THE list of top education vacancies is growing but the pool of talent that can fill them has shrunk, top headhunters have revealed.
Following David Hargreaves's surprise resignation, the Government is now looking for candidates to head the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, a chief inspector of schools, a director for the standards and effectiveness unit and a chief executive for the body that monitors quality in higher education.
But the search could be a long one. Gill Lucas, a director at headhunters KPMG, blames the brain drain on the lucrative private sector. She said:
"The number of talented senior education people who are moving into companies has had an impact.
"People who could aspire to national posts are attracted by the breadth of work and salaries offered in the private sector."
At the last count, at least 15 senior local authority figures - such as Newham's education director Ian Harrison and his deputy Parin Bahl, Graham Moss, former deputy director in Hillingdon, London, and Vincent McDonnell, former chief education officer at Richmond - have moved on.
Even without shifting to the private sector, Kent's new education director Graham Badman, who has moved from Oxfordshire, is earning pound;130,000 - more than a successful candidate would get as a big cheese in Whitehall or a quango.
Names of possible contenders for the vacant jobs suggested to The TES this week included: David Reynolds, who led the Numeracy Task Force, David Bell, chief executive of Bedfordshire County Council; and Caroline Gipps, deputy vice-chancellor at Kingston University, assessment expert and QCA curriculum and assessment board member.
Leisha Fullick, chief executive of Islington, is a known Government favourite.
Valerie Bragg, who recently retired as head of the first city technology college and is the new chief executive of the private firm, 3Es, has also been mentioned.
David Hawker, education director at Brighton and former QCA head of curriculum and assessment, has the background for the authority job but is thought to be more interested in taking on the Standards and Effectiveness Unit directorship.
Potential caretakers who could be parachuted in from the Department for Education and Skills to the QCA include: Rob Hull, who has been in charge of qualifications for the past four years; Nick Sanders, who is responsible for higher education; and Mark Neale, a high-flying civil servant with a background in curriculum and assessment.