Executive heads set to sweep teaching awards

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The Independent Online

A new breed of executive heads – responsible for running more than one school – could sweep the board in next week’s national teaching awards.

At least six of those in line to take the prize for secondary or primary school head have charge of more than one school.

Typical of the new style of head is Catherine Myers, , a fervent believer in a single sex schools who runs separate boys’ and girls’ schools and a sixth-form college on the same site in Tower Hamlets, east London.

She is head of the Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate school - one of the best performing schools borough.

“We believe that boys and girls are successful when educated separately between the ages of 11 to 16,” she said.

The schools have 1,700 students between them – speaking a total of 72 different home languages. There is also a primary school on the same site and a Roman Catholic church.

Figures show the percentage of girls receiving five A* to C grades at GCSE including maths and English has soared from 24 per cent in 2006 to 55 per cent this year. In the boys’ school, the figures are 24 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.

Ms Myers , a physics teacher by training, won the award for London secondary school headteacher of the year.

The phrase “executive head” came into the public consciousness last month when Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he would like to see more federations of schools set up – with one head taking responsibility for a number of schools.

This was portrayed as a means of helping make £2billion worth of savings in the education.

In truth, though, they have been around for the past few years - often when the head of a successful school is parachuted into a struggling one to help turn it round. A federation in Birmingham set up under the executive headship of Sir Dexter Hutt, who is also a government adviser, has helped rescue three schools.

“Executive headship is a phenomenon of our times,” said Caroline Evans, chief executive of the Teaching Awards – which are due to be screened on BBC 2 next Sunday evening, October 25, at 6pm.

“In this role they have acted almost like an adoptive parent, taking on another school that may be in difficult circumstances.

“When the adoption works, it is worth celebrating..”

The national Teaching Awards were set up by former film producer Lord Puttnam just over a decade ago to celebrate good teaching at a time when research suggested that morale was low because of years of cuts in education spending and a focus, spearheaded by then chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead, on attempts to weed bad teachers out of the profession

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