Early lead from Columba
The first major evaluation of the much-vaunted Head Teacher Leadership Academy - provided under the Columba 1400 programme based on Skye and founded by the Rev Norman Drummond - will form part of the Scottish Executive's roll-out of its vision for raising standards of leadership across Scottish schools.
The Executive is already holding informal talks across the sector on changes to the Standard for Headship, reforms of the Scottish Qualification for Headship and appointment procedures for headteachers and depute headteachers, and is expected to launch formal consultations in the near future.
Over the next few months, it is expected to make further announcements on the direction of the leadership academy first outlined last November by Peter Peacock, Education Minister, when he launched his Ambitious Excellent Schools document.
A senior official within the Scottish Executive Education Department said that this would be more akin to a virtual academy and would not be a "bricks and mortar" centre along the lines of the English equivalent in Nottingham.
Instead, the Executive plans to work with organisations such as the Hunter Foundation (which co-funds the leadership academy under Columba 1400) to offer a variety of opportunities to raise school standards. This will include creating better networks to share best international practice.
The latest research on Columba 1400 found that the programme had limited impacts on objectives that could be associated with the Executive's enterprise in education strategy and recommended that links between the two be made more explicit.
The report - by Professor David Deakins, Dr Keith Glancey and Janette Wyper of Paisley University's Enterprise Research Centre and Professor Ian Menter of Glasgow University's Education Faculty - found that the pilot programme successfully increased headteachers' levels of confidence in their own abilities as leaders and their abilities to create and manage change.
The most valuable elements were the intensive coaching sessions and the interactive group seminar sessions. The role of individual psychometric profiling was described as "more questionable".
The researchers stated: "A strong finding of the study was that the programme was very different from any other CPD (continuing professional development) undertaken by the participants, a unique and very valuable experience, but the Scottish Executive needs to consider how it best complements the existing CPD framework for teachers if the programme is to continue."
A senior education official within the Executive said: "We recognise that Columba is doing some great work and we are talking about how best to continue working with them. But it is not the leadership academy."
Prior to participation, there were positive views by heads and deputes on the value of the aims of the Enterprise in Education programme, but a high degree of uncertainty on the nature of the Columba 1400 programme and how it related to the objectives of enterprise in education.
After the Columba programme, there was a greater resolution to achieve the objectives of enterprise in education and greater awareness of the place of the Columba 1400 programme.
The researchers also reported resistance among some school staff to the idea of having entrepreneurs as role models. One primary head said:
"Unfortunately, I find teachers' views of some entrepreneurs are quite difficult because they tend to be cut-throat, quite hard and there is a negative image that sometimes goes with them."