Education: Responsible and accountable to everybody

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The Independent Online
'MY STRESS is the lack of time. There just aren't enough hours in the day,' says one Bradford headteacher. She believes she is coping with running her inner-city primary, but only thanks to a sense of humour and an informal network of fellow headteachers who give each other advice and support.

'There are times when I am very tired at the end of the day - just going home and feeling absolutely zonked and wanting to be left alone.' She is working longer hours since schools have been given responsibility for their own budgets under the Local Management of Schools scheme. This means constantly having to juggle scarce resources.

'LMS, when it is up and running, is not too stressful. The stressful bit is organising the budget each year and hoping it is enough. If we were well resourced, it wouldn't be so bad.

'The staff feel under tremendous pressure and you, as head, take the brunt of that. The bottom line is that you are responsible and accountable to everybody - parents, teachers, governors and the local education authority.

'I do very little teaching. If I do, my work just piles up in the office. You can't please everybody all of the time. I gave that up a long time ago. You are leading the team and you have got to be seen to be effective. It's difficult now that the decisions are so much bigger.

'I don't have the time that I would like to tease out all of the issues. I'm looking at major issues all the time and then moving on to the next one and the next one - the cleaners' contract, cover for a sick teacher, a child with special needs.

'At the end of the day putting it all together comes back to me. We sometimes try to come to corporate decisions but that is not always the case.'

The introduction of school budgets brought headteachers together to help each other to deal with 'horrendous mountains of paperwork', she says, adding: 'You desperately need to share it. We didn't know where to begin. My office floor was covered with paper one Friday afternoon. I could have just cried.'

That network, she says, combines practical help with the kind of counselling that the Bradford Management Centre report recommends for heads.