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Headship issues

The Government's and the Teacher Training Agency's commitment to a rigorous, national qualification for aspiring headteachers has been widely welcomed, and the two teachers (Mr P Wickert and Mrs L Paxton, TES Letters, August 1) who applied for the National Professional Qualification for Headship but were disappointed by the outcome raise important issues which we all need to face as we move forward to raise the status and professionalism of teaching and teachers.

The letters highlight the importance of a national qualification being operated consistently and fairly across the country against clear, common criteria. Of course, not everyone who wants to be a headteacher will turn out to have the potential for the top job, nor could there ever be sufficient central funding for everyone who wishes to take the qualification. I do question whether it is right to assume that the qualification should largely be pursued in school time, which would both be expensive in supply cover terms and rob pupils and other staff of the expertise of absent colleagues. The normal work in school of each candidate represents a vital part of the NPQH - no one will be able to gain the qualification unless they have shown that they have brought about improvements within their current setting. But candidates at this level should expect to emulate the practice elsewhere of pursuing some of their professional development outside school time.

In view of what I have said, I hope that Mr Wickert will see that his cost estimates for the NPQH are too high. They also assume that all candidates will need the maximum amount of training offered under the NPQH, whereas many will need less than this, and some no more than the compulsory module on strategic leadership, given that prior achievements will be taken into account. I do hope he and others will also explore what support is available from other public and private sources, including training and enterprise councils, as well as the scope for self-funding.

Finally, Mrs Paxton raises an important point about the need for feedback from local education authorities or others who have a role in determining the allocation of central funds. I can assure her and your readers that, as regulator of the qualification, we shall be taking up her case as a matter of urgency, as the national procedures appear not to have been followed.

ANTHEA MILLETT, Chief executive

Teacher Training Agency

Stag Place, London SW1

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