27th November 1998 at 00:00
Q We are appointing a new head, and of course we want the best. We decided as a panel that we should specify three years' experience in senior management and that candidates must have a good honours degree plus teaching certificate. We had a bit of an argument about the honours degree but a majority were for it. A number of staff have criticised us and said we have no right to discriminate against college-trained teachers and it is just snobbery.

Have we the right to do this? And what is your personal opinion? The worst thing is that it cuts out one of our deputies. We did not know that when we first discussed it. I could not imagine her being appointed but I would not wish to hurt her.

A As long as the applicants are all qualified teachers and you don't discriminate on any illegal grounds, you can specify what you want. That's the straight answer to your question - although I know schools do sometimes specify an honours degree in a secondary-school headship.

As for your deputy, I would think hard before excluding any obvious internal candidate at this early stage but in the last resort you must ask for the candidate you think the school needs.

My personal opinion, however, is that I would be reluctant to restrict the field in this way. Schools these days rarely have the problem of being swamped with applications - and even if you are, you'll know you have secured a wide choice.

Then there are so many different qualifications, attributes, aspects of experience and personal qualities which go into making a good candidate for headship that I would regard the type of degree as irrelevant at this stage.

Many people would argue that a three or four-year preparation for a teaching career has advantages over the alternative; successive governments have worked very hard to give parity of esteem to all degree-awarding institutions and degrees.

But it's the wide field which would matter most to me.

Q I teach outside my local authority as I live near the border, and I want to stand as parent governor in my child's primary school. The present parent governors say the governing body is against this because two co-opted governors are teachers and they think it's too many. Should I stand?

A You are legally entitled to stand as a parent governor even in your own LEA and even in the school where you teach.

The previous government's efforts to stop teachers standing for governor failed because there was so much opposition. It is up to your fellow parents to decide who they want, not the governing body.

If it were a co-option, I would say that the governing body would be right to consider the balance of interests when choosing but they have no right to discourage any parent from seeking election.

I'm sure they will give you a good welcome if you are elected.

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