Head on young shoulders

5th December 2003 at 00:00
Craig Morrison - tipped for the top from his first days in teaching - is taking part in a specialist training programme. Martin Whittaker reports

Craig Morrison is 24 and he has been teaching for just three years. But he already has his career mapped out - even as a trainee teacher he wore a suit.

"I always had it in mind that I wanted to be a headteacher," he says. "When I was training, someone asked me if I was going to be a head just because of the way I was dressed."

He is head of English and drama at Parkside community college in Cambridge.

He is also in the second year of a new programme for young leaders which was designed to identify and develop those who are likely to be running tomorrow's schools.

The scheme was devised by David Carter, formerly head of Deer Park school in Cirencester and now a member of the national workforce remodelling team.

He came up with the idea as a member of Vision 2020, the small group of heads who test out innovations in their schools.

"One of the issues we faced is that all of us in the group were going to be retired by 2020," he said.

"We thought how are we going to begin to work with people in the profession now who might be headteachers in 2020?"

In response he devised the Leaders of the Future programme, developed by the Specialist Schools Trust to offer leadership training for teachers in their first five years.

The programme was launched a year ago and recruited 218 people - way over its original target of 40 - all identified as potential school leaders and nominated by their headteachers.

"If we are right in our hunch that this group of people could potentially be heads and deputies in the next 10 years, then they are going to need a more sophisticated leadership strategy than the traditional ones because schools are going to fundamentally change," said David Carter.

In the first year, its teachers take part in training events and national conferences, and work alongside headteachers from high-performing schools across the UK. They join an online community to share good practice and receive mentoring support.

They are also asked to write a case study of innovative practice and good leadership in their own school. The first collection of case studies is about to be published.

In the second year they have a work placement in industry for up to six weeks, to give them a chance to compare the leadership styles they are familiar with to those in the commercial sector. In the third year they get the chance to visit schools in Australia.

The programme has been so popular that a second cohort has just been taken on, says David Carter. "The evaluation has been incredibly positive. Each school pays a small fee. If it wasn't any good I suspect the school would say we won't pay it this year."

He says out of 218 teachers on the programme, 80 have gained a promotion.

"They are high-quality people, so I think I would say a lot of them would have done it anyway. Maybe we opened their eyes to some possibilities and got them thinking in a way they perhaps hadn't been thinking before."

Craig Morrison says the programme encourages self-reliance. "It's certainly not given to you on a plate," he says. "You have to do a lot of the running and in doing so you prove your leadership qualities. You get together and network with other leaders and you have to be active.

"You have to go back to your school and take responsibility for what you implement, and then take it back to the Specialist Schools Trust to show the others."

At his school - a specialist media arts college - he has brought in new ideas for reading literature in the classroom. Students trialled the use of laptop computers to analyse film versions of Macbeth.

Using the computers in groups, they are able to revisit scenes at their own pace, pause or concentrate on key images. Mr Morrison says this has been of immense value to students and teachers and shows how information communications technology and the printed word can be used to improve learning.

Other year groups and departments have begun using similar methods and the school has invested in "mobile classrooms" - of wireless laptops which can be used anywhere.

How has the leadership programme helped him? "It has given me confidence," he says. "It's very open access to the principal and leadership group - it has given me more of a role there and I have been involved in more decisions.

"It allows me to tailor my own career progress. I'm able to go at my own pace - there's no expectation that anyone should be at a certain stage by a certain year. I see it as preparing me very well for the future."

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