Non-teachers welcome - as heads

8th December 2006 at 00:00
Consultants to recommend that people from other backgrounds could run school federations

Schools should consider hiring heads who are not qualified teachers, a major review of school leadership will suggest.

With evidence showing schools are having continuing difficulty replacing retiring heads, the government-funded review will suggest that non-teachers will be particularly useful for managing school clusters and federations that share heads. The private consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers is to present its review findings to the Department for Education and Skills before Christmas, and they will be published in January.

David Armstrong, a member of the review team, said this week that schools needed to learn from the business world. He said that the private sector had moved away from focusing on management structures to ensuring they had "people... who are signed up to the same vision". He told The TES the business world showed the importance of sharing leadership rather than placing too much in the hands of one chief executive.

This could work in schools, if heads shared more responsibility with senior staff. "Given the complexity of the schools agenda, it's just not possible for this hero head model to continue," he said. "There is a sense in which we need much more leadership throughout the organisation."

The law allows schools to draft in heads who have no teaching experience, as long as they have the National Professional Quali-fication for Headship (NPQH) - a certificate already hanging in the offices of a handful of bursars and school business managers.

But few non-teachers are thought to have proceeded through to headship since the controversial appointment of a civil servant-turned-industrialist, Margaret Hampshire, to lead the exclusive Cheltenham Ladies' College in 1964.

One retired headmistress wrote to the education minister of the time to protest: "It is a sad reflection upon our times that a board of governors should appoint someone who knows nothing about teaching. Such a post should go to a woman with at least 30 years' sound teaching experience."

Today, the heads' unions are split. In submissions to the review, the National Association of Head Teachers emphasised the importance of teachers as heads, but the Association of School and College Leaders said it should be possible to have a non-teacher as "chief executive" of a complex 21st-century school. "It is more important that school principals are good leaders than that they hold qualified teacher status," it said.

At the head of the queue will be Ruth Bradbury, 38, a qualified accountant from the NHS, now an assistant head at Westhoughton high school in Bolton.

Although she has no teaching qualification, she is enrolled on the NPQH, and hopes to become a head.

She said there were skills from other sectors that could be useful in leading big secondary schools.

"There are people with teaching qualifications who wouldn't be equipped to run a school, and there are people without teaching backgrounds whose skills would be very useful," she said.

Let's pay governors, too

School governors could be paid for their time, the Pricewaterhouse-Coopers review of school leadership will suggest. Although paying honorariums to the country's 350,000 governors has the potential to break the bank, a starting point might be payments to the 24,000 chairs of governing bodies.

The review will not go so far as to recommend cash for governors, or pay rises for heads and other school leaders, but it is expected to float the issues so the School Teachers' Review Body can consider them.

Governors are entitled to expenses for travel and babysitters, but the National Governors' Association says many do not claim them. Jean McEntire, its chief executive, said members were concerned that such payments would take money from stretched school budgets.

Stephen Adamson, a governor in Norwich, said the voluntary principle of community service was important: "You don't want people to apply just because it's a well-paid job," he said.

But Claire Collins, a secondary school chair and primary school deputy chair in West Sussex, said honorariums would force professional accountability upon governors. She said pound;2,000 a year for chairs seemed reasonable, given honorariums of more than pound;5,000 paid to health trust members.

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