Education Quandary

'How can people with no experience of teaching possibly be considered as good candidates to run a school?'
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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

This furious question has been fired off by a deputy head who is looking for a headship, and who has been angered by a recent proposal to government, by the consultants PricewaterhouseCooper, that non-teachers could be appointed to run schools.

But why shouldn't they be? You don't need a teaching background to be a principal in the US, where administering a school is seen as quite something distinct from teaching in the classroom, and few heads in Britain now find time for regular teaching, even though many would like to. In fact, running a modern school is much like a chief executive's job anywhere. It involves finance, human resources, target setting and project management. Many of today's heads spend a lot of time overseeing building projects, as well as co-ordinating the multiple functions that schools have to deliver as they act as community hubs.

Of course, the job needs an understanding that schools aren't factories, and that children aren't components to be assembled into identikit young people. And non-teaching heads must have the humility to know that, when it comes to teaching, they need to rely on classroom experts.

But the experience of introducing classroom assistants into schools has shown there is a wealth of non-teaching talent to help make schools better, and with good candidates for headship posts so thin on the ground (the money isn't great and the bureaucracy is terrible), it seems sensible to cast the net as widely as possible.

Readers' advice

Schools should be run by those who know them best, but if there is a shortage of heads, which I believe there is, why can't there be a crash conversion qualification for those who would like to go into school administration? They could do a one-year diploma in educational leadership, and spend some time in the classroom as well.

Lynne Ferbier, Slough

It's alarming that schools should be asked to consider candidates who have no experience of how to ensure high-quality teaching. This has to be the fundamental role of the head teacher. It would be rare for a school to be failed by Ofsted because its human resources strategies were not up to scratch. It is perfectly reasonable for the head teacher to be supported by a range of professional staff who are not qualified teachers, but it is highly unlikely that a head teacher without the knowledge to deliver the core business of education would be willingly and actively assisted by deputy heads in this crucial area of work, especially as they would be paid considerably less.

Belinda Brackley, Berkshire

I believe it would be very disheartening to teachers to know that the top jobs in their profession are likely to go to others. But I can see that people in jobs associated with schools and teaching, such as people who are school bursars or local authority administrators, might well feel they have a legitimate claim to be able to do a good job.

Alison Hortley, Bristol

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary,

I have children aged 12 and 10. I have spent years having homework battles with them both, telling them how important it is to do this work properly, and how much it will help them do better at school, but now I read it is all a waste of time. What do I do? Do I tell them this?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than Monday 5 February to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack of a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.