Wanted: leaders with nice teeth

16th June 2006 at 01:00
Smell nice Wear a suit. Have clean teeth.

These are the recruitment criteria for the ideal primary head, according to some schools advertising in The TES. Primaries are increasingly using statements and drawings from pupils in job adverts, using children's demands to convey their own preferences.

So, when governors at Newlands primary, Kent, compiled their advert for a new head, they quoted pupils. The handwritten advert states: "I want our headteacher to dress smart, eg a suit." Nick Ireland, the current head, said: "We wanted the advert to reflect the school. And I do dress quite well."

Children at All Saints Babbacombe C of E primary, in Devon, are also sartorially demanding. They want the new head to "have nice clothes", and also "smell nice" and "have clean teeth".

Mary Slaymaker, outgoing head of Thorplands primary, in Northamptonshire, believes that governors use children's demands to highlight the ethos of the school.

Her school's advert quotes children wanting a head "who tells funny jokes".

"A head isn't always a serious authoritarian," she said. "They have to have a sense of humour, too. They have to be in tune with what makes children laugh. You see a different side of pupils if you share a joke with them. We wanted to include the children in making decisions that will have an impact on them."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said: "Children are pretty good judges of character. They recognise authenticity, and that counts for a lot. If they find it, they possibly won't even mind bad teeth."

But all schools acknowledge they filter out some requests. Ms Slaymaker said: "Some children definitely wanted a male head. I think they just wanted a change."

Rejected demands at Newlands included: "I'd like a new headteacher to be bonkers." "There may not be many bonkers deputy heads out there," said Mr Ireland. "If we put that in, we wouldn't have a very big market to choose from."

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