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Introducing David Lea – Independent Education’s new MD

| November 4, 2010

David, we welcome you to the team. Can you share with our readers a bit about your background in education?

My first job in the education sector was as a groundsman at a girls’ secondary school in south London. After 18 months of marking out hockey pitches, mowing the lawns, pruning the roses and enjoying the view, I changed direction to become a motorcycle salesman. After two years of that, I began a four-year B.Ed Hons degree at a college affiliated to the University of Oxford. After I graduated, I was appointed to teach History and humanities subjects at a comprehensive school in south-east England.

When did you come to South Africa, and why?

By 1996, my wife and I were both involved in education: Caroline was Deputy Head of a large comprehensive school, and I was by then Publishing Director for Hodder & Stoughton Educational, one of the largest UK educational publishers. We both had an interest in Africa and had for several years ‘sponsored’ a young Mozambican refugee in a camp in Zimbabwe. Visiting the family of our sponsored child in the camp at the end of a three-week tour of Zimbabwe was one of the most moving experiences of our lives.

In 1996, two years after its first democratic elections, there was a surge of optimism about South Africa, and it was obvious that education was going to play a major part in the transformation of the ‘new South Africa’. Both my wife and I wanted to be part of that, and believed that we could make a contribution.

Tell us about your background in publishing.

While I was teaching, I joined a group of local teachers and university lecturers to form a teachers’ publishing cooperative to produce classroom learning materials. We
believed that we could do a better job than the mainstream publishing houses.

One of our founding beliefs was that a cooperative was the fairest and most egalitarian form of business organisation. The company we set up was called Tressell
Publications (after Robert Tressell, the author of the polemical socialist novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists).

I gave up full-time teaching after six years to do a Master’s degree at Sussex University. After obtaining my MA, I was offered a position as Commissioning Editor with Hodder & Stoughton (H&S) Educational Publishers. I eventually became Publishing Director, with responsibility for all H&S secondary school publishing.

It was from this position that I made the move to South Africa to run Hodder & Stoughton Educational in South Africa and Botswana. Since then – largely as a result of various corporate upheavals both in the UK and South Africa – I have moved around within the publishing world, working at different times for Macmillan, Juta, Jonathan Ball Publishers and Media24. I also ran my own publishing services and consultancy company for four years.

In your opinion, where in education should we be shining the spotlight in South Africa?

There has been much upheaval in the General Education and Training (GET) and Further Education and Training (FET) curricula – and it is right that both are subject to continuous refinement, but there still remains a great need to improve the overall quality of training and professionalism of teachers and school leaders in South Africa.

What’s your vision for Independent Education?

The magazine has already established itself as a highly respected voice within the independent education sector. We will continue to broaden both the content and
appeal of the magazine, and to contribute to national educational debate. We will focus on the ‘good news’ stories in SA education as well as the problems and failings within the system.


Category: Summer 2010

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