David Blunkett is to raise the status of the national headteacher mentoring scheme and link it to plans to turn schools into small business units.
A large cash injection is expected from the Secretary of State for Education, following the comprehensive spending review, while the Teacher Training Agency is helping to expand opportunities for staff with headship potential to experience industry at first hand.
Heads, Teachers and Industry was formed as an educational charity in 1986 and aims to promote a better understanding of industry and enhance leadership and management in schools. It sends senior teachers into industry and business for up to a year.
The placements help the teachers understand the world of work for the benefit of their school and its students. They gain knowledge and the confidence to implement what they have learnt when they return to their schools. And their improved knowledge of the employment market has spin-offs for pupils looking for jobs or pondering what courses to follow for specific careers.
Lesley Allen, marketing and communications consultant for the charity, says: "HTI aims to enhance leadership and management in schools and to promote better understanding of the future workplace." She says both schools and industry benefit.
"The school gains a returning teacher with a profound understanding of how business works and new management and leadership techniques transferable to school. The company gains a skilled manager who can apply a fresh eye to undertaking a project."
Businesses pay substantial bursaries to schools to cover management responsibilities during the secondments. Schools usually break even in financial terms.
Lesley Allen says: "The real benefits lie in the significant opportunity for professional development not only for the secondee, but also for less experienced staff who assume the responsibilities of the absent senior teacher."
Links between sponsoring businesses and schools are strengthened: often companies are willing to share their resources with schools.
There are 17 secondees in companies this year and negotiations are in progress for 80 placements by the end of 1998-99 as the scheme continues to expand.
Lesley Allen says that the seconded teachers all agree that the HTI experience is a superb professional development opportunity in addition to the benefits that accrue to schools and pupils.
* Michael Prestage.