Leading article: Red tape kills off ambition

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In revealing that most newly qualified teachers are shunning promotion opportunities because they want to "get a life", the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) has highlighted a worrying trend. The findings coincide with a nationwide survey showing that today's thirtysomethings are eschewing the work-hard, no-play ethic of the 1980s and opting, in many cases, for a less pressured life.

It may be a generational thing, but there are one or two lessons that need to be learnt from what is going on, because it could lead to a leadership crisis in schools within the next decade when the forty- and fiftysomethings now at the helm have retired. The first lesson is that the newly qualified teachers see the administrative burdens of senior managers as too onerous. According to Anne Welsh, the new SHA president, there are 35 different funding streams by which state schools get their budgets, and many heads are having to hire extra finance staff to advise on how to ensure that their schools obtain maximum cash. A newly qualified teacher might well look at the furrowed brows of his or her senior managers and think: "No way am I going down that route - I came into teaching to teach." The first lesson, therefore, is the need to simplify the funding structure for schools. It was one that ministers had embarked on before the funding crisis blew up, but are now more wary of pursuing for fear of creating more losers than winners among schools. They should continue to pursue it, however, if only to save schools from spending more money on administrative staff that could be used to retain more teachers.

But there could be an altogether different reason for the lack of interest in getting on. It may simply be that teachers no longer feel the need to go for promotion, because they are being paid decently to teach. So the second lesson could be a positive one, resulting from the success of former Education Secretary David Blunkett's desire to make the lot of the classroom teacher happier by offering higher pay to those staying at the chalkface. Would yet more money for the managers help? Mrs Welsh thinks not. Job satisfaction, in the form of reducing unnecessary bureaucratic burdens facing those in senior positions in schools, is more likely to be a solution. Over to you, Charles Clarke.