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Just one more for the role

Headskills: a CD-Rom

By Ian Bennett and Peter Mountstephen Wiltshire CC; Pounds 499 plus VAT

As a war child I was reared on hundred of books - suitable and unsuitable - brought home by my father from bomb-shattered houses. It became my nature to browse among and cherish books. But now the challenge is to come "on-line".

This, my first encounter with CD-Roms, was easy and motivating. Initial awkwardness was soon dispelled by the tone, humour and delightful interactive learning provided by training programme, aimed at the new headteacher. Authors Ian Bennett and Peter Mount-stephen have created the programme out of their own deep and recent experience.

There is much to learn about the new school and about one's self in the role. It takes time and experience. Some of that experience will be bitter. What style of leadership? Why are there so many urgent tasks to carry out and so little time to think? How does one prioritise?

This CD-Rom is like a friend - asking questions, helping with answers, comforting and enabling. It provides hours of interactive training, an opportunity to create one's own tailor-made training course from a list that includes assemblies, leadership style, staff, parents and governors, communications, meetings, strengths and weaknesses, professional development, development planning and the environment. There is an abundance of ideas, guidance and practical advice, laced with humour.

The environment section surveys factors which make a welcoming school, from the outside environment to the friendly smile of the school secretary. Help is offered in making the school more so for the visitor, the staff and the children. There is guidance in seeing the school's strengths and weaknesses. How to sort out the plentiful information and what to do with it when you have got it.

There is consideration of the kind of leader one wants to be and why, related to the different perceptions of groups within and outside the school. Here the discussion seems superficial. The tension between leadership style and professionalism is largely ignored.

Generally, there is emphasis on the very early stages of headships which assumes that practice is more important than theory. It does not seem unreasonable to start straight away to develop the reflecting practitioner.

However, I was enabled to consider most of the challenges of new headship and their solutions, with repeatability and learning by doing. I was motivated with words of praise, was reminded that it is easier to understand texts which are read out and discussed with you. I wished that such a programme had been available to a certain naive pioneer all those years ago. It would have accelerated my learning considerably.

* The writer is head of Westdene Primary School, Brighton, and course tutor in educational management with the Open University

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