THE National College for School Leadership is going regional, with the launch of a pound;2 million network of mini-Sandhursts for heads.
One of the nine regional centres has already opened, and the rest will be up and running shortly, providing courses and information for heads and senior teachers. They will also relay feedback from teachers to the college.
Heather Du Quesnay, NCSL's chief executive, said school leaders should benefit from more development opportunities closer to home. "We are very conscious that with a single base in Nottingham, there is a danger the college could be seen to be isolated and even ivory-towerish," she said.
"We know that school leaders want to take part in workshops, discussions, and brain-storming. But we also know it is incredibly hard for them to find the time to get to Nottingham, so we want to be as local as possible."
She anticipates that the centres will play a key role in the roll-out of NCSL programmes such as the National Professional Qualification for Headship, soon to become compulsory for all aspiring heads, andor the Leadership Programme for Serving Heads. Several are planning bids for new NCSL programmes, including "leading from the middle" for school middle managers, and the revised induction programme for new heads (formerly Headlamp).
Although the nine centres will make the NCSL more accessible, they will still cover large regions. Some are therefore planning to establish satellite bases. The North Leadership Centre, for example, which is based in Newcastle University, will also have centres in Durham and Middlesbrough.
Anne Evans, chief executive of the Heads, Teachers and Industry (HTI) leadership centre in Coventry, which has already launched as the West Midlands affiliated centre, said: "There is a fantastic opportunity here, but also a huge challenge. We see our role not just as the NCSL filtering through us to schools. Equally importantly, we are brokering local issues to NCSL because there is a lot of good practice here. We are the eyes and ears of the region."
Several centres are carrying out work outside their affiliated status which is expected to complement their NCSL activities. The HTI centre will continue to organise secondments in business for headteachers - its founding purpose. And the North Leadership Centre is embarking on a European Union-funded scheme to bring training and development to hundreds of Egyptian school managers.
WHERE ARE THE NINE CENTRES?
* North-west: Centre for Educational Leadership, Manchester University, Tel: 0161 275 3210
* North-east: North Leadership Centre, Newcastle University, Tel: 0191 222 6586
* Yorkshire and Humberside: CCDU Training and Consultancy Ltd, Leeds, Tel: 0113 394 3916
* East Midlands:Northamptonshire LEA, Tel: 01604 753101
* East: Eastern Leadership Centre, Cambridge, Tel: 01223 366566
* West Midlands: HTI Leadership Centre, Coventry, Tel: 024 7641 0104
* South east: Education Management South East, Surrey County Council, Tel: 01372 834444
* South-west: Plymouth LEA, Tel: 01752 307006
* London: London Leadership Centre, Institute of Education, Tel: 020 7612 6890