Parents 'will never accept introduction of superheads'

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The Independent Online

A stinging attack on the Government's plan to appoint "superheads" to take charge of groups of schools will be delivered by a leading headteacher today.

Brenda Despontin, president of the Girls' School Association, which represents top girls' independent schools, will say that she cannot see parents "buying it" as an idea.

"They expect to see their head, recognisable and visible around the school ... telling her school story again and again, in assembly, on the touchline, at the parents' evenings, every day," she will tell her annual conference. "If headship 21st century means using technology to lead a school with a distant 'superhead' video-conferenced on demand from head office, then I suspect most independent schools will opt out."

Under the plan, successful heads would be appointed to run a group of schools - banded together to form a federation. Ministers believe this is one of the best ways of turning round a failing school and cite the example of Sir Dexter Hutt, who is at the helm of three former struggling schools in Birmingham - all of which have shown marked improvement.

However, Dr Despontin, who is headmistress of Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls, with fees of up to £8,800 a year, will tell the conference in Cardiff that most heads are "deeply suspicious" of the idea. She says they will look like "some regional manager of Tesco Extras with a mobile office in the car".

"How would such a head know the pupils by name, we wonder, or the staff family histories or feel a sense of belonging or pride," she will add. "There would inevitably be conflicts. Imagine the difficulties at Christmas when each school expected you for a carol service or a nativity play on the same night, each school wanted you to sign its reports by the same date."

There is a growing leadership crisis, with 36 per cent of all secondary school vacancies for headteachers and 38 per cent of primary school vacancies having to be readvertised.