16 JANUARY 1948, Page 9



THE appointment of Sir Arthur fforde as headmaster of Rugby emphasises in unprecedented fashion the importance of administration in the work of a headmaster, but it is a dangerous emphasis and a precedent which governors should follow only with great caution.

The appointment suggests that in present circumstances and in view of problems of the future, administrative rather than scholastic experience is more essential ; but the essential qualification for the office of headmaster is that he believes he has been called to the vocation of teaching, and such a call does not often come in middle age. Sir Will Spens mentions that the two greatest of Rugby headmasters, Thomas Arnold and Frederick Temple, had, when they were appointed, no experience as schoolmasters ; but in the ministry of the Church both had been called to the vocation of teaching, and this is true also of headmasters whose experience previous to school work has been as, teachers in a university. There is need to stress the importance of teaching as an essential part of a headmaster's work, and not to find excuse in the time that head- masters today give to interviews with parents or in the urgency of administrative problems. The classroom remains the supreme sphere of influence open to any schoolmaster or headmaster, but full recognition of this by a school staff is not likely if the head- master only enters a classroom two or three times a week.

A boy's estimate of a master is largely influenced consciously or unconsciously by the quality of a master's teaching work, and the same is true of a boy's estimate of his headmaster. The most important teaching work of a headmaster is with his VIth forms, and for this reason academic distinction is of importance in the selection of a headmaster, and a man with a weak honours degree is not likely to hold his own with VIth forms at most of the public schools. Nor should the headmaster limit his teaching to the VIth forms. I know a headmaster who teaches every form in the school at least once a term, and if a headmaster's ideal should be to have some personal knowledge of every boy in the school that is only possible if he is active in teaching work, ready to take the opportunity in any part of the school, in addition to what his normal teaching routine may be.

It cannot be easy for a headmaster without any previous experi- ence of teaching to take his part, and find in his work in the classroom the satisfaction and happiness which are the reward of the teacher who knows his job. Nor is it easy in middle age to acquire the art of teaching which most of us learned, perhaps at the

expense of our pupils, in our first appointments on coming down from the university. It was my good fortune to go to Rugby under such circumstances. How well I remember the kindly reception given me by Dr. David, and when he showed me my routine I noticed that my first lesson as a schoolmaster was to be Divinity with my form. I pleaded that I had never read Divinity, and then came his wise and encouraging reply, that if I had a reverence for the Bible and realised the difficulty of teaching Divinity, I could undertake the work. It could not have been the reply of a head- master who had never taught himself, and I left his study to prepare my first lesson as a schoolmaster.

There is little time for administrative work in the day of a headmaster in term-time. Headmasters have efficient secretaries, not only to assist them in administration, but to give them time to teach and to live with the school its daily life. There are no office hours in the day of the headmaster: he must live with an open door and never be disturbed by the arrival of a master or boy to talk over a problem, for if there is any sign that he has not time to give, the master or boy will not come on the next occasion. I learned this from my second headmaster at Rugby, Dr. Vaughan, to whom I owe more than any words of mine can express. He was formidable to young masters or to unpunctual masters ; he was formidable, perhaps, to us all as we went about our work, but once inside his study, littered with papers on the desk and books on the floor, with no suggestion of an office, he was to master and to boy a wise and sympathetic friend. It was easy to be one of his house- masters. If a difficult problem arose I took it to Vaughan, and the more difficult the problem, perhaps the failure of a boy which made a stern decision inevitable, the more obvious was the wisdom and the justice of Vaughan's decision, and the housemaster left confident that with the help of his headmaster the difficulty would be over- come. I believe in such circumstances Vaughan would have been the first to admit what he owed to previous scholastic experience at Clifton, Giggleswick, and Wellington ; proved administrative ability without scholastic experience will not enable a headmaster to be the counsellor of his housemasters.

But the wisdom of Vaughan's decisions was also due to his knowledge of the individual boy. Vaughan gave little time to administration ; otherwise he could not have known the school as he did. I was in command of the O.T.C. when Vaughan was appointed to Rugby: he was not a lover of military training and had a fear that field days might be treated as holidays, and yet constantly on the weekly parade the turret door opened and Vaughan came out to see what we were doing. He wished to show his interest in any school activity, and it was also an opportunity for refreshing his mind about the boys. He would look at a platoon, going through to himself the names of the boys and sometimes he would come and ask me the name of a boy in the ranks: " I am sorry but I have forgotten him," he would say. Vaughan was not an administrator, nor do I believe that he would have wished to be thought of as such.

But it is in reference to the next fifteen years that Sir Will Spens claims that other factors, such as proved administrative ability, are more important than scholastic experience. That is precisely where danger threatens the office of headmaster. The problem of the public schools is an economic one ; their existence depends on the number of parents who can think of education in terms of £15o to L30o per annum. At the moment the schools are enjoying a stronger demand than ever before in their history, but if the economic situation alters and there are no longer parents in such numbers, able to afford this expensive type of education, a crisis will arise as it did in the late nineteen twenties: it is then that the headmaster must not be distracted from his real work by financial problems. It may be true that the first duty of a governing body is to appoint a headmaster, but their second duty is not to leave him alone. The headmaster will find among his governors those who have more financial, administrative and legal experience than himself, and with a small committee of such governors he will find the help he needs, but it is the headmaster with proved scholastic experience who will be competent to advise his governors where economy can be effected, without risk to the interests of the staff and the school

The second problem of the next fifteen years is the inclusion in the public schools of boys educated in grant-aided or maintained schools whose fees will be paid by the L.E.A.s. So far little progress has been made owing to the reluctance of many L.E.A.s to co-operate. The development of this trend may involve legal problems, such as the drafting of a school scheme in co-operation with the Ministry of Education or the approval by the governors of " Articles of Government." But these are not tasks for the headmaster alone ; again he will rely upon the expert help which he will find among his governors. He wEll hold a watching brief to see that no commitment is made which might be contrary to the best interests of the school ; and the help which is needed from him is not administrative ability, but a wide and deep knowledge of school life based upon years of experience.