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Heads facing 'unrealistic pressure'
Too many good headteachers are losing their jobs because of unrealistic pressure to raise school standards quickly, it has been suggested.
Many more are fearful for their futures, according to Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). In one case, a deputy head who was taken on as headteacher to turn around a failing school was left facing the sack when, after two months, Ofsted put the school into special measures, Mr Lightman said.
In his speech to ASCL's annual conference in London, Mr Lightman warned that headteachers are not "commodities" that can be thrown away, and suggested there is already a lack of people willing to lead the most challenging schools. He referred to Education Secretary Michael Gove's comments in a January TV interview that it could take 10 years for the results of government school reforms to come through.
"I hope that the current and future Secretaries of State will remember that," Mr Lightman said. "Too many ASCL members lost their jobs last year and many more are fearful that the same will happen to them because of the pressure for immediate results.
"They might have been able to get their schools where they needed to be if only they had been given a realistic timetable to do so with the right support. Headteachers are not commodities you can throw away and we are not exactly overwhelmed with applicants to lead the most challenging schools."
Mr Lightman called on Ofsted to recognise the situation and to "put a stop to those teams who go into some of our most challenging schools applying a deficit model of inspection which creates a culture of fear, high blood pressure and lost sleep as people await the dreaded phone call."
Referring to one "deeply shocking" example, Mr Lightman told delegates: "A challenging secondary school appointed an outstanding deputy with a proven track record in challenging schools to begin the process of transforming a school and a community in September 2012.
"Impact was immediate across the board and Ofsted arrived two months into X's tenure. They acknowledged that X had 'done 12 months work in 7 weeks' but placed the school in special measures and it is now being forced to join an academy chain. The net result is that the new, inspired and inspiring head may lose his job, other aspirant deputies who know this person will now only opt for 'good' schools saying 'if this happens to X, it could happen to anyone."
Mr Lightman's comments come the day after the conference was told that one headteacher believes she is risking "career suicide" by working in a challenging school. In a question and answer session with Mr Gove, she said: "I'm so incredibly worried. I need to understand your vision of leadership in these types of schools. It seems to be career suicide for me to stay where I am, making these improvements."
In response, Mr Gove said that the Ofsted chief inspector was making changes, so that inspections look closely at the progress that pupils are making and how schools add value to their education.