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Multiple leaders way of the future

Heads' conference told that burden will be shared. Felicity Waters reports

Schools need to nurture more leaders instead of relying on one headteacher to carry the burden, according to Susan Lewis, the chief inspector of schools in Wales.

She says modern school leadership needs to reflect the wider world in which we live - and the stereotype of one charismatic person filling the top job is outdated.

"We need leaders with a clear purpose and strong values to motivate people to want to become leaders themselves," she said.

Speaking to headteachers at a conference organised by the Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), Ms Lewis said more collaboration across schools and flexible working arrangements were the future. School leaders and governing bodies should see change "as an opportunity rather than a threat", she added.

Schools would be required to make changes like extending out-of-hours provision, rethinking teaching styles, using IT, empowering and engaging learners, as well as promoting healthy living lifestyles, and having a "wider multi-agency and community response".

Bringing about change in their schools while also engaging with other partners to benefit learners would be a key challenge.

"We've seen fantastic changes over the past 10 years and we live in fast-moving times. Arrangements that are more flexible may best serve our needs, not just in school but globally.

"We could reduce levels of stress in schools by not having everyone there at the same time," she said.

Current UK policy initiatives are already focusing on the importance of schools as "social glue" and drivers of social regeneration. The Westminster government wants all schools in England to provide a "core offer" of services by 2010, including childcare between 8am and 6pm, various sports and other activities, parenting support and wider community access.

And the Nottingham-based National College for School Leadership has been promoting the idea of "distributed" leadership, where responsibility for leading and improving a school is spread beyond the head, almost since its inception in 2000.

Mike Lewis, secretary of the NAHT's RCT branch, and head of Maes-y-coed primary in Pontypridd, said funding was key.

"I agree with extended provision and encouraging all teachers to take on a leadership role, but the logistics need to be in place and properly funded," he said.

"Denmark has extended provision from 8am to 6pm, with a teaching staff between 8am and 1pm, and a recreational staff to cover the rest of the time.

"Ideally I would like to take my deputy away from the classroom and share extended hours between us, but I don't have sufficient funds for that."

Professor David Egan, adviser to Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, said Wales needed to find ways of "working smarter".

He talked of a new relationship between the Assembly government, local authorities and schools to empower teachers.

"We need new professionals to work alongside teachers. These people are there already, and we need to educate and train them to the highest standard."

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