The Scottish Qualification for Headship is invaluable when it comes to applying research to management tasks, says Melvyn Lynch, an assistant headteacher at Dalziel High School in Motherwell.
Mr Lynch is one of 17 North Lanarkshire candidates taking part in a pilot scheme for the SQH due to be introduced nationwide in August. Approaching the end of his first year of study, he says the time has been well spent.
"When it comes to the nuts and bolts of running a school up to now it's been done pretty much 'on the hoof'," he says. "The basic advantage of the SQH is that it allows you prior study rather than having to learn by your mistakes.
"Since starting last August I feel more informed and am certainly giving more reflection and consideration to managerial tasks in my job at the moment."
Mr Lynch embarked on the course to gain more confidence and experience in management, although he does not regard it a "ticket to the job".
In these days of devolved school management he argues that "training for management in schools is even more necessary" and asks: "Does a good subject teacher necessarily make a good manager?" The question is more than rhetorical and he argues that the adoption of management training principles should perhaps lead to initiatives to cover the move from principal teacher to senior management team or even from class to principal teacher.
"One day you're a principal teacher of English, the next an AHT (assistant headteacher) with no previous experience or training for that job. So the extent to which the SQH offers training specific to management is progress in itself. SQH could lead to principal teacher training for class teachers. It is a more professional approach and has implications for every level in education," Mr Lynch says.
"For example, prioritising budgets is important especially when we're not trained accountants. School budgets run to millions and if we can save pound;1,000 as a result of new management skills, then that's pound;1,000 for new computers or whatever that we wouldn't otherwise have had."
The course itself is half practical, half academic. "This is a balance which might surprise many candidates but there is an emphasis on quality of educational research," Mr Lynch says.
"It means I've taken a more thorough look at management issues involved in making a major change in an important curricular area. It makes you focus in much more detail not just on the end product but on the management of change and the rationale behind it."
The strength of the course is that it looks at management from an educational perspective and stresses pedagogy as well as leadership and inter-personal skills. But Mr Lynch says, it does not try to bring "Marks amp; Spencer management" into education.
Course applicants must be registered with the General Teaching Council for at least five years and it is recommended they have held senior management positions for at least two years.
Designed as a three-year course, the workload is significant. "It's a big commitment. There are 400 hours reading in a year and currently there is no study leave. I've had four days out of school this year. If they made the SQH compulsory more time out would be needed.
"In fact, if they're going to equate SQH as a management training equivalent to teacher training, and if the quality of teaching rests on the quality of management, then I think a full year, including placement within your own school, would be necessary."
Mr Lynch argues against SQH training resting on "the good will of teachers".
"If it's going to be an essential qualification for headship it should be in line with basic teacher training," he says. "But more than that, it could be looked at as a move towards a degree in education management."
Mr Lynch also argues for "a menu of units on the day-to-day running of a school" to be introduced so that candidates can gain experience in their weak areas.
"The main difficulty in making the SQH compulsory is logistical. Trying to certificate every teacher at senior level would be very difficult in practical terms."
Delivery of SQH does recognise previous management qualifications so that some candidates can "fast track".
"On the course you do look at management structures in other work establishments including commercial and industrial. This does inform the management skills aspect of the course, bearing in mind that it is people that are important here and not profit. I don't think we will, or should ever be, in a position of becoming 'Scottish Education plc', Mr Lynch concludes.