Chalk Talk: Are champions ready for the challenge?

 

Off to the North of England education conference – the traditional curtain raiser of the year.

Although, to be precise, it's not quite the North of England education conference because it takes place in Nottingham, which, when I last consulted a map, was in the east Midlands.

Not to worry, though. There was one year when the North of England conference took place in Cardiff. Perhaps the organisers should rename it the North of Watford education conference. Thankfully, it's returning to Manchester next year.

It was the usual assembly of the great and the good in education – the Labour shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt; the chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw; and the Schools Minister, David Laws.

With a historian (Hunt) in opposition to an erudite scholar (Michael Gove), I suppose it was odds-on that we would start with a history lesson.

Hunt did not fail us. He started by referring back to 1642, when King Charles I chose Nottingham to raise his standard against what he perceived to be "a dangerous clique of zealous ideologues, bent on centralising authority, imposing unwelcome forms of discipline and with a very divisive view of the saved and the fallen".

"Not so very different from public policy today," suggested Hunt. There were no prizes for guessing what he was getting at.

It was good to a see the return of John Dunford, the former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who is now the Government's National Pupil Premium Champion.

The word champion was much in evidence last week, with the unveiling of a new scheme involving what the Deputy Prime Minsiter, Nick Clegg, calls a "champion's league" of head teachers. The 100 high-performing heads, David Laws revealed, will be held in readiness to take over the headships of schools in challenging circumstances.

Whether it will work is not clear, according to Dunford's successor as general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Brian Lightman.

Heads are, it seems, now more reluctant to take on challenging schools because of the fear of being sacked if results don't improve quickly enough.

There's also the matter of what will happen at the schools they leave, which will still require good leadership.

That's the story of the conference this year. Roll on Manchester next year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 1 & 3 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Currently seeking a year 1 & year ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A 2 form entry primary school in a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Teaching Assistant

£70 - £90 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Currently recruiting for a 4 form en...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 2 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Are you a creative and inspiring t...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash