Stressed lecturer - or satisfied schoolteacher?

Talent-spotting college master promises research time and keen students. Sarah Cunnane reports

February 24, 2011

Schools may start to view the higher education sector as a rich hunting ground for new staff as lecturers grow disaffected with the lack of job security, the head of a private school has said.

Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, is seeking to poach a mathematics teacher from a university, and he predicted that his strategy may become commonplace as the effects of higher education funding cuts are felt.

He said that academics might be tempted to make the move because of the low priority given to teaching in higher education.

"Part of the problem with the university sector at the moment is that insufficient numbers know how to teach and love doing it," he said.

"I think the poor contact time with students and the state of the economy might encourage them to move over to schools, where they would be teaching their chosen subject to bright and interested students for some 20 hours a week."

While some academics have chosen to move into the schools sector, Dr Seldon acknowledged that at present it was unusual for a headmaster to target lecturers actively.

"I'm sure universities are full of those who could have taught in schools and probably would have been very successful at it," he said.

"The life of a teacher in schools that have well-motivated and serious-minded young people who want to learn can be deeply rewarding for (those used to life as) academics."

Dr Seldon said that leaving higher education did not have to mean forgoing research. He claimed there would be "plenty of time" for an academic who took up a post at a secondary school to pursue research alongside teaching duties.

He said he could envisage other headmasters following in his footsteps, but suggested it may be more likely to happen in the independent sector.

"The state sector is very hung up on the fact you have to be trained as a teacher, whereas the independent sector isn't that fussed about teaching qualifications," he said.

"Many of the best teachers I know have not been through a formal training system. It's helpful, but far more important is that innate quality and the will to want to do it."

Dr Seldon said he was "very cross" about the underfunding of the higher education sector, which he said was "the biggest single error" in government policy.

On his unusual recruitment strategy, he added: "It may be that no one will apply. It's an honest attempt to test the market."

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