The right advice;Career Development

10th April 1998 at 01:00
Becoming a consultant can be financially rewarding, but Stephen Hoare finds it is not an option for every early-retiring headteacher

There comes a time in most headteachers' careers when the future seems to consist of an endless round of assemblies, governors' meetings and parents' evenings. It is at moments like these that the prospect of becoming a consultant seems tempting.

Former Hampshire primary head Rodney Sabine, in his late forties, advises on information technology systems, governor training and initial teacher training. Six years ago he took early retirement on health grounds and now offers his expertise to a wide range of clients including schools, professional associations and colleges of education.

It was tough going at first and it took two years to generate an income similar to his old salary. "To make a go of it as a consultant you need a lot more than a network of former colleagues," Mr Sabine says. "But I enjoy my work. I have always been very entrepreneurial."

In September, firms running education action zones will recruit former heads to act as project managers. Paid well above existing salaries for their expertise, their role will be more consultant than headteacher.

David Tomlinson, of educational consultancy CEA, says: "There's plenty of work out there. The Teacher Training Agency, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Office for Standards in Education and Department for Education and Employment are all bringing people in short-term to take on assignments. It's all to do with the pace of change and new legislation."

CEA is a big Ofsted contractor, and 300 of its 2,000 inspection teams also offer consultancy - mostly delivering training and helping LEAs to reshape their advisory services.

Many of its consultants are former heads. Tomlinson says: "Heads who are also Ofsted-trained have a kitbag full of tools that other heads might not."

Education has also attracted the attention of management consultancies such as Coopers and Lybrand, which has set up a specialist education division. Peter Howlett, a former deputy director of the Inner London Education Authority, does 90 per cent of his consultancy work leading multi-disciplinary project teams for Coopers.

"Just because someone has been a head it does not follow that they can become a consultant," he says. "They need a product to sell. It can be mentoring, pupil assessment or turning round a failing school."

According to Neill Ransom, a former Leicestershire headteacher and now senior partner with Nottingham-based consultancy Chelstoke, ex-heads can make between pound;40,000 and pound;60,000 as consultants. The going rate is pound;250 to pound;450 a day.

They have to market themselves and be prepared to work long, irregular hours. Neill Ransome says: "As a one-man band, marketing yourself can be difficult, especially when you are occupied on a project. This is where consultancies can help; we help find people work."

And there is no shortage of early-retired heads looking for consultancy work. The Society of Education Consultants has 132 members, a figure it believes it could easily expand to 500. The SEC's directory shows a divide between retired heads doing a spot of work to supplement their pension, and the more entrepreneurial consultants.

Professional consultancies point out that schools are now more in tune with the commercial world. CEA's David Tomlinson says: "Since schools discovered LEAs were charging pound;360-plus a day for their officers' services we find no problem with our rates - and we are charging considerably more than individual consultants for quality-assured services led by teams."

The Society of Education Consultants: 59 Carlisle Avenue, St Albans, AL3 5LX. Tel: 01727 868685Email: bill@taggoram.co.uk

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