Headteachers ‘too nervous’ to stand for board elections

RSC advisory board elections have begun, with candidate lists published.

Confusion reigns in the current headteacher board elections, amid accusations that ballots aren’t being received and heads are “too nervous” to stand.

What’s more, it is unclear whether executive heads of academies who also act as trust CEOs will be able to vote – even though they make up the majority of candidates standing for election – because trust bosses are forbidden from voting.

The elections are being held now as the incumbents are all stepping down from three-year terms. Voting opened last Friday and will close next Thursday, but one source close to the process told Schools Week that about half the heads they spoke to had yet to receive their ballot.

Instead, some headteachers are forced to ring a helpline to be able to vote.

Those votes that have been sent out were emailed to a named head or executive head of each academy, Schools Week understands, but heads working as multi-academy trust CEOs are in limbo.

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READ MORE: Headteacher boards face chaos as elections loom

“No one seems to know how MAT CEOs and executive headteachers will vote,” said one school leader who did not wish to be named.

They said it was “rather strange” that CEOs were not allowed to vote. CEOs were banned from the voting process in the first elections three years ago, but the multi-academy system now has many more of them.

However, CEOs are allowed to sit on boards, so preventing them from voting is “bizarre”, according to Stephen Tierney, the CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic MAT in Blackpool.

In fact, Schools Week analysis shows that the majority of candidates putting themselves forward this year will not be eligible to vote.

More than half of candidates (51 per cent) are CEOs. Some of these are executive heads, and may be able to vote.

The controversial reputation the boards have earned has prevented more candidates from standing, according to another senior MAT leader who wished to remain anonymous.

“Ongoing issues” around “lack of transparency” has caused some headteachers to be “nervous about being associated” they said.

Teaching unions have been especially critical, claiming they undermine the role of democratically elected local authorities, shut out headteachers at maintained schools, and were created only to “force schools into academy status”.

The amount of work involved as a board member also means fewer candidates are standing than “one might hope, which is itself concerning,” the MAT leader added.

Tierney, who is chair of the Heads Roundtable, said the “confusion” around the elections was making the headteacher boards seem like the “shadow side of education”, without proper processes or transparency.

There are fewer candidates standing than one might hope

Schools Week has previously reported concerns that MATs have been planning to lobby for multiple members to sit on headteacher boards.

But the Department for Education’s website states that no more than one school leader per MAT may be elected onto any one board.

Voting is also behind schedule, as current members’ terms were originally supposed to end in the summer, with new members in place for the start of the month.

But voting for new members closes next Thursday (September 22) and results are now expected “before the autumn half-term”, according to the election site.

The DfE was approached for comment.

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  1. Martin Matthews

    CEOs clearly should not be eligible to vote for HTBs.
    They have no automatic right to be in the teacher pension scheme ergo they are not classed as educators/teachers and not employed in that role.

    • I’m a CEO….and I am indeed an educator….and I am still paid under STPCD….and I still have a teachers pension….and I have lots of contact with HTBs in my role…so why should I not have a say about the board? Too many assumptions in your statement there I’m afraid and I’m sure there are many more out there like me!

    • Mark Watson

      Sorry, but this is not correct. CEOs can absolutely be members of the TPS, though you are right it is not automatic.
      In smaller MATs the post of CEO is often merely a title that one of the headteachers has to adopt due to the need to have an Accounting Officer for the accounts. In this scenario the individual’s role is practically indistinguishable from a headteacher’s and they are as much an ‘educator/teacher’ as any head in a maintained school.
      There are well over 1,000 CEOs, not all of them are Dan Moynihans or Ian Comforts …