Amanda Thain also warned that some head teachers were being treated like “premier league managers” whose jobs relied on their results – citing one example where a school had three different heads in the space of 18 months.
She told delegates at the North of England Education conference that children from challenging backgrounds needed to be given structure at school.
Mrs Thain, head of Levenshulme High School in Manchester, said: “I strongly believe these children need guidance on what is and isn’t acceptable and some form of structure to feel safe.”
She said she would hear excuses for lateness such as a pupil needing to catch three buses in order to get to school but warned that future employers would not care about this and would only ask whether they were late or not.
Two years ago when she took over at Levenshulme 35 per cent of pupils achieved five A to C grades including English and maths. This has now increased to 57 per cent.
The girls’ school has introduced a new uniform and stricter behaviour codes since she took over.
“Being a head teacher is the best job in the world,” she added. “You get a chance to make a difference to a whole community.”
She told delegates that because the education of a child’s mother was a major factor in its achievement, raising attainment for girls meant improving the life chances of more than one generation.
She was speaking on the final day of the North of England Education Conference which has been held in Leeds for the past three days.
The event, which is more than 100 years old, was hosted by Leeds Council and the city’s two universities at the Royal Armouries. Other speakers on the final day were athletics legend Jonathan Edwards who spoke about the opportunities the 2012 Olympics will provide and author, journalist and former table tennis champion Matthew Syed who told teachers that practice was more important to achieving success than talent.