The programme, which focuses on standards, teaching and learning, and leadership and management, is designed to improve heads' ability to evaluate themselves. Participants get three "taught" days, and a registered inspector visits their schools to carry out classroom observations and help analyse performance data.
Heads undertake an improvement project tailored to their schools' needs, which is evaluated by the inspector. The programme takes around two terms.
After a successful pilot involving 60 primary heads, up to 900 places will be available in 20023, for heads from all phases. The course was developed by the Office for Standards in Education and the National College for School Leadership.
Sue Jackson, one of the pilot participants, described Headfirst as the best in-service training she had encountered. Mrs Jackson, head of Lee Chapel primary, a beacon school in Basildon, Essex, said: "This is about preparing to be an effective head and to lead your school further forward."
Anne-Marie Armstrong, head of 150-pupil Amble first school, Northumberland, said: "It was a well-constructed training course. It's made me much more positive about the inspection process."
Like the other pilot heads, her Headfirst training came free. Future participants will have to pay around pound;2,000.