Heading for a fall

29th October 2004 at 01:00
The statements by Matthew MacIver, registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, in the article "GTC returns to the fray over qualifications for headship" (TESS, September 17) were in poor taste and suggest an unfamiliarity with the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH) model of learning.

The "it is neither creditable nor reputable" comment appears to refer to the SQH programme and he went on to say that his preference was for the chartered teacher training model which has allowed 13 teachers in Scotland to claim chartered teacher status through accreditation of prior learning, as opposed to the "academic" demands of the SQH.

First, I would wish to know what evidence Mr MacIver has to support his "neither reputable nor credible" claim. The SQH is one of the most thoroughly evaluated postgraduate training programmes in recent times and, in July 2003, an independent evaluation by Professor Ian Menter, then of Paisley University, was extremely positive - in fact probably the most powerful endorsement of a government education initiative in a generation.

Professor Menter and his team carried out an intensive survey of all parties involved in the SQH, including in particular all who have participated and their headteachers. His evaluation concluded that graduates were very enthusiastic about the "powerful pedagogical model" of the programme, that their headteachers shared this view and that many headteachers had themselves gained professionally from their involvement as supporters of candidates on the programme.

The APEL model for chartered teacher accreditation which Mr MacIver seems to be recommending for the SQH is already available to teachers with the appropriate experience and prior learning through the provision of the SQH accelerated route.

Professor Menter actually found this model less satisfactory, with its emphasis on accreditation rather than learning and development. For this reason, the SQH accelerated route will be discontinued next year. As for Mr MacIver's assertion that the SQH is overly academic in its approach, the SQH is in fact solidly built on work-based learning through two major school leadership and management projects.

Margaret Alcorn, the CPD national co-ordinator, was quoted in the same article as saying that the SQH is failing to develop the calibre of candidates required for headship. This will come as a surprise to the many SQH graduates who have developed appropriate and strong leadership skills and have gone on to become exceptional headteachers and deputes.

She also comments that some of those accepted for the programme are not ready for headship, but this has never been a requirement for entering the programme. Selection for the programme is based on the candidate's and the candidate's headteacher being confident that the candidate demonstrates headteacher potential. The selection process allows the local authority to confirm this potential exists.

During the conference of the Scottish Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society, where these discussions took place, I pointed out that some seemed to be doing the SQH down in favour of opportunities like the Columba 1400 programme, and that, while the Columba 1400 experience has much to offer, it should be regarded as a complementary experience for school leaders and not as training for headship as provided by the SQH.

Many including Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, agreed, but I do not feel this was reflected in the tone of The TES Scotland article.

I recognise the value of exploring other routes towards achieving the Standard for Headship. We are, I believe, making great strides in providing school leaders with appropriate opportunities through our project and team leadership training programmes. It is vital, however, that all leadership training is both challenging and firmly based in the context of school improvement. The SQH provides a uniquely successful model for this, a model which has served Scottish education well over the last six years.

Paul McBride


SQH West Consortium Steering Group

University of Strathclyde

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