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Tailored to fit different shapes

Gerald Haigh on a new network of management training for heads. It is relatively easy to say that today's headteachers need management training. The really hard questions follow on from that, and are to do with form, content, delivery, credibility (which probably means accreditation) and finance. One idea that recurs in discussion of all this is that of the staff college.

Pioneered by the armed forces in their own highly-respected college at Camberley, the conventional staff college approach is to bring together the most able middle-to-high ranking people in the organisation and provide them with the very best advanced leadership training available. The aim is to keep up the supply of people from within which consistently good top level appointments can be made.

It seems highly unlikely (even if it were desirable) that education will ever have its own national, centralised management training college.

Much more practical and possible is a devolved network of excellent and nationally recognised training, built upon some of the existing provision, and accessible to heads and upwardly mobile teachers wherever they happen to be.

It was this idea - dubbed "A Staff College Without Walls" - that a group of influential educators, business leaders, bankers and officers of the Department for Education and the Department of Employment met to discuss at a seminar in London earlier this month. Although the idea has considerable support from business and industry, including the Post Office and the banking industry, the educational driving force comes from the Secondary Heads Association, through its training arm, Management and Professional Services Ltd (MAPS).

The immediate stimulus for action, undoubtedly, is the arrival of the Government-inspired and Teacher Training Agency-administered Headlamp scheme which gives the governors of every new head appointed from Easter this year, a voucher to buy Pounds 2,500 worth of headship training. The scheme is worth Pounds 3.1 million this financial year, and it opens up a whole new market for training providers.

The idea floated at the London seminar was to base the staff college on the businessschoolsgovernmenthigher education partnership which already runs the successful and expanding National Education Assessment Centre. Seminar members, who included a number of experienced heads, were keen on the idea - they urged, in fact, the need for speedy action, given the imminent availability of Headlamp money. As a result, a working party of selected seminar participants will meet in June to move things on. This group will quickly approach other individuals and organisations, for it was recognised at the seminar that there must be a wide spectrum of participation ("SHA led but not SHA contained" was the expressed principle).

Kay Driver, SHA's deputy general secretary with responsibility for MAPS, is now certain that the project will go ahead, perhaps in the early part of next academic year. She says that some of the structure is already coming into place as NEAC to expands into regional franchised centres.

The idea is that a head or other senior teacher, or governor, whether financed by Headlamp or in some other way, will be able to register with the staff college (the name is not finalised. It may become the School Leadership College) and have what Kay Driver describes as "an individually tailored, locally available programme of training". The NEAC base means that the new college "will offer an individual an opportunity for rigorous personal assessment".

With the working party still to meet, many plans exist only as ideas, but there are already thoughts about links with Europe through the European Secondary Heads Association, and a strong commitment to the notion of national accreditation, perhaps through NVQ.

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