Would-be heads have been stepping onto the podium to collect the first certificates issued for their new qualification. Nicolas Barnard reports
IF Anthea Millett ever decides to call it a day at the Teacher Training Agency, a promising career awaits as an MC on the awards ceremony circuit.
That at least is the evidence from this week's celebration of the first 38 aspiring heads to earn the fledgling National Professional Qualification for Headship (or Naproquah as nobody is calling it).
In Westminster's Church House, home to the General Synod, they stepped up to receive their certificates to accolades from a TTA chief executive who cast reserve aside to enjoy a good-news event. The result was a cross between a school speech day and a politically-correct beauty parade.
Just as beauty contestants are greeted with praise for their, er, attributes, ("Trudi wants to travel the world. Natalie loves working with animals") so the wannabe heads were lauded for their talents. It's just not quite as glamorous.
We learned that Sue likes enhancing curriculum development and Steve leads his school in information and communications technology. "Watch out for Steve in his first headship - he's ICT literate!". We did discover that Barbi is a talented musician as well as doing all manner of school development work. "Keep it up, Barbi!" Anthea exclaimed breathlessly.
Then there were the testimonials - "Patrick says 'The only exceptional thing in my career is that there was nothing exceptional until the NPQH!'" - and finally the serious message: "I hope you will display your certificates prominently, just as other professions do."
The TTA hopes the NPQH will help put teaching on a footing with other professions.
The winners are ambitious and hard-working. The NPQH takes more than a year of hard slog, and several studied simultaneously for MAs and PhDs. As pilot candidates they were helping fine-tune the course as they went along. It paid off - some have already secured their first headships.
The TTA had lined up a good human interest story for the press - husband-and-wife team Geoff and Jennifer Lawrence from Stoke ("They're making history!"), who studied for their NPQHs together.
But behind it lurked hard-headed reality. Geoff, deputy of Hillside primary, said: "Heads are managers of small businesses. People don't like to think of it like that but that's how it is," he said. "This qualification will improve the quality of leadership which will impact on the quality of teaching and learning and hence raise pupils' attainment."
Education Secretary David Blunkett, who had opened the ceremony with some good-natured gags about the Lawrences, was by now long gone. But you felt he would have been proud.