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Revving up leaders of the pack

The road map for reform is in place for Ambitious Excellent Schools. Now, reports Elizabeth Buie, it's time to kick-start action from the top

Leadership is set to dominate the political and educational agenda in the near future with the Scottish Executive's proposals for the development of school staff.

A formal consultation paper is set to be launched in the next few weeks on revisions to the Standard for Headship, a proposal first indicated last November when the Education Minister, Peter Peacock, launched his Ambitious Excellent Schools package of reforms.

That consultation is likely to be followed next year by discussions on what alternative routes might be made available for aspiring headteachers to meet the Standard for Headship.

Currently, the only recognised route to the Standard for Headship is the Scottish Qualification for Headship. While the SQH has been regarded as an important development in both preparing senior staff for headteacher duties and responsibilities, and providing a form of quality assurance, it has been recognised that it can be time-consuming and fairly inflexible for senior managers who already have a heavy workload.

The Executive is also expected to publish a more informal discussion paper on leadership in the near future. Unlike the consultation paper on the Standard for Headship, this will not have specific sets of proposals which require responses within set time limits. Instead, it will be an attempt to widen the leadership debate, asking people involved in education, and further afield, what they feel needs to be done to strengthen leadership in schools. It will suggest some ideas to enhance leadership and seek responses from the wider education community.

Some of the new developments will build on foundations already laid or on plans previously announced by the Executive.

Last month, the Executive's growing links with The Hunter Foundation, a venture investing in educational leadership projects, were reinforced with the announcement that the two bodies were collaborating in a new initiative for leadership with running costs of around pound;500,000 a year. Around Pounds 100,000 of that will come from The Hunter Foundation.

Unlike the Nottingham-based leadership academy which serves England, the Scottish leadership team will focus on finding ways to ensure that headteachers and directors of education have access to world-class thinking on leadership and development opportunities drawn from best practice in other countries and within Scotland. The team will also be trying to identify cutting edge thinking on leadership that is relevant to education.

Tom Hunter, the millionaire entrepreneur who chairs The Hunter Foundation, described the new leadership unit as "not a delivery vehicle, more a small, highly effective team of professionals that can determine gaps in the marketplace and define solutions to those gaps". Watch out for the advertisement for the post of chief executive of that leadership team, which is expected to attract a salary of around pound;80,000.

Plans have also been announced to expand the Columba 1400 leadership initiative to offer more people access to it.

To date, 90 headteachers and senior management team staff have participated in the Columba 1400 headteacher leadership academy, which includes a six-day residential course at Staffin, Skye. Evaluations of the programme suggest that it has had variable but powerful impacts on participants, with some declaring it little short of inspirational and nearly all welcoming the opportunity it offered for reflection.

Joint funding of pound;500,000 from the Executive and The Hunter Foundation will offer additional places on the Columba 1400 programme as well as three new pilot projects. The first of these will be aimed at whole schools and will offer leadership development for teachers and pupils; the second will seek to engage whole communities, teachers, pupils, parents and key bodies from within local communities; and the third will be offered across a group of schools or across education authorities.

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