What's in a title? Dame Ruth Silver

What's in a title? Dame Ruth Silver

28th August 2014

These days, I am less preoccupied by the question of ‘What’s in a name?’ than I am with that of ‘What’s in a title?’

It started with my noticing, and musing on, the variations in how the sector’s college leaders described primarily their role and function, locating themselves somewhere on the spectrum of ‘Principal’ (in public manner) to ‘CEO’ (in private management), mostly at the end that indicated the best of both roles. We have seen, too, how some of the double-branded colleagues have fared.

I found and still find such nomenclature odd and realised that I had assumed – and made meaning of this practice – as folks being either the principal educator in the business of learning or the CEO in the learning business. It mattered which descriptor came first and it revealed a lot about our leaders and their inner, leading concerns.

This preoccupation found new life when I read that our new Minister, in a quiet way, does not take up the same title as his predecessor. Gone is the portfolio of ‘Skills and Enterprise’ and in comes ‘Skills and Equalities’ as his new domain. Minister Hancock has taken Enterprise with him and we shall  see how it changes its form and meaning in new circumstance.

But what does it mean that Skills and Equalities  are given joint billing in this way?  What is in the minds of the cabinet as it makes such a strategic swerve in signalling the newness in this appointment?

We in the sector have enough experience to know that this title has meaning, even if that meaning has yet to be discovered and worked at. It is certainly clear to all that Equalities have been shunted into the sidings by far too many players in our world in recent years.  I could be very excited indeed to think that the return of the term means a renewed  focus  on the unfairness that has grown enormously in recent years.

I am excited too that it could also herald a return to a focus on the learning place and not the market place and remind us not just  what we lead but also  the destinations it can enable for others. Our new minister is in good, energetic and experienced hands with us : we have dismantled many barriers in the past , we can help him live into, and up to, his new title.

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