Parents Should Be Able to Dismiss Head Teachers, UK Charity Says


New Schools Network, a charity that helps set up free schools in the United Kingdom, says that parents should have the right to seek the firing of inefficient or weak head teachers. The education charity says this could improve standards, while teacher unions dismissed the proposal as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘counterproductive’.

The charity proposal says parents should have the legal right to intervene in schools that underperform, something unions warn could turn school leadership into a popularity contest, reports the BBC. Nick Timothy, Director of New Schools Networks, says parents should have more choice:

“Free schools give more control to head teachers, teachers, parents and governors, rather than politicians and bureaucrats,” Timothy said.

“But there needs to be more accountability in the system so parents can get the change they want when a local school is failing. We believe the ‘parental trigger’ will be an important legal right for parents and a way of driving up standards in schools that aren’t performing well,” he added.

National Association of Head Teachers Secretary Russell Hobby said the proposal is ‘counterproductive’ while the deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney emphasized that head teachers are already substantially accountable.

Hobby said headteachers are under such enormous pressure that they have difficulty finding people to assume head teacher positions. The Union also said that parental involvement in education could be damaging and the policy could breed suspicion.

“School leadership is not a popularity contest; you must sometimes make difficult decisions when you are improving a school – some of our most effective heads would have lost their jobs under this proposal,” Hobby said.

Parental complaints can compel regional schools commissioners to intervene and impose an improvement plan if they consider it warranted if an adequate number of parents complain. The commissioner could even propose academy conversion and push for leadership changes through head teacher dismissal.

The plan has been submitted to the Education Select Committee MPs. The Department for Education said they will consider the proposal and will make sure that regional schools commissioners, Ofsted and other education advisers can respond to parental complaints and intervene accordingly.

Will Pearce, a leadership consultant at Class People, told Recruiter that head teacher candidates often comment on how parental pressure is key when choosing a school. As a result, getting the right person to lead a school can become a challenge. He added that while parents are rightfully concerned, they’re not qualified to run schools.

Roger Marsh, Managing Director of ITN Mark Education, warned that if the proposal gets approved then it is possible that a:

“A parental trigger to intervene could potentially become a ‘personality’ assessment and an emotional reaction, rather than a measured and level-headed option.”