HC Deb 15 May 1984 vol 60 c138
5. Sir William van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to be able to announce decisions on his proposed probationary period for head teachers.

Sir Keith Joseph

A consultation document was issued on 4 April by the Department to local education authorities, voluntary providing bodies and teacher associations. Comments were sought by 1 June. One of the major associations has asked for an extension until late June; that has been agreed. I hope to be able to reach a decision quite soon after I have considered the views expressed.

Sir William van Straubenzee

Will my right hon. Friend accept that in evaluating a school and its standards it would be hard to overestimate the importance of the man or the woman who at any time is its head? Will he understand, therefore, that in carrying out the proposal in the question, or any other designed to improve the quality of the head, he will have the warm support of all concerned with educational standards?

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree enthusiastically with the judgment of my hon. Friend and I am grateful that we agree so strongly.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Being a member of a Government who claim to be keen on ballots, has the Minister considered, as a way of solving the problem of inadequate headmasters, having them elected by the staffs of the schools or, better still, by the parent-teacher associations for a two or a four-year period? Conservative Members may laugh at the suggestion, but they cannot say that it is not practical, because Oxford and Cambridge have been doing this for a few hundred years and at least they have maintained good public relations.

Sir Keith Joseph

I think I can assume that the hon. Gentleman and I share the same objective: to get the best person to be head of a school. I must say, however, that I had not thought of his approach.