Headteachers: academic leaders or business leaders?

Posted: 9th May, 2016. Topics:

This week in the TES, one of the top stories centres around ‘teaching’ heads being replaced by ‘business’ heads.

In the independent sector this is becoming more of the norm, as schools are realising that they are not just educators anymore but sellers of a product. Back in the day the relationship was one of parent and school, now it is buyer and seller.

Competition to recruit pupils is fierce in the tough market which sees fees continue to rise which is also commented on by a former Head of Eton saying parents are being priced out of the market.

A colleague was at an alumni reunion event over the weekend at her old school and the friends she met up with 20 years ago were all talking about how it is now impossible for them to send their children to said school.

Schools are now businesses as well as educators. Bursars ensure that all costs are covered with both lets, alumni fundraising and pupils supporting this. Gone are the days of the bursars role centering on sending out the bills and giving stern looks to parents who have not paid the bill to ensure a speedy bill paying action by said parent. And Marketing teams are now the norm to ensure numbers are sufficient for a sustainable operation without diluting the ethos of the school – a very tricky juggling act. Schools are having to ensure excellent customer service to recruit and retain – the hallmark of the commercial sector.

So I think Independent Schools are right to consider looking at headteachers with business experience. This is always balanced by an academic deputy too. From my experience, these ‘business’ people are definitely not scared of children or obsessed by spreadsheets. They are in fact the opposite.

They relish the challenge to keep each school and the ethos of that school alive too so that the children – with whom for many is what it is all about – ┬áin the school can continue to benefit from the continuing education that the independent sector provides in the UK, and that parents – who have spent hours deciding and deliberating on the perfect school for their child – have chosen for the children.

And as the customer – in fact both pupil and parent as the customer – the customer is what the commercial sector focuses on, and that is what Independent Schools are realising they have to focus on to ensure a sustainable operation.

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