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A leader in every class

For schools to succeed, every teacher has to feel empowered, argues David Hopkins

YOU can't reform any organisation - and certainly not our secondary school system - without knowing where you're going. And you can't know where you're going without clear principles and an underlying philosophy. In 'A New Specialist System: Transforming Secondary Education' we set out four key policy levers for reform:

* The creation of a new specialist system

* Building strong leadership teams

* Reform of the school workforce

* Developing partnerships beyond the classroom.

These levers aim to ensure that teachers are equipped to teach effectively and to inspire in all pupils a desire to learn. We are in discussion with the teaching profession on the core principles related to teaching and learning, school improvement, and system-wide reform - which, with the strategy outlined in 'A New Specialist System', will provide a framework for the next stage of reform.

Having established these principles, we must enable schools to put them into practice - and that demands leadership. There's a straighforward connection between leadership and schools: excellent schools have excellent leaders at all levels.

Our vision for schools in the 21st century - powerhouses of individualised teaching and learning - depends on the development of strong leadership teams in each and every one, applying the established principles of reform to their own circumstances and making each teacher a leader in their classroom.

Heads and teachers know that raising standards now needs to be seen within a whole-school context, bearing on classroom practice and school culture - from the head's study to the cafeteria. The National College for School Leadership provides support for school leaders at all stages of their careers.

The purpose of the new leadership incentive grant is to strengthen secondary school leadership at all levels, but particularly in senior leadership teams. Schools can use the grant's assessment tool to determine the team's performance; the grant money will then give school leaders the freedom to: restructure leadership teams; improve professional development; and introduce radical innovation by making use of local and external expertise.

Where necessary the money may be used by local education authorities to tackle weak or uncommitted leadership - purchasing outside services to do so. There will be a duty on schools to work together to address shortcomings. We know that collaboration with neighbouring schools - sharing expertise and best professional practice - is one of the keys to tackling underperformance. Today's education system shapes tomorrow's world, so today's school leaders have a huge moral responsibility.

And Government has the responsibility to put in place the reforms that will ensure schools can fulfil their role as agents of social change: the launch-pad for the learning career of a new generation.

Professor David Hopkins is head of the standards and effectiveness unit at the Department for Education and Skills and chief adviser to ministers on school standards

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