Frankie Sulke of the TTAsays that the new leadership programme for heads will help to raise pupils' standards.
The doors are now open for entry to the Government's new Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers. This is the final strand in the first national strategy to recognise and develop headship as a profession in its own right - one which needs and deserves the highest quality initial preparation, flexible induction and continuing professional development.
Good quality training for heads, and even for aspiring heads, has always existed in patches. But heads have tended to put their needs last when their school's in-service resources are shared out. And there has been a real gap at national level, with nothing to match the kind of top-quality programmes that have developed and honed the skills of senior leaders in business, industry and other professions.
The new programme changes all that, by offering challenging and high-status training that takes full account of individual circumstances. It marks a new phase of recognising the value of headship and a new national investment by the Government in helping heads lead the task of raising standards in schools.
It is the headteacher who sets the pace in each school, leading and motivating the pupils and staff to perform to their highest potential. The leadership programme enables heads to take a step backwards and evaluate their impact on the staff and pupils they lead.
It offers relevant, professional training, based on the national standards for headteachers and on best leadership and management practice both inside and outside education. Crucially, it is underpinned by evidence from effective heads about how they secure high performance in their schools.
The programme will complement existing local provision for heads and also the Teacher Training Agency's two other programmes: the National Professional Qualification for Headship and Headlamp, the leadership managment programme for newly appointed heads.
In the same way that the education service no longer accepts inconsistency of educational quality for pupils, these three programmes will ensure a consistent approach to headship training nationally.
The new programme was tried earlier this year by more than 60 heads from a wide range of schools. The feedback was heartening: "the most valuable training I have had as a headteacher"; "the skill, pace and dynamics were superb"; "an excellent programme, long overdue"; "this programme is powerful stuff".
This reflects well on the efforts of those who helped the TTA develop the programme - the management group Hay McBer (with more than 30 years' experience of improving the performance of senior leaders in business and industry), working with the National Association of Headteachers and the Open University, with local authority support.
The first workshops under the programme begin in November, revised to take account of feedback from the trials. Heads are being encouraged to train outside their region, so that they can take full advantage of the professional challenges of the course on neutral ground.
The programme does not try to impose a single model of good headship to be cloned throughout the education system. It starts from the principle that heads are individuals, and will both enter and leave the programme with differing strengths and styles.
It begins with a thorough and strictly confidential analysis and evaluation of personal and school performance for every head, to provide the focus for subsequent training and development. It includes a structured residential four-day workshop with follow-up activities.
After the consultation and workshop, each head will take part in the Partners in Leadership scheme which builds on already successful schemes in industry. Business in the Community is establishing a regional network of senior leaders and managers from outside education to work with heads in a partnership intended to ensure that both the business person and the headteacher gain from each other's perspective, expertise and experience.
There is a growing appreciation that the headteacher has a complex management role on a par with senior leaders in business, industry and other high-status professions. The Government has spelled out clearly that heads are at the heart of the drive to secure higher standards in all our schools.
It has shown its commitment through investing in the professional preparation and development of headteachers. That will help to bolster headship as a role that is aspired to and properly prized.
But the dividends from that investment must be judged by the most important measure of all - raised standards of pupil achievement in our schools.
Frankie Sulke is head of teacher training at the Teacher Training Agency.
TRAINING FOR HEADS
Headlamp, the Headteachers' Leadership and Management Programme intended for newly appointed headteachers, started in 1995. Nearly 5,000 heads have received training. Very flexible programme which heads can arrange individually. Grants of Pounds 2,500 are available from the Teacher Training Agency. For details, phone 01202 897691
The NPQH, the National Professional Qualification for Headship. For aspiring heads. Started last year. Nearly 5,000 candidates enrolled. Will be a mandatory requirement for headship from a date yet to be decided.
Training provided by 22 centres plus a course run by the Open University and the National Association of Head Teachers. Credit is given for existing qualifications or experience. Course can be taken over one-term (compulsory module on leadership, full individual assessments and residential accelerated course) or up to three years. Focus on practical issues faced by individual. Funding from the Government's Standards Fund (state schools) or TTA (grant-maintained schools) For details, ring 0345 165136.
The Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers. Designed to help those who have missed out on the NPQH and Headlamp. Seven centres will provide training. Confidential and individual assessments given at the start. Residential weekend workshop with follow-up activities. Starts in November. Funding arrangements same as for NPQH. To apply, phone 0845 606 0323, fax 01245 280954 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Heads intending to apply for this term should approach their local authority for funding now as applications must be with the TTA by October 2.