Back to basics

26th September 1997 at 01:00
Jenny Reeves, Christine Forde, Viv Casteel and Dick Lynas have designed a framework for the professional development of school leaders

School leadership and management is a hot issue at the moment. In the pursuit of raising educational standards, the UK Government has recently brought in a compulsory National Professional Qualification for Headteachers in England and Wales. Now a similar proposal is out to consultation in Scotland.

The consultation paper on a Scottish qualification for heads proposes that future training for headship should be structured on the basis of competencies covering four key functions: managing policy and planning, teaching and learning, people and resources, and finance. It refers readers to the report Framework and Leadership and Management in Scottish Schools, which is the outcome of four years of development work we have undertaken in Scotland, to find the most effective means of improving management practice through new approaches to professional development.

We began by using a framework of functional management competencies which had been developed by a consortium of local authorities called School Management South. This has now been substantially modified. In its current form, the framework is the outcome of extensive piloting in Scottish schools and then further adaptation following a wide-ranging series of consultations, commissioned by the Scottish Office and involving staff from schools, local authorities and higher education.

The basis of the framework needed to be broadened, not only to account for the functions of school management but also to incorporate the qualities, knowledge and skills relevant to effective school leadership. The way forward was not to bolt on yet more lists but to find an overarching model which put together all these aspects of educational management in a meaningful way. So we went back to first principles and asked ourselves what was involved in developing professional practice.

If we think of an action as both a matter of doing something and intending to do it, we have two ways of looking at practice. We can analyse the doing aspect into a further two elements what is done and how it is done - that is, a performance, and the skills and abilities used to produce it.

This analysis of action and practice gives us the three elements of the framework, and leads to a whole new way of defining competence. It can no longer be a matter of simply carrying out the core activities defined by the management functions. It has to be the outcome of all three elements and requires that you can:

* carry out a core functional activity;

* use appropriate interpersonal and intellectual abilities in order to achieve an effective outcome;

* act in consonance with a set of professional values and attitudes and on the basis of the knowledge of the educational and managerial issues relevant to the activity.

There are a number of advantages to this model, which asks three basic questions - why, what, how? When we tried it out with school leaders, they found it easy to use for reviewing their own work. They felt it covered all the major elements that come into play when you are managing a school, and enabled and encouraged them to analyse the complex issues of judgment which arise when working in a real context.

Having arrived at our three questions in relation to practice, the next thing was to flesh out the model by defining the three elements in a framework for leadership and management.

Why? Translated into the professional qualities required of a school leader;

What? Translated to a modified map of management functions; How? Became the personal abilities.

The framework now starts with a key purpose that recognises the need for school leaders to create a climate in which the expertise and enthusiasm of staff, pupils and others in the wider school community can be used to help the school achieve its aims, particularly those of effective learning and teaching.

Following the key purpose the first element - the professional qualities - centres on the development of the professional self. It consists of:

* commitment to educational values;

* commitment to critical reflection and personal professional development;

* knowledge and understanding of educational processes and educational and general management.

In conjunction with the key purpose this is the element which serves to drive and underpin a leader's vision for the future. It is crucial that school managers find ways of dealing with the dilemmas they face and that they regularly review and develop their underlying professional beliefs, understanding and values.

The second element is the map of management functions which outlines 10 core activities within four key functions. Each activity has been matched to the performance indicators taken from the Scottish Office publication How Good is Our School: Self-Evaluation Using Performance Indicators.

The third element consists of 12 personal abilities which have been grouped into two categories: interpersonal and intellectual. They include such things as inspiring and motivating others, solving problems, valuing teams and thinking strategically.

By extending competence to include all the elements which go to make up good practice, the current framework could prove to be a powerful tool for the professional development of school leaders. We believe its design can help to support the development of managers and management teams at all stages of their career.

Jenny Reeves is a lecturer at the Quality in Education Centre, Strathclyde University, Christine Forde is a senior lecturer at St Andrew's College, Dick Lynas is head of Taylor High School, Motherwell, and Viv Casteel is an independent consultant. They all work on the school leadership and management programme for the Partnership for Professional Development.

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