Headteachers competing at the ballot box

MORE than 50 headteachers are standing for election to sit on powerful new boards to help manage academies and free schools in Yorkshire.

The Government has created a new system of local decision-making amid concerns that it did not have sufficient oversight of more than 4,000 autonomous state schools across the country.

Eight new regional school commissioners have been appointed as part of a plan which splits Yorkshire into three separate areas: the North, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and East Midlands and the Humber.

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These powerful new managers will be responsible for monitoring school performance, taking decisions on new academies and intervening where academies are struggling.

Each commissioner will be supported by a board of local academy heads – four of whom will be elected. To stand for election candidates need to be heads of a good or outstanding academy rated as having outstanding leadership – or have done so in the previous two years.

Candidate profiles for each of the eight Government regions have now been produced with headteachers appealing for the support of their peers.

Voting is open to academy headteachers in each region until July 11 with the results announced five days later.

National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Russell Hobby has warned that the new role could create a conflict of interest as headteachers will be asked to help make decisions about local academies. “You would expect someone would have to recuse themselves from any decision about a school which relates to their school or academy chain or a neighbouring school,” he said.

“If that only happens on the odd occasion then it would be fine but I think it would be a problem for this new system if this was happening regularly.

“It has to be said that this system of elected headteachers has not been tried anywhere before.”

However, he said he did not object to the principle of local headteachers playing a greater role in decision-making over schools.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “All members of the Head Teacher Boards (HTB) will be excellent headteachers with local knowledge and expertise. They will help the new regional schools commissioners provide support to almost 4,000 academy schools across England.

“The HTBs will assist public servants in their duties and the advice they give must be free from undue influence.

“We therefore expect each HTB member to declare their interests to their regional school commissioner, and to remove themselves from any discussions relating to their personal circumstances or where they could have conflicts of interest.

“The regional school commissioners and their regional office will be expected to actively manage potential conflicts of interest for HTB members – ensuring that sensitive paperwork and relevant decisions do not expose HTB members to actual or potential conflict.”

The regional school commissioners will receive reports on free school proposals in their areas and then submit their recommendations to Ministers.