School will be run by the first £90,000 state head

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The Independent Online

A headteacher will become Britain's best-paid state school principal when he takes over a failing school at a salary of £90,000. Michael Murphy has been offered the post at Crown Woods comprehensive in Eltham, south-east London, which has a deficit of £160,000.

A headteacher will become Britain's best-paid state school principal when he takes over a failing school at a salary of £90,000. Michael Murphy has been offered the post at Crown Woods comprehensive in Eltham, south-east London, which has a deficit of £160,000.

Experts said his appointment was evidence that the headteacher market was becoming like the football manager market, with ever-rising salaries for those prepared to take the most difficult jobs.

Management consultants recommended this month that secondary heads should be paid salaries of £120,000, plus performance bonuses.

The Crown Woods job was originally advertised by Greenwich council at a salary of £71,205, but Mr Murphy, head of Hurlingham and Chelsea school in west London, is already earning £85,000. He said the increase was justified because Crown Woods has 2,000 pupils, twice as many as his present school.

Mr Murphy, 46, said the Hurlingham and Chelsea governors would have matched his new salary "and more" but he wanted a new challenge. In the past six years he has turned round the school, which was failing when he arrived. The school has quadrupled the percentage of pupils getting five good grades at GCSE and been named by Ofsted as one of most improved in the country.

He has no doubt heads of difficult inner-city schools earn their salaries. "The skills required of a headteacher are wide-ranging," he said. "Schools are essentially businesses - Crown Woods has a budget of £6m. Heads also have to be effective in dealing with pupils, parents, staff and politicians. Because of market forces, education has to compete with other jobs to attract the best people.

"The rewards once a school is turned round are immense but heads in the more challenging schools need to be rewarded for the additional stress and strain. Ensuring a child achieves its potential is a hugely important job."

Greenwich council said the reduction of the school's deficit was "on target".

Professor John Howson of Education Data Surveys, who monitors teacher recruitment, said the highest advertisedsecondary school head's salary to date was £78,000. "In themarket-based school economy, you have to pay people more to take on difficult jobs.

"It's like the football manager market. It is only two years since we breached the £70,000 limit for secondary headteachers. I would not be surprised to see it reach £100,000 within the next 12 months."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "We have seen many resignations from people in similar situations. They are taking high risks with their careers and deserve high-risk salaries." At Mr Murphy's present school, he has usedperformance-related pay, tied partly to pupils' progress.

He convinced Crown Woods governors he was the man for the job by presenting a 12-point plan. He proposes to change the school day so formal lessons start and finish earlier, leaving time from 2pm for extra-curricular activities. He backs the Prime Minister's belief in rigorous setting and intends to introduce an express stream for bright students. Pupils will have a new uniform, including a blazer, shirt and tie, and teachers will have to dress smartly, suits and ties for the men. Trainers and jeans are banned.

Torsten Friedag was the first £70,000-a year-head when he was chosen for the job at the Islington arts and media school in north London. He became head-designate in January 1999 and took over last September.

He resigned in March and gave a radio interview in which he blamed lack of support from the governors and the local education authority for his difficulties. Unlike Crown Woods, the Islington school was part of the Government's Fresh Start scheme under which failing schools are closed and reopened with a new head and many new staff.

Two other highly paid Fresh Start superheads resigned in the same week as Mr Friedag. Tony Garwood left East Brighton College of media arts, saying it would be better for someone else to carry on. Carol McAlpine left Firfield Community school in Newcastle upon Tyne after 18 months to become director of an education action zone in Norfolk.

But, as in the case of Mr Murphy, many new heads who have taken over failing schools outside the Fresh Start scheme have succeeded in turning them round. Anna White took the notorious Ridings School in Halifax, West Yorkshire out of "special measures", the term inspectors use to described failing schools.

Seventy-seven failing secondary schools have so far been turned round.

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