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The ring of confidence

The Paisley study concludes that would-be heads approach their selection interviews with more "confidence and awareness" if they are SQH graduates.

Phil Black, newly appointed head of Glenrothes High, who has been short-leeted for 10 headships in the past, said: "It was an invaluable preparation for headship. It developed a confidence in me more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. But no one can actually prepare you for headship until you're in the job."

Mr Black said the programme could always be improved. Echoing many of the criticisms made of teacher training, he said that some aspects are too remote and theoretical, while the assessment burden is "horrendous".

Overall, however, Mr Black believes that pupils have benefited by having a head who has been through the SQH programme and is more skilled in the financial aspects of managing a budget and the curriculum. "But I'm still learning," he adds.

John Brown, now into his third week as head of Peebles High, is also unstinting in his praise. "The SQH experience does make you think about the whole process of headship, rather than just being dropped into it because you're successful in an interview."

Mr Brown added: "It really assisted me in evaluating what I was doing and where I should be going in future."

He found the networking opportunities for getting together with other secondary heads and their primary counterparts to be particularly valuable.

"What that made those of us in the secondary sector realise is that, while the practice in primary may be different, the principles of management and leadership are the same."

However, as an SQH graduate who took the accelerated option, Mr Brown accepted the criticism in the evaluation report. "I would not advise anybody to do it. It's like doing an MSc full-time and still doing your job," he said.

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