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Struggling college says training is worth it

The College of North East London was one of the new leadership centre's first customers when it opened its doors for business earlier this year.

Paul Head, the principal, put himself through a leadership programme, the senior management team have had coaching and now middle managers are taking a management development course.

Mr Head admits the training was costly - even with a subsidy for being one of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership's "early adopters". He estimates the college has spent up to pound;20,000 on the middle management programme alone. But he believes that for a college the size of his, this is money well spent. The college in Haringey has around 700 teaching and support staff.

Since he took over as principal two years ago, Mr Head and his team have raised spending on staff development from pound;75,000 a year to around Pounds 300,000 a year.

The college had a very poor inspection report in 2002. It was re-inspected this year and despite making significant progress in addressing weaknesses, a need remains to improve in key areas including curriculum management.

Mr Head said the launch of CEL has been timely for his college. "I take a view that as an organisation that spends over pound;17 million a year on staff, you have to release the resources to invest in the development of those staff, particularly crucial middle management.

"So it seems to me, for a big college can we afford not to? But I do recognise that for smaller colleges, they just couldn't sustain that level of investment."

He says his prior experience of commercial leadership development packages is that they were not tailored to the needs of the sector. "I think the great thing about working with CEL is that they are quite focused on your set of circumstances and dealing with issues you have as an institution.

"My experience of having lots of consultants in the place at various times is that the people we have had from CEL are by far the best."

But for the principal of Barton Peveril sixth-form college in Eastleigh, Hampshire, it is a different story.

Godfrey Glyn recalls being one of the first leaders from education to undertake leadership training at Ashridge management school, one of the partners in CEL. While this was a valuable experience eight years ago, he says the cost of such leadership development is now too high for his college. "I would find it very difficult to pay those sorts of rates for my senior colleagues to go on training," he says.

"Given the amount of funding that we get, given the discrepancy that still exists between school and college funding for doing exactly the same job, that's one of the things that has to go."

Barton Peveril is part of a consortium of Hampshire's 11 sixth- form colleges, and Mr Glyn says he wants to discuss ways of making CEL training more affordable and cost-effective for them.

"Tomlinson requires us to be working alongside schools, otherwise the students will suffer," he says.

"If we're not funded the same way, we won't be able to train our staff and give them the expertise to implement it in the same way that schools will, which is just nonsense.

"I think the major issue is that we have here a golden opportunity to do some really first-class leadership training for the sector, and it hasn't been funded.

"And not only has it not been funded, we are not funded to the extent that we can afford to make use of it. There's a total Catch 22 there."

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