Hampshire primary staff have demonstrated how Gillian Shephard's enthusiasm for NVQs for heads could be put into practice. Neil Merrick reports.
Five primary teachers have gained national vocational qualifications after demonstrating management skills without leaving their schools. By achieving level four NVQs in about 12 months, they have demonstrated that working towards an NVQ can be incorporated into day-to-day tasks. The teachers, all from primaries in Portsmouth and Gosport, took part in a pilot supported by Hampshire Training and Enterprise Council. Training consultants Spearflex visited each of them to suggest ways in which school project work could be used to gather evidence for an NVQ.
Patrick Morgan, former head of Brockhurst Junior School, generated most of the evidence he needed to gain an NVQ while drawing up a new school behaviour policy. "It covered practically everything," he said. "It was about discovering a need, carrying out research, recruiting people to join teams - and it included budgeting."
Mr Morgan, who has since been appointed head of nearby Newtown Primary, is a firm supporter of NVQs. "As a head you require skills which apply to managers in industry as well as schools. I can prove my skills to anybody outside education. That recognition is important to me."
At the Conservative party conference last week, Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard announced plans for a new nationally recognised qualification for headteachers and those who want to become heads. It is expected to be an NVQ at level 5. Pilots should begin next year.
At Brockhurst school, which has also been awarded the Investors In People standard, Patrick Morgan encouraged his senior management team as well as two non-teaching staff to work towards NVQs. "I wanted it to cascade down through the school. All teachers are managers."
Deputy head Nicola Jefferson and Claire Stevens, a head of department, gained level four NVQs at the same time as their former head, while two staff are still working towards the qualification. Mr Morgan, meanwhile, is next year hoping to tackle a management NVQ at level five.
Reg Stone, director of business development at Spearflex, said the in-house means of assessing candidates made NVQs more attractive to teachers. "It's quite an effort for them because clearly they have a school to run," he said. "We train and encourage them to think of everything in terms of NVQs and help them to get through quickly." Achieving the qualification was much the same for a primary teacher as a secondary - "it's a question of putting management functions into school without upsetting people with business terminology. Once they get over the first hurdle, they are very enthusiastic."
The other teachers to gain NVQs were Basil Lodge, deputy head of Isambard Brunel School, and Margaret Bullock, deputy head of Lyndhurst GM School. Mr Lodge prepared for the NVQ by drawing up the school development plan and readying for an OFSTED inspection.
Margaret Bullock said she offered to take part in the project because she was keen to discover whether practices from industry could be used in school management. "In school you tend to work on a day-to-day basis without formalising things. The NVQ helped to put things into a clearer structure. It's more about refining."
By working towards the qualification, Mrs Bullock examined the way she managed both resources and people. "My organisation has improved tremendously. I'm less stressed and able to tackle things in a far more constructive way."