Do you know who I am?

16th January 2004 at 00:00
How does a teacher get into Who's Who? Adi Bloom talks to some of the latest names to make it

If any members of the glitterati would like to invite Mark Fenton to expensive, A-list events, or pay him exorbitant amounts to appear as an after-dinner speaker, they know where to find him.

The head of Dr Challoner's grammar, in Buckinghamshire, is one of 11 heads who have this year been admitted to the pages of Who's Who.

"Yes, it's the face of the British elite. But headteachers are only in there because they do a particular job," he said. "Still, if anyone wants to send me invitations for posh parties, I'd be happy to receive them."

There are at least 350 heads, past and present, included between the book's red covers. Admittance to the ranks of the privileged is for life, and the deceased are enshrined in a sister volume, Who Was Who.

A spokesperson for Who's Who (ironically, the publication that trades on names insists on anonymity for its staff) says that all heads are open for consideration.

"Any school that's doing well is considered," she said. "We compare league tables over a number of years. Because people stay in until they die, we don't want to invite someone whose school shoots up because of a change in statistics.

"We do have heads saying it would be useful for parents to be able to look them up in the book. But they have to be of interest to other people, not just the parents of children."

Heads who have published large numbers of papers, or sat on government committees are considered, as are those whose schools have several famous alumni. Those who run renowned institutions are automatically invited.

Primary heads, though, are deemed "inappropriate" for inclusion, unless they can boast other achievements as well.

Robert Jennings, head of Slemish college, in Northern Ireland, attributes his selection to having been named school leader of the year in the 2002 Teaching Awards.

"Initially, I thought someone was playing a joke on me," he said. "Or that maybe they were short of people. I don't see myself as tremendously worthy.

And I don't consider myself to have arrived socially.

"Still, I'm hoping a rich American might see the entry and decide to buy us a new sports hall."

All new knights and dames are automatically eligible for inclusion. Robert Dowling, head of George Dixon international school, in Birmingham, was invited after receiving a knighthood in the 2002 birthday honours. But he is singularly unimpressed with his new status. "It's a bubble in the stream of life," he said. "Most people I know will never read it. I doubt it will lower my gas bills or anything.

"A knighthood is an accolade for achievement in your professional life. It speaks to the whole profession. This is just an upmarket Yellow Pages."

Who's Who entries, which include dates of birth, marriage and career progression, follow a rigid formula. The only opportunity to display personality quirks comes in the final section, in which entrants can insert recreations and clubs.

Mark Fenton lists "playing, coaching, watching and talking about cricket" as his hobbies.

"I could have put down unusual hobbies, like the history of the German Democratic Republic," he said. "But I thought I ought to be serious, and only include the respectable ones."

Likewise, Dr Jennings considered compensating for an absence of prestigious awards by drawing attention to himself in other ways: "The thought did cross my mind to put number-one joke teller, but I decided to be serious.

You never quite know where to draw the line." His actual entry - a restrained "golf" - reflects a collegiate atmosphere at his school, where staff often venture on to the course together.

John Rowling, retired head of Nunthorpe comprehensive, in Middlesbrough, similarly considers his entry as a reward for his entire school's achievements.

"One achieves on the back of what other people have contributed," he said.

"I don't know if it's supposed to be a mark of being extraordinary. I feel very ordinary.

"I do things because I think I have a higher moral purpose. But I've just had two books published. Maybe this will help them sell."


Graham Browneprincipal, Estover communitycollege, Plymouth

Sir Robert Dowlinghead, George Dixon International school,Birmingham

Father Gabriel Everitthead, Ampleforth college, North Yorkshire

Dr Mark Fentonhead, Dr Challoner's grammar,Buckinghamshire

Dr Robert Jenningsprincipal, Slemish college, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland

Sir John Joneshead, Maghull high, Sefton

Neal McGowanrector, Banchory academy, Aberdeenshire

Sir John Rowlinghead, Nunthorpe comprehensive, Middlesbrough (retired Sept 2003)

Nicholas Samsonprincipal, Geelong grammar, Victoria, Australia

Stuart Smallwoodhead, Bishop Wordsworth's grammar, Wiltshire

Gordon Woodswarden, Glenalmond college, Perth, Scotland

Graham Donaldson HM senior chief inspector of education in Scotland

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