A prestigious scheme that trains top teachers to head the toughest secondaries will expand into primary schools, The TES has learnt.
Ambitious members of the profession keen to advance their careers in primaries will now be able to sign up for the Future Leaders programme.
Current applicants to the secondary scheme who pass an exhaustive selection process go on to spend a year in a tough urban secondary. There is no guarantee of a job, but they gain extensive training and mentoring.
The news of the scheme's march into junior and infant areas follows the expansion of the elite teacher training course Teach First into the primary sector. It is expected that many who qualify in this way will go on to apply for Future Leaders.
Future Leaders staff have been working with two new free-school primary heads to prepare them for their roles, which will start in September in Ark schools in Hammersmith and Westminster in London.
The new course will also prepare future leaders of combined primary and secondary schools and those who will run clusters of schools.
Future Leaders chief executive Heath Monk said he was about to submit firm proposals to the National College, which runs leadership training. National College bosses will then decide whether or not the primary programme will go ahead.
The National Professional Qualification for Headship, which is now mandatory for all school leaders, is being reviewed by the Government, and the Future Leaders primary programme would comply with these new regulations.
"Teach First will produce a new group of primary teachers, and over the next few years it will be important that we play a part in the succession planning so they can go on to headship," Mr Monk said.
"We wanted to explore the issues facing primary leaders, as we think they have much in common with the secondary leaders we work with about how to work with the most challenging children.
"Our secondary model works. But we know primary schools are often smaller, so our course will need a different structure and to prepare leaders for a different role.
"This pilot will allow us to properly build a course. It's early days, but we are using our experience to put together an effective model.
"During the next few months we will review the work we have done with Ark on primary leaders so far, and decide what needs changing and what we should keep. We hope the course will start next year."
Future Leaders currently operates in London, the West Midlands, the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the south coast. There are plans for it to expand to the North East. A total of 216 people have so far taken part.
Those on the primary pilot course are learning how to lead staff, develop a leadership style and work with "stakeholders".
A National College spokeswoman said: "The National College continues to invest in the future supply of high quality school leaders. We are looking closely at the potential contribution of organisations such as Future Leaders but cannot comment further while commercial discussions are ongoing."