Is it Cavaliers to Roundheads? Wait and see

7th September 2007 at 01:00
I don't know if it's the coincidence of my becoming a teacher in the year Labour came to power, but almost every head I have came across since then seems to have modelled himself on Tony Blair. With Brown now taking over, can we expect a new breed of slightly taciturn but worthy sons (and daughters) of the manse becoming headteachers across Scotland?

Over the last 10 years, I have experienced a range of Blairite behaviour from different rectors, which not only covered mannerisms, man-management skills and media relations, but also the leadership style.

These "Blairisms" range from the relaxed approach of shirt sleeves and an open-door policy, lots of eye contact and a steady grin while being told things you don't want to hear in a friendly and sincere manner. I think the wannabe Tony HTs came into their own when it came to less formal occasions, such as in-service days, where they dressed in chinos and denim shirts and looked uncomfortable. During the last decade, many rectors, like Blair, have grasped the importance of presentation, not only in the power of a photo opportunity but the need to stop bad news hitting the papers.

This raises the question: have headteacher interview panels favoured the candidate who is most like the country's leader, or have the candidates either consciously or subconsciously aped the leader?

The Gordon Brown model of leadership seems to be diametrically opposed to what we came to expect under Blair, with one political commentator comparing it to a change from the Cavaliers to the Roundheads (for example, Oliver Cromwell, pictured). Will Brown have the same effect on future headteachers?

It depends on the ex-Iron Chancellor remaining in office long enough to sink into the nation's subconscious in the way Blair did. It will also depend on how clearly Brown's mannerisms and characteristics become evident under the scrutiny of the media. But I can't imagine many bosses wanting to copy Brown's loose lips the way they embraced the high eyebrow look of Blair. But they might be tempted by Brown's rumoured control freakery at the Treasury or just settle for substance over style.

It could be worse: imagine the hairdryer treatment of an Alex Ferguson or a meeting with a Machiavellian Jose Mourinho?

Gordon Cairns teaches in Glasgow

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