Has the right time come for a leadership college?

The route to headship is not an easy undertaking for teachers who have heavy workloads, so more manageable pathways are being considered. Raymond Ross reports

Does Scotland need a college for teachers with a leadership centre? To implement the four leadership and management pathways outlined in May by Judith McClure, chair of the Leadership and Management Pathways Subgroup (see page 2), it might be argued that Scotland does need something of this kind.

It is an idea which LAMPS has been exploring since a visit to the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham, which opens on Monday.

"The aim of the NCSL, with its substantial staff and residential accommodation, is to be the focus for the co-ordination of the leadership development framework for English schools, focusing on values, on creating an active learning community and on the importance of distributed leadership," says Dr McClure.

"It aims to encourage continuing professional development which will impact on schools and pupils, to generate a route to enable the preparation, induction, development and regeneration of school leaders, using various approaches to suit the needs of the learner."

The main programmes cover: l emergent leadership (for subject and specialist leaders) l established leadership (for depute and assistant heads);

* entry to headship (professional qualifications and induction for headteachers);

* advanced leadership (for serving heads), and

* consultant leadership (the use of experienced leaders).

"The leadership college idea is being discussed," says Fergus Millan, the Scottish Executive Education Department's policy adviser on continuing professional development. "I think it's been on and off the horizon for some 25 years but maybe it is an idea whose time has come.

"But while the Nottingham college is focused on headteachers and senior management only, we would have to ask if that is enough for a smaller country like Scotland, where a similar college could cater for all teachers, from probationers to senior management, in terms of CPD.

"There are no plans to establish such a college. We are simply at the stage of putting as many ideas as we can into the pot," he says.

Dr McClure also believes the Scottish approach should be different. "The English started off with the idea of leadership. I think we would start off seeing leadership as part of CPD and a leadership centre as part of a college dedicated to the professional development of teachers as a whole," she says.

"I think the excellence of a college would be that it would give coherence, bring together the providers, stimulate practical and useful research and make that research accessible.

"It would have to be linked closely to the General Teaching Council for Scotland and network with national bodies such as Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Open University and LearnDirect."

A lot would depend on how local authorities view the idea, says Mr Millan. "Is it something that the authorities will want or that they feel they need? Or is it something that takes away from what they are already doing? These questions will need to be discussed.

"With social work trying to improve its professionalism, maybe we should be asking the question, if such a college is to be established, why should it not encompass both teachers and social workers?

"Both social work and education are trying to work closer together as part of the social inclusion agenda, in community schools and so forth. If it were only a leadership college it might seem elitist.

"And, while a staff college could not take in every teacher in Scotland, its accessibility could nonetheless be greatly widened by being partly virtual," he says.

Danny Murphy, the director of the Centre for Educational Leadership (SQH) at Edinburgh University, is open to the idea of a national college which could have a quality assurance role.

"I think it would have to be a facilitator with a quality assurance role rather than a provider per se," he says. "The NCSL in England trains the trainers but there are 10 or 12 contractors who deliver the programmes. That could be the way to go.

"We don't want to end up with an SQA for teachers which becomes ossified. We don't want a national college where everything is organised and delivered centrally. There has to be a continuing role for local authorities, universities and others with expertise to offer."

LAMPS has drawn up a paper discussing the pros and cons of a national college which will be presented to the ministerial strategy committee on CPD before the end of the year, in advance of its full report to be delivered next spring.

If you would like to comment, e-mail scotlandplus@tes.co.uk

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you