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Leadership centre for heads aims to take the strain

Headteachers are the linchpins of effective schools. Yet they often have little support, and little attention is paid to their professional needs and development. The new leadership centre at the University of London Institute of Education aims to remedy this through a new partnership between heads, the institute, the Government Office for London and the business community.

The centre, which opens today, will take account of recent research which has shown that: * schools tend to improve when heads direct their efforts towards achieving "effective schools"; * headship involves essential skills, competencies and knowledge (influenced by length of service, experience and personality); * the role of heads will increasingly involve the management of information and of change itself; * heads benefit from training if they are to identify, articulate, develop and apply the school's ethos and values: * training should be varied - including on-site sessions and mentoring; * training eases resistance to change; * training and development programmes need to have relevance, reflection, context, ownership, application, individuality, informality and continuity.

The centre also plans to support teamwork in school leadership - the professional development of senior staff and governors will have a high priority.

This work will complement the Headteachers' Leadership and Management Training Programme (HEADLAMP) and the new arrangements to be piloted by the regional assessment and training centres for the new professional qualification for heads.

Many heads have told us that the centre will fill a "yawning gap" in the support available to them in areas such as finance and industrial relations, keeping track of education legislation and personnel training - including recruitment and retention, discipline, grievance, redundancy and capability procedures.

Heads also want legal training and help with premises management, especially health and safety matters. One respondent wanted support in "dealing with increasing numbers of litigious parents".

There have also been requests for help with communication skills, stress management, problem-solving, data analysis, classroom observation and monitoring and evaluating. And there is a particular demand for the development of "interpersonal skills" .

We also plan to offer a programme which will look beyond the management of current issues and help school leaders meet future changes.

Pat Collarbone is director and Michael Billingham is co-ordinator of the London Leadership Centre. Details about events from the administrative secretary, London Leadership Centre, Institute of Education, University of London, 10 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS. Tel: 0171 612 6617. Fax: 0171 612 6618; e-mail:

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