College leads way for heads

6th August 2004 at 01:00
Your report and editorial on the early successes and future direction of the National College for School Leadership will be welcomed by headteachers (TES, July 23).

Impressively high levels of user satisfaction and growing international recognition, along with suggestions for future direction, make for a positive end of phase review.

From Blackpool to Birmingham and from Cornwall to Carlisle heads regularly comment to me on the new forms of collaboration that NCSL has created. Free from local politics and education authority boundaries, schools of all types and from all phases - primary, special and secondary - are working with their college to provide answers to school improvement. This thinking is being shaped by the rigour of the college's directors of research.

I can't think of any other such powerful examples nationally of collaboration where heads are being offered opportunities, through their college, to help write the script and inform policy. These are grass roots solutions which can be tested and disseminated. They are light years away from preoccupations with boilers and budgets.

The variation in performance between departments, teachers or year groups, for example, was recently described by the deputy head of the Department for Education and Skills' standards and effectiveness unit as "the greatest educational issue of our time". Work done by heads to develop strategies to reduce variation, in partnership with the national college, has "significantly increased our understanding of the operational issues", the DfES believes.

This is school improvement by school leaders which can contribute to change across the system. Could there be a greater prize?

Heads are too independent in their thinking to allow their college, even if it is government-funded, to simply be the voice of DfES policy or a "creature of government".

The truth is that the college has caught the new mood of professional energy and self-confidence. It is releasing the potential of headteachers; its own potential is surely unlimited.

Ray Tarleton

Principal

South Dartmoor community college

Devon

National co-ordinator

NCSL Leadership Network

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