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Heads sought for struggling schools


Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has accused the Tories of failing to enforce basic standards in schools

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has accused the Tories of failing to enforce basic standards in schools

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has accused the Tories of failing to enforce basic standards in schools

Headteachers are being encouraged to shun the "bright lights" of London in favour of taking up posts in struggling schools in seaside towns and rural areas under plans unveiled by Nick Clegg.

A "champions league" of t op performing heads and deputy heads will be recruited centrally then dispatched to primaries and secondaries across England that are failing, struggling to recruit staff or based in areas of deprivation.

Incentives will be offered to attract the best school leaders, which could include better pay, relocation packages and professional development support, though the details are yet to be finalised.

The Deputy Prime Minister said many teachers headed to London and the big cities but the scheme will be aimed at helping a wider range of areas. That includes "relatively prosperous" places such as West Berkshire and Shropshire and seaside towns such as Blackpool and Hastings as well as deprived parts of the country.

The first team of up to 30 headteachers are expected to be in place by September 2014.

Over the weekend Mr Clegg opened up coalition dividing lines by insisting all teachers should be qualified and the national curriculum should be taught in every school, including the Government's flagship free schools.

The Deputy Prime Minister accused the Tories of failing to enforce "basic standards" in schools as he dramatically disowned key planks of the coalition's education policy, sparking claims of a coalition crisis.

But he insisted that while the view "has sparked quite a bit of excitement", the Lib Dems are right to distance themselves from the Government policy.

" I am totally unapologetic for believing that, as we continue to build a new type of state funded school system - in which parents are presented with a dizzying range of independent, autonomous schools, each with its own different specialism, ethos or mission - parents can make their choice safe in the knowledge that there are certain safeguards," he said at a speech in an east London school.

" People have a right to know what our vision for the future is. And explaining that vision is perfectly consistent with the Liberal Democrats being proud of what we have done in this coalition, and continuing to work with our coalition partners to deliver radical reform and the strong government the country needs.

"Being in coalition today doesn't prevent either of the coalition parties setting out how we may differ in the future. That's how coalition works."

Labour announced that it will call a vote next week on introducing measures that mean all teachers must be qualified, claiming the move will put Mr Clegg "on the spot".

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: " The quality of teaching makes the biggest difference to learning. That's why Labour has been very clear: all teachers must be qualified. So next week, we will call a vote in Parliament to make sure teachers in our classrooms have the proper qualifications.

"For Nick Clegg it's always 'believe what I say, not what I do'. Time and again his actions have shown that the Lib Dems cannot be trusted. So let's see where he stands when we put him on the spot in Parliament next week."

Under the school reforms announced today headteachers will put themselves forward for the talent squad and will then go through a rigorous selection process.

Successful candidates will be matched with schools that have volunteered for the scheme. Extra cash to fund the pay and perks for headteachers will come from the Department for Education's budget.

Mr Clegg said: " I'm pleased to announce today that the Government will be setting up a programme to get outstanding leaders into the schools that need them the most.

" The Department for Education will be setting out further details in due course. But what I can say is that there will be a pool of top talent within the profession, a champions league of headteachers, made up of heads and deputy heads, who will stand ready to move to schools in challenging circumstances that need outstanding leaders.

"So if you're a school facing tough challenges and finding it hard to recruit an exceptional leader, you'll be able to call on this team and request someone with a proven leadership track record.

"We're looking for experienced headteachers ready for a new challenge, or bright deputy heads looking to take the next step and lead a school.

"If you are selected, we'd need you to make a real commitment to the school, its staff and its children.

"You'll receive help to relocate to the areas where you're needed and the necessary professional support to turn around your school. And we will work to help you in your new role taking on this challenging school.

"T his is entirely voluntary. No one will be forced to accept one of these positions or move.

"We want the first of these leaders to be in place from September 2014.

"Initially the scheme will start small, but our ambition is for this team to become as important to our education system as Teach First."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "It is clear from this speech that the Deputy Prime Minister is now seeking to distance himself from unpopular and flawed policies which he and his ministers were complicit in introducing.

"Does he honestly think that either the teaching profession or parents will be impressed that he is now an apparent convert to the importance of qualified teacher status, when a Liberal Democrat minister presided over its removal?

"The Deputy Prime Minister's announcement of a Champions League of head teachers once again demonstrates nothing but contempt for the School Teachers' Review Body which is currently considering the whole issue of leadership pay.

"With regard to the Deputy Prime Minister's announcement on the importance of all children and young people having an entitlement to a national curriculum and healthy food standards, they had these until he came into office.

"The Deputy Prime Minister's attempts to distance himself from the failed education policies of the coalition fool no one. This is an announcement with one eye on a looming general election, but no one will forget that this is the same person who before the last election signed a pledge that there would be no increase in tuition fees.

"None of these detrimental changes would have seen the light of day if he and Liberal Democrat ministers had not supported them."