This is the principle underlying a new training pilot. Candidates on the Flexible Route to Headship met for the second time last month in Edinburgh, where they were taken through the practical and legal responsibilities of headteachers. The course was set up by the Scottish Executive to explore a more flexible alternative to the Standard Qualification for Head-ship, following complaints that it was too time-consuming.
Thirty candidates are taking part from Fife, South Lanarkshire and a consortium of Borders, Midloth-ian and East Lothian councils. A coach has been assigned to each group. Barbara Lindsay has been seconded as a coach from West Coats Primary in South Lanark-shire, where she is head. "The premise is to enable them to grow their own potential," she says. "They have a mentor but they may see processes they want to emulate, or also see some they want to question, and they can ask me why things are done a certain way."
Coaching is about helping candidates learn to lead and to view what is happening with a critical eye.
Derek Allan, 47, is depute head at Glenrothes High in Fife. A former guidance principal and geography teacher, he found the course a revelation:
"It has been rich and the emphasis on reflection has been different - creating a shift away from an operational mind-set to a strategic vision - that has set us going."
He praises the coaching system as instilling true leadership by en-couraging candidates to question existing practice and make decisions.
"It is not directive - it is a conversation with a purpose, similar to counselling but bringing in the killer question which could challenge your beliefs."
HOW IT WORKS
The pilot began with a three-day event, where candidates created individual learning action plans. Last month the group came together for sessions teaching the practicalities of being a head, and to build on the action plans. Each one must write a critical analysis of a major leadership project they have been working on, and document two critical incidents of educational understanding and how they impacted on learning and teaching.
It should show their reading on leading and learning, and how the course has changed their ideas.