towards predicted target, 3 = working below predicted target.

I learnt to keep my mouth shut and go with the flow but that doesn't mean I'm happy, by complaining you just get shut out.

David Belchamber

I am not quite sure that heads should be accountable to parents and that parents should determine a head's pay, at least not solely.
The independent school that is a charitable trust is probably a better and safer model i.e. where a board of governors is responsible for the appointment (and, if necessary, the sacking) of a head. Obviously it is desirable that there should be a parental presence on the governing body, possibly a strong one, but not all parents can bring objectivity to the task.
Where teachers' pay is concerned, Mike Christie has proposed a (welcome) return to the management of schools along the lines of grant maintained schools, where the governors and head control the budget and can, within reason, dictate the going rate for various teachers.
That is to be applauded.

Tim Worrall

Another day, another loopy education policy. This one just wouldn't work. In terms of the pay policy, alterations to the system simply meet entrenched opposition.

Take the current "threshold" money for 'the best' teachers. Everyone gets it. Then there are two additional points above that - most people get those too.

I predict that the unions would get together and work out a salary structure vaguely similar to now. Most schools would simply adopt it to avoid staff morale problems. Of course there would be some schools that didn't, but it would not be worth some staff's while moving from there or to there.

Make teachers and heads 'easier to sack'? How? As far as I can see, you make your investigation, give a warning, then dismiss them. What is lacked is not the way but the will. It's easier just to get the union in and do a deal - they leave, and you write an open and positive reference. Bad teachers just move around.

As for getting parents to vote on the head's salary and sack him/her, it is difficult enough to get 30% of parents to turn up at OFSTED meetings at the best schools, so how are you going to get more than a few parents with axes to grind to be the judge of that.

Let's extend this argument beyond education. Perhaps I should be able to judge whether or not the Chief Executive of my bank should stay/get a pay rise/get the sack. I was happy with my bank last year, so, nice pay rise in order. This year, record profits, but they overcharged me for an overdraft. Clear your desk, sir!

I must know what I'm talking about, my father was a bank manager.

Cardinal Pirelli

Two major problems -

Firstly, poorer teachers are in shortage subjects, that's why they are shortage subjects, schools have to make do. We should never, and I mean never, reward poorer teachers just because they happen to have become a teacher in one of these subjects (often it's because they couldn't get on in their own field outwith education).

Secondly, arts teachers , English teachers etc are just as important and the very strong teachers that exist there will disappear as they see themselves downgraded.

Result, poorer teaching across the board with dumbing down taking place.

A big, big no to this proposal. If the party decided to take up the sort of proposals being agreed this week then I foresee disaster at forthcoming elections.

Thomas Hobbes

Well said Cardinal.

a-tracy: Over the course of this week you seem to have painted a bleak picture of your child's school. You really should make contact with the parent governors and raise these points.

Account Deleted

Tim - the argument with the banks is not analogous at all. There is no real competition between schools. As I am sure your father will inform you, this is not the case in the banking sector.

There is no realistic possibility of new schools entering the system. All we currently do is present people with a list of schools, and then are satisfied we are giving choice to parents. What people put on their list of preferences often has absolutely no bearing on what they actually end up with, because there are only a fixed number of 'good' places, and bad schools never really shut down. So you have a limited number of good schools and bad schools, and there is very little to push the bad schools to become better, as they are almost always guaranteed pupils.

I agree that at the moment bad teachers simply move around - this is what is wrong with the system, that they often get a good reference and just get shoved on...which is why pay is an equally important indicator of quality as a reference - except of course it isn't or can't be in education. I concede that initially, pay differentials wouldn't explode, as people have pointed out. What is more likely is a gradual transition to a more flexible system, which in any case is easier for the education system to adjust to.

Cardinal Pirelli, I specifically avoided saying we should simply pay more per subject, for the very reasons you outline, that it would reward poor teachers as well as good. I agree English teachers are important and actually don't think their wages will fall much. Arts teachers, well, if I was going to employ someone with 5 GCSE passes I would look for the basics first. Nice girls from posh schools can afford to get a B in art and a D in maths. Someone from Hackney who is only likely to ever be able to rise to a secretary or similiar position is not in such a comfortable situation.

And lastly, related to the OFSTED point, maybe parents don't involve themselves because they don't think it will do that much good. In any case, a lot of parents stand for governors already, so the idea parents aren't engaged is nonsense. But of course, we shouldn't trust parents to make choices or decisions in their children's education.
What kind of crazy right wing thinking is that?

Cardinal Pirelli

Thanks for replying!

Regarding teachers being tempted by higher pay, I don't think this will work. Private schools naturally attract many of our best teachers because of higher pay and better conditions (the major one being students who actually want to be taught). They don't pay subjects differently to any significant degree.

If, as you suggest, a poorer school in the inner city uses its funds to increase pay for maths teachers and reduce it for arts teachers you will see, firstly, the good arts teachers decamping to private or other schools, this is pretty much a given, provision in this area will definitely decrease. The crucial element of the equation would be that you can attract the top level maths teachers and maybe at £50k plus you could. But these may not be the best to cope with the different environment they will find and it would be at a high cost in other areas of the school's education.

I think the answer actually lies more in varying degrees of vocational education (a whole new subject and one that doesn't seem to have been addressed this week).

Tim Worrall

1am, perhaps my banking analogy was a little too subtle - it was a sly dig at Mr Morton's (is it just me or do political assistants get younger each year?) comment about members of his family being teachers.

My point is that parents have little or no idea whether headteachers are doing a good job, so their assessment of them largely revolves around personal characteristics, or whether they were able to sort out a problem little Johnny had in year 8.

Teachers have some idea, but we can't have the tail wagging the dog, and they always think the head is terrible anyway.

Governors have a little idea, but on the governing bodies I have been on (LEA and staff) the head has been remarkably adept at keeping information from the governors - I would suggest that most heads (good ones anyway) resent the intrusion of people who know little but have opinions (especially politicians). I can hardly blame them.

The definition of governor is "critical friend" - I have known governors who were critical and governors who were friends - never were they both.

How are we to judge if teachers are incompetent? Some struggle with classroom management, others are unprofessional. Some are inspiring classroom teachers but never mark and lose work. Some get outstanding results but bore and turn off their students. There are all flavours of teachers in schools, and sometimes it just comes down to who the head likes or not - as in all organisations.

Even if we get rid of incompetent teachers, is there a large reserve of qualified, enthusiastic professionals ready to step into the breech? Of course not. Non-teaching post at my school attract 60-80 applications. If you get 10 applications for a teaching post you are lucky, 6 of whom will be from the Indian Sub-continent or Eastern Europe. 2 will have atrocious A level results and a degree from a third-rate new 'university'. If you are lucky you will get 2 candidates worthy of interview, one of whom will not turn up on the day.

This is the problem we need to solve - it's no good 'getting tough' on bad teachers if the alternative is that they have supervised study in the Library because there is no-one to teach them.

Thomas Hobbes

An example of a parent I dealt with this week. Her daughter wanted to enrol on a sixth form course to study science A-Levels. However, she had no GCSEs at C or above and had was ungraded in science. When I refused her admission onto the course she attacked me and the school for failing her daughter. However, her daughter had failed most of her exams because mum had booked a holiday in the middle of the GCSEs and despite numerous letters home her daughter had not completed any coursework.

This parent would not accept that her daughter, through a mix of low ability and poor performance had failed to meet the requirements for further study. Equally, the parent had not supported the school in trying to get work out of her daughter.

I wonder how she would vote in a ballot on headteacher pay?

Thomas Hobbes

I cannot believe that comments on this thread have been deleted. This site has allowed racism and other such offensive comments but cuts out comments that were deeply felt if harshly expressed!

David Banks

Well he's got nice hair , but all education policies are just a waste of time and totally meaningless.


"Well he's got nice hair , but all education policies are just a waste of time and totally meaningless."

Would you like to explain why?

Thomas Hobbes

"The annual ballot of parents might involve some negligible cost, but you should be able to cut back on some of the DfES bureaucracy to pay for it."

This is not true. The cost will be quite large. As the ballot could have wide-reaching consequences it will have to be conducted by an independent (and probably expensive) body that will have to ensure that the right parents get the ballot papers and that they are returned and counted in the correct way.

To give you some idea of the scale of these costs, the stamps for sending a ballot paper to each secondary school student's home would be at least £4.9 million per year! Add to this the cost of envelopes, return postage and admin costs and you could be looking at a very big bill. Turnout will be low and very few heads will be sacked. Is this a good way to spend money.

If a headteacher stays in post by a small margin their authority will be damaged. If a headteacher is sacked in this way there will be legal challenges and pay-offs of the kind seen in the private sector. The same will be true of the other payment decisions outlined in this policy.

Sorry to post on this again, but it really is a silly policy and some of the voting this week has been so strange that I feel we really have to point out all the holes in the policy.

Matt Wright

Tim makes some good points and illustrates he knows something about the subject. As a governor I find, like him, that parents won't go to governors meetings. It is fallacy to cook up theories about more parent involvement (which in theory I agree with) when they just won't. I do agree that having a good headteacher is absoluetly critical and the main factor for success and I would support ideas that give headtecahers and governors more power and the state less. Some form of direct funding would be good but the policy advocated above is a bit confused,


Billy Boy

I hope that Tim's Emglish teacher is not being paid a high salary - his use of Enlish is far from perfect in places.

John Peters

I am going to vote yes as I support the general principle that schools should set teachers' salaries and not central government. I do find some parts of this proposal over-elaborate and unworkable. It would be much simpler to follow yesterday's policy and leave it at that.

(Incidentally, I would break up all forms of national pay settlements and abandon national pay grades in education, the NHS, local government, Police and the Fire service and anywhere else. I thought this policy proposal was going to be more along those lines.)

David Banks

Certainly, i would like to explain why.
Because they fundamentally are.
I hope this convinces you.


Certainly, i would like to explain why.
Because they fundamentally are.
I hope this convinces you."

So you believe the education system should be left as it is? Or are you implying that it should be completely privatised and deregulated i.e. there should be no education policies dictated by the state?


Thomas Hobbes "Over the course of this week you seem to have painted a bleak picture of your child's school. You really should make contact with the parent governors and raise these points."

I have only posted on two threads this week Thomas and today's post was the only negative comment I've made about school policy. Not the teaching, not the staff, not the Head the policy changes that were voted in by the Parent Govenors and the School committee after sending questionnaires to the parents about their proposed changes. I must have been in a minority of the people who replied because the changes went ahead and as I said I went with the flow.

Your comments are the equivalent of saying that just because a member doesn't like DC's 'A' list policy they don't like the party. You can be happy with the party but not with specific policies, if you don't like too many policy changes then I agree you'd eventually have to leave. As simply writing to the head of policy change wouldn't get your views taken into account.

I'm sorry but I can't agree with this policy.

The comments to this entry are closed.


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