Filling the hole in the middle of training

7th January 2000 at 00:00
Anat Arkin reports on the options open to subject leaders who want to add to their qualifications

DESPITE a growing recognition that heads of department, subject leaders and co-ordinators - call them what you will - can make a real difference to school effectiveness, last December's Green Paper had little to say about developing the management skills of this important group.

Nor has anything been heard recently about the proposed National Professional Qualification for Subject Leaders, which went out for consultation more than two years ago.

It looks as if it has been quietly dropped, though there has been no official confirmation of this. All the Department for Education and Employment will say is that the Teacher Training Agency had been asked to draw up plans by the Conservatives and that the present Government had never proposed to introduce a subject leaders' qualification.

The cost of meeting the potentially huge demand for the course appears to have sealed its fate at a time when the Government's heavy investment in headteacher training points to other priorities.

While the qualification itself has not got off the ground, the standards which would have underpinned it have been

published and are beginning to influence middle-management training - where it is available. However, initial findings from a national study commissioned by the agency show that provision for subject leaders is patchy: many authorities do not

recognise the need for specialised training or fail to provide it.

The study, by Alma Harris of Nottingham University and Hugh Busher and Christine Wise of Leicester University, aims to identify effective training programmes. A year-long programme for senior and middle managers which Wolverhampton started offering in 1998 had originally hoped to attract 40 or 50 managers, but ended up with 150. Demand this year has been even stronger, with 170 signing up for the programme.

One of its attractions is that those who successfully complete it receive local-authority accreditation, as well as an opportunity to collect credits towards higher degrees.

"Accreditation is absolutely crucial," says Keith Sedgebeer,

principal general inspector at Wolverhampton. "As a profession, we are very good at letting the kids know when they've done well and what they need to do

to improve, but we've been very poor at recognising and

accrediting the work that teachers do on such courses... This is an attempt to redress the


Other training providers are also looking at ways of assessing middle managers who have been through their courses. Subject associations are the other group that provides a lot to training.

"The difficulty is that although we can put people through a course, we can't assess them on their ability to run a department," says David Moore, chef executive of the Association for Science Education.

The association, which runs a four-day course for heads of department, is getting round this problem by giving participants the chance to gain accreditation from the Management Charter Initiative, the employer-led body that develops standards for

managers in all sectors.

But the difficulty of assessing whether people who have been through courses can actually do their jobs is not confined to

middle-managers. The ASE is therefore talking to higher

education institutions about

offering qualifications linked to the continuing professional

development programme it has been piloting for the last two years. Aimed at all science

teachers, not just subject leaders, the framework can be used to assess their work in schools, rather than a taught course.

But only the largest subject associations have the resources to develop formal qualifications structures. The majority of

teachers, including subject

leaders, have no way of gaining formal recognition for their achievements in school or on short courses. That may change once the national college for school leadership is operational. Meanwhile, the College of

Teachers, formerly known as the College of Preceptors, is trying to fill this gap in the market.

Granted a Royal Charter in 1849, this institution was one of the first to award formal qualifications for teachers, and for many years concentrated on the overseas market. But the focus has now shifted to the United Kingdom, with a revamped

qualifications structure intended to provide a continuing professional development framework for teachers.

Central to this framework is a new Fellowship of the College of Teachers by Professional Work. The traditional route to a fellowship, which is roughly the

equivalent of a master's degree, was by dissertation or by publishing a series of articles in journals. But from this autumn, teachers will be able to gain the award by showing that they have introduced new policies or

carried out other leadership tasks.

"We see that as being akin to published work and feel it should not go unrecognised because it can have as big an impact on schools as, say, a series of published articles," says Ray Page, chief executive of the college.

Though the fellowship is not specifically targeted at subject leaders, in practice only teachers at middle management level or above are likely to be able to meet the requirements for the award. In the absence of a national qualification, it could provide a much needed mechanism for recognising the professional achievements of subject leaders and co-ordinators.

Effective Subject Leadership in

Secondary Schools is a handbook of staff development activities written by Alma Harris and published by David Fulton, price pound;22.50

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