Toby Young Toby Young

A new path to the top of the teaching tree

We’re running out of school heads — so let’s retrain successful managers

A few months ago I joined forces with Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, to run an idea up the flagpole. Why not make it possible for senior managers from outside the teaching profession to retrain as heads? Anthony, who was a successful head himself, is in the process of setting up the Buckingham Institute of School Leadership to train the heads of the future. He proposed creating a mid-career and late-career entry track into this programme so successful managers in their thirties, forties and fifties can retrain as school leaders.

This idea was met with some scepticism by teachers and I can’t say I blame them. It rankles for the same reason that allowing people from outside the profession to set up free schools rankles, as well as encouraging people to teach who don’t have QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). It implies there’s nothing particularly valuable about the training or experience that goes into the making of a good teacher — any Tom, Dick or Harry could waltz in off the street and do what they do. It’s symptomatic of a failure to take the profession of teaching -seriously, which is an continuing source of resentment. If I were a teacher it would certainly annoy me.

For what it’s worth, my -experience of helping to set up free schools left me with a huge respect for the profession. None of the schools would have got off the ground without the involvement of experienced teachers as co-founders, and that’s true of most free schools — more than 70 per cent have been set up by teacher–led groups. In addition, the eagerness of free schools and academies to employ non-qualified teachers has been exaggerated. At our schools we take on non-QTS teaching staff only if they’re willing to become qualified in due course.

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