The CEO's View - Learning on the job makes good leaders

National College for School Leadership

The National College for School Leadership is in its 10th year and in that time we've learned a great deal about the development of school leaders.

Feedback from the profession tells us that the college is more effective in meeting their needs than it has ever been. But good organisations should never rest on their laurels. That's why we are holding eight regional conferences over the coming weeks to consult on radical new proposals for the future of leadership development in schools.

We all know that good leadership makes a real difference to the quality of teaching and learning in schools and that this has a profound impact on children and young people. So we want to have an honest and open dialogue about what we believe are radical approaches with great potential to further improve the quality of school leadership in England.

It's our view that often the most powerful and lasting form of professional development is "real-life" learning, with appropriate support and mentoring. NQTs, many of whom will be our future leaders, feel the same way. According to our recent survey, 86 per cent would prefer on-the- job learning to a course.

But we also know that to ensure on-the-job development is challenging, avoids insularity and the recycling of low-level thinking, it must be supported by a broad range of the approaches pioneered by the college since its launch, such as learning in groups, school visits, access to new ideas and reflection. On-the-job learning also has the benefit of not requiring schools to send their staff on external courses.

What will our proposals look like? We want to make development for middle leaders - subject leaders, leaders of areas of learning, heads of department and pastoral leaders - even more powerful and sustainable. We'll do this by giving greater responsibility to groups - or "clusters" - of schools to handle this locally and to grow future leaders. We want to support more school-based and real-world professional development.

We are proposing to use our existing high-quality materials and our funding to reach more middle leaders and those with senior leadership ambitions, and to work even more closely with schools, local authorities and training providers to create professional development for 21st-century school leaders.

The profession should lead the way in developing local solutions for local contexts. Our role will be to provide high-quality and up-to-date development materials based on the best national and international practice, to train individuals in each cluster and to provide quality assurance. We also want to ensure that new heads get access to support and advice from experienced headteachers who really understand the realities of leadership.

And we would also like to create a "ladder" to categorise leadership roles, developing a school system that is genuinely led by the profession and is ultimately self-improving and self-sustaining.

The NCSL is ready to adapt and evolve. Now we want to engage with the education profession to help us make some crucial decisions that will define how we develop school leaders in the years to come.

Steve Munby, Chief executive of the National College for School Leadership.

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