Miscegenation in the directorate;Leading Article

13th August 1999 at 01:00
THE WALLS of Jericho may not be tumbling down but cracks are appearing. We not only have a minister for social inclusion and another responsible for children's interests beyond as well as including their education. We are now to have a social work director who was a teacher before becoming an education official.

Ronnie O'Connor, who takes over the remit in Glasgow, the authority with the most pressing social problems, has no direct experience of the area although he has been heavily involved in council reviews of services. Like Wendy Alexander in the Executive, Mr O'Connor will tackle the social inclusion agenda, which is undermined if departments remain at odds and suspicious of each other.

Breaking down barriers is never easy. The teachers' traditional gibe about social workers is that it takes one to look after one. No doubt Mr O'Connor's arrival will be looked at askance by some Glasgow social workers, who have had troubled industrial relations. He will have to counter notions of an education takeover and answer the criticism that he lacks professional qualifications.

As a proven good manager he can surmount the problems. Colleagues in the Association of Directors of Education will be pleased at evidence of career possibilities beyond education. Oonagh Aitken, who also comes from education, is about to take over leadership of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

But there is another side to cross-fertilisation within the public service. If an outsider can become a director of social work, surely a director of education need not necessarily have been a school teacher. Or is that too revolutionary?

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