Leading heads most likely to have studied English lit. or history (with maths and sciences way back)

The Times is reporting an analysis of the qualifications of leading head teachers which suggests English Literature and History degrees are the most common.

The analysis has been conducted by The Good Schools Guide and looks at the university degrees held by the heads of 800 schools it features. Most of these are private schools, but 20 per cent are from the state sector. 

The subjects that came out top were English literature at 16.5% and history at 15.7%. Way back in third was maths at 7.6%. The top science was chemistry at just 3.7%, physics 2.7% and biology 1.4%.

In trying to understand why history seems to outperform so strongly, the paper interviewed John Moule, the warden of Radley College:

“It would be nice to think that my degree conferred a natural gravitas as I daily apply my knowledge of the ‘bank and capital of ages’ [Burke]. Sadly, the truth is more prosaic: I can write under pressure, I can sift through vast amounts of tedious material and spot something useful and, above all, pretend to know stuff about things I only have a hazy awareness of . . . and get away with it. History has taught me to bluff impressively.” 

More at: Why historians make the best school leaders (subscription may be required)


I’m not sure that the characterisation of these heads as the ‘leading’ heads is entirely fair, but leaving that aside, do you think there is any significance in these findings?

Would they be any different in the wider state sector?

And should we be concerned that so few mathematicians and scientists are leading our schools?

Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link 

We now have a Facebook page - pls click to like!


More recent posts...

Buy your children a book for Christmas, Nicky Morgan tells parents
Government criticised for 'cutting feminism' from A-level politics
Categories: Leadership and Private Schools.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Surely the subjects studied by HTs would mirror the availability of staff in certain subjects, and this does

  2. andylutwyche

    Meenakumari999 SchoolsImprove Generally, not just with HTs. Could it be that scientists and mathematicians don’t want HT jobs?

  3. andylutwyche

    Meenakumari999 SchoolsImprove The media portrays science and maths as being “really difficult” which is totally unhelpful re: recruitment

  4. andylutwyche

    Meenakumari999 SchoolsImprove DfE have put money into recruiting STEM (unsuccessfully) but culturally STEM ability regarded as “a gift”

  5. MrJDexter

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove covers about 160 state schools of the 21000
    Speaks a chemist head
    Resents phrase ‘leading schools’

  6. andylutwyche

    MrJDexter SchoolsImprove Agreed, the phrase “leading schools” is inflammatory; private schools also struggling to find STEM teachers mind

  7. andylutwyche

    MrJDexter SchoolsImprove To be fair they have been labelled as “leading” rather than chosen the label but I agree

  8. SchoolsImprove

    MrJDexter andylutwyche I did try to make that point in my comment at the end – would be interesting to know situation more widely

  9. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove MrJDexter Indeed you did Tony, but it will just mirror general availability of subject staff I suspect

  10. MrJDexter

    SchoolsImprove andylutwyche to be fair I saw that thank you
    Less your promoting but Telegraph too – the best heads are…,

  11. SchoolsImprove

    MrJDexter andylutwyche Yes – “leading headteacher” is the default expression they seem to use for an independent school head

  12. Dai_James1942

    SchoolsImprove MrJDexter andylutwyche Ind heads need skills not known in state sector. Millionaire governor believes in ‘Learning Styles’

  13. We scientists would have been looking for evidence before acting.  Until recently there was little reliable evidence available.  “Bluffing impressively” was the only way to make decisions then.  Now we have good evidence we may see more science heads.

  14. Mktadvice4schls

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove I’d cynically look at AS fail rates – hist/eng v low so little opportunity to criticise. Career not derailed.

  15. spookingdorf

    SchoolsImprove Skills for success given by John Moule insightful “…pretend to know stuff… History has taught me to bluff impressively”

  16. flelroy

    SchoolsImprove In my experience the least effective Heads I have worked for were Eng Lit & Hist graduates. Best Heads were Science grads…

  17. Nairb1

    You mean like knowing how to pretend that you are supporting the local community so your school can still claim charitable status.

  18. acet2001

    SchoolsImprove I guess Eng and Hist degrees are of less use outside education than Maths and Sciences. Narrow definition of ‘leading’ too.

Let us know what you think...