Hunting Heads – Search in Education

22 November 2017

It may be stating the obvious, but the direction and success of an educational establishment is down to its Senior Leadership Team. An inspirational leader will attract and retain the brightest and best staff, inspire the students to aim high, create a positive work environment and ensure support from and links with the community it serves. However, the reverse can also be true: the wrong appointments into senior positions can have disastrous consequences for the institution and for everyone in it.


I have seen schools hope that simply by asking around via governors, or even the existing SLT, they can successfully recruit for the top jobs themselves. With an advert in a prestigious broadsheet, or on a website, they hope they will get a strong field of candidates from which they can choose the best fit. In reality, the best people probably already have good jobs with great employers and excellent prospects – they do not respond to such adverts if they even see them.


In short, penny pinching in the short term can mean long term problems. One weak leader can result in a dysfunctional SLT and a school, college or university that cannot move on and, more often, regresses rapidly.


Head-hunting (“Executive Search”) has long been used in business to secure the very best people for the top jobs. If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t exist and commerce is the most ruthless testing ground for any service. Recruitment fees have been justified as shareholders recognise that a strong leadership team is vital to push a company upwards and onwards. The education sector is catching up fast. While education is not considered a business by many, results do matter, howsoever they are measured, and many universities, schools and colleges are already using executive search to secure the CEO, Finance Director, Head, Bursar, Deputies or Directors of Study, Operations, and Estates.


A robust, thorough, detailed and objective recruitment process will always result in the appointment of the strongest available person meeting the needs of the establishment, its staff and its students. A professional recruitment process will reach and can attract those who may not otherwise respond, but who could be perfect for the role. A professionally managed and active recruitment process quite simply ensures the appointed candidate is the right fit for the organisation.


Lorri Lowe

Lorri Lowe has over 25 years’ experience in education as a teacher, safeguarding lead, governor and trustee. She is the Head of Practice for the education sector in the UK with the European executive search firm Friisberg & Partners International.