Guiding light eclipsed by new professional training

14th November 1997 at 00:00
First outlined in a speech by John Patten, the Teacher Training Agency's Headlamp scheme, which started two years ago, provides Pounds 2,500 for training each new head, writes Gerald Haigh. The money has been widely welcomed. Apart from anything else, it removes any qualms of conscience heads might have about spending scarce training funds on their own needs.

The scheme has never fulfilled one of its intended purposes of opening up headship training to a range of trainers chosen on an open market by the governors. At the beginning, about 300 organisations and individuals registered as providers. Among them, the National Association of Head Teachers made links with higher education institutions. What seems to have happened is that local authorities, because they are usually heavily involved in appointing new heads and running induction programmes, have snapped up the lion's share of the clients.

Research by Linda Squire and Sonia Blandford of Oxford Brookes University concludes that "Many authorities have registered as Headlamp providers and they have modified or developed existing provision in order to meet TTA requirements."

Neither have governors been very much in the picture. The usual pattern is for the head to plan training in conjunction with the local inspectorate and to choose from a menu, some or all of which can be Headlamp funded. In effect, Headlamp has given a boost to local authority in-service provision.

In one authority there was a head who had bought all his training from outside. The local inspectorate saw this as "choosing to go outside the family".

As a result, some excellent providers have struggled for customers. The NAHT's nation-wide scheme was wound up this summer. In the spring and summer terms of 1996 Birmingham University ran, under its partnership with the association, three five-day afternoon and early evening modules which respectively attracted four, five and three course members.

Headlamp has also been bedevilled by other problems. A reluctance of many heads to commit training money before they had really settled into their jobs added to the strain on some training organisations, and this was mirrored by the difficulty that early clients had in finding the courses they wanted.

The large number of training organisations has also, inevitably, meant doubts about quality and consistency. OFSTED, the schools inspection service, examined some Headlamp trainers this summer, and, although the report has yet to be published, is expected to criticise the variability of quality.

The scheme was not helped, either, by the announcement just over a month after Headlamp started, of the National Professional Qualification for Headship, and then, later, by plans for ensuring training for experienced heads. From this point on Headlamp obviously sat uneasily between the two. It is assumed that heads arriving from the NPQH programme will not require the sort of basics that make up a substantial part of the Headlamp courses.

The Teacher Training Agency will soon begin a thorough review of Headlamp. The belief is that there is still a need for a national induction programme. Unlike the general approach taken by the new headship qualification, Headlamp enables headteachers to take account of the challenges within their own schools. The agency will be asking clients, providers, local authorities and other interested bodies what sort of induction is going to be required by the professionally qualified head.

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