The going gets tougher - and the training

13th June 1997 at 01:00
As managing schools grows more complex, there is a growing market for courses to help people do the job. Francis Beckett reports.

The days have gone when the appointment of a head rested more on success as an educator than skill as a manager. With financial delegation has come the need for improved management techniques.

Today politicians of every hue talk of giving heads greater management expertise and professional management qualifications, but the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) started work on the task seven years ago.

In 1990, with industry support, the association set up its National Educational Assessment Centre at Oxford Brookes University. A subsidiary, Management and Professional Services (MAPS), to oversee the centre and to run short courses and a consultancy and quickly extended its work to primary heads and middle managers.

The centre assesses heads and their deputies on the key skills needed for effective senior management. Heads and deputies are assessed against criteria including judgment, problems analysis, organisational ability and decisiveness.

A report on each participant provides a diagnostic profile matched to the criteria, and suggestions for further professional development. After the course, the participant is linked with a nearby mentor who can provide continuing support over the next two years.

BT was involved at the outset, contributed to the design of the assessment, and funded the post of director of the centre for its first three years. It is part of BT's Pounds 15 million community programme - Pounds 3 million is spent on education.

Peter Thompson, BT's head of education services and himself a human resources practitioner, sees a parallel between the changes that schools went through in the late 1980s, and the cultural change which BT had experienced when it was privatised. "While we did not have all the answers, we had been through some of the problems."

Other companies involved at the outset included ICL, the Rover Group and the Post Office. Money has also come from the Training Agency and the Department for Education and Employment.

The centre, though based at Oxford Brookes, is not tied down there. Its methods of assessment can be taken anywhere in the country, which is why the Secondary Heads Association calls it the "leadership college without walls". There are three franchise operations which use the same techniques. One run by the Dudley local education authority covers the West Midlands; one in East Anglia is operated by a consortium of local education authorities and one is run by the Regional Training Unit in Northern Ireland.

September will see two further franchises: one with the school of education at Durham University and a second in Yorkshire and Humberside involving a consortium of local authorities and Leeds Metropolitan University.

The Midlands franchise is also involved in the pilot set up by the Teacher Training Agency for the New Professional Qualification for Headship. This qualification will be tested nationally in 199798 with a target date to introduce if from September 1998. MAPS is also an approved provider for the Headlamp - the Heads' Leadership and Management Programme.

Under this programme, each new head in a maintained school in England gets a voucher to spend on personal and professional development. MAPS runs a one-day assessment programme for new heads, with a follow-up action plan. Assessment is sure to figure prominently in the future development of heads and deputies.

MAPS is also involved with industry in running short courses, between one and three days. Courses cover such topics as new technology, working with your governing body, total quality management and appraisal. Short courses use the services of accountants from the Audit Commission, solicitors from Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, and advisers from the Arbitration and Conciliation Advisory Service.

The Industrial Society wants a fresh approach to headteacher appraisal, which is sometimes seen as too soft. Sherrall Andrews, its senior education adviser, says: "There are now far more similarities than differences between companies and schools with the introduction of budgets, objectives, added value and competition in the market place."

And outside the umbrellas of such bodies as SHA and the Industrial Society, there is a good deal of local management training and the provision of management expertise. Companies such as BT run short courses in partnership with local education authorities on such subjects as total quality management. Management consultancies advise on candidates for headships. They also advise on action plans for the Office for Standards in Education and undertake departmental and senior staff structure reviews and pay policies.

Mr Andrews says: "We need to grow the capable workforce of the future. " And industry sees some self-interest in helping schools to do that.

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