Executive sweets of success in Lambeth

Biddy Passmore

"Bloody hell!"

That was the reaction of a chief education officer in the impoverished North on hearing the salary ("circa Pounds 74,000") being offered to Lambeth's new executive director of education. Not just "director", note. "Executive director" was the term in the advertisement placed last week in the Sunday Times, The Guardian and - naturally - The TES.

Price Waterhouse, which is conducting the search on behalf of Lambeth, wanted to stress that this is not an ordinary chief officer's post; the person appointed will be part of the corporate team charged with curing the stricken borough. In fact, the salary on offer is not much out of line with those in other London councils, where recent chief executive posts have been in the Pounds 90,000 range.

"It's at the higher end of the range for metropolitan directors of education, " said Hamish Davidson, of Price Waterhouse. "The reason for that is that we're trying to attract serving directors of education, who don't typically move sideways for no increase, and we're trying to attract those who are aiming to move on to chief executive elsewhere."

He reckons it is roughly the salary of a county education officer. In terms of numbers of schools and pupils, the county officer has a much heavier load, often running a service covering a population of a million or more, compared with Lambeth's 238,000.

But, as Mr Davidson points out: "It is very debatable who has got the bigger job." Or, in the words of one CEO (who will not, we suspect, be applying): "My God, it's a stables to clear out."

The advertisement, aimed at directors of education or highly ambitious deputies, says the successful candidate will have "impeccable credentials" with "first-hand experience of co-ordinating educational change in a multi-racial urban environment".

He or she will have "a clear vision of the future for local government", and be "a lucid and powerful communicator" with many strengths in terms of "strategic thinking, leadership skills, budgetary control and business planning".

A good sense of humour and the hide of a rhinoceros were two other essential attributes volunteered by local government insiders. Such sources were understandably reluctant to nominate a suitable paragon. But, as one said: "I hope they find someone good because it's in the interests of the youngsters of Lambeth, who deserve just as good an education as everybody else."

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