View from the staffroom
I would expect any manager to have had experience of the sort of work their staff undertake.
I get hacked off at having teaching discussions with managers. If I talk to a headteacher, I want to talk teacher to teacher, not teacher to manageraccountantfrontman.
The debate should also include how we can encourage good teachers to progress to headships more easily and with the proper training. Teachers aspiring to become heads should be given the opportunity to work alongside successful heads in order to fully understand budgets, legal issues, etc.
Hopefully this would mean an increase in the number of heads with good classroom practice and experience but also with the knowledge of how to run a school effectively day to day. I know that such schemes are being piloted in some counties, and I look forward to seeing them spread nationally.
A head surely has to be someone who is employed to be the leading teacher in a school. You cannot be that person if you do not have teaching experience. To lead a school, to be the learning co-ordinator as such, the head needs to drive each facet of the school from experience and using proven techniques and skills. I would feel very uncomfortable (as a deputy head) being observed or having my performance appraised by a head without a teaching background.
Sometimes I think an outside manager could bring things up to date. Some of the things that happen in public service would be unthinkable in business - the useless training sessions, the timemoneyenergy wasted, the lack of resources resulting in employees bringing in their own belongings, the shabby rooms...There's also a lack of accountability for all this, as teachers (and heads) just get used to it. Of course you need a head with experience of the chalkface (and still with teaching responsibilities), but I think there is room for a non-teacher somewhere in the system.
How can anyone hope to manage staff in an environment in which they have no experience? If a head has no experience of teaching, he or she cannot be a "head"teacher. Coming from an industrial background, the best managers I have had have always been those who have done and understood the job. If they haven't, they have unrealistic expectations.
Running a school is not hugely different to running a department or a small company. In many ways it is more stable. The management I have seen in schools is old- fashioned, hierarchical and stifling. Staff feel that the senior management team is there to check up, to monitor, to criticise, to "kick" when SATs results aren't good enough, etc, etc. This is the opposite to how I worked in industry, where team managers were there to listen, to support, to help team members work together to resolve issues. Granted, a head needs to provide direction for the school. However, do they have to be an excellent teacher? I don't think so. Even if the head was a good teacher once, he or she can't be an expert in all subjects or across all age groups.