Heads' college 'has lost focus'

11th March 2005 at 00:00
The Government's National College for School Leadership is failing to provide a decent service for all headteachers, the quango's new chief executive has admitted.

Steve Munby, who takes over at Easter, used his first major speech to the college this week to say it had lost focus after introducing too many initiatives in the five years since it was set up by Tony Blair. He said the college had made a strong start but too many teachers still did not believe it was relevant to them.

At an NCSL conference in Birmingham, Mr Munby pledged to host nine regional summits in June and July to allow heads to tell him how the college could improve. He said he would personally invite 450 heads, union leaders and council officials.

"I think the college may have tried to do too much, to develop too many initiatives, to say 'yes' to too many things," said Mr Munby, who leaves his job as Knowsley's education director today. "In my view, the time is right for the college to step back, to be really clear about what its core business is and then to communicate its role effectively so that everyone understands what it is about."

Mr Munby's admission follows a conclusion in a report by the Department for Education and Skills last year that the national college, which has a Pounds 100 million budget this year, had grown too quickly and risked losing focus. It led to the publication of a new manifesto for the college by Ruth Kelly, just days after she took over as Education Secretary, recommending closer ties with the DfES and new financial constraints.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said Mr Munby's assessment was accurate.

"The college has been very patchy," he said. "It has done some good work, it has developed some high-profile leadership programmes, but it was required by the Government to spread itself much too thinly."

But one head was less diplomatic. Tracey Ralph, head of Norton county primary, north Yorkshire, told delegates the National Professional Qualification for Headship - administered by the national college - was full of "jargon".

"I feel really disheartened," she said. "At the sharp end, year on year, there are more management responsibilities for headteachers.

"Recently I was put on a course about asbestos: there is a custodial sentence if you are negligent towards asbestos. I was not trained for this.

"Of all the challenges I have faced as a head, I have not drawn anything from the NPQH... it is just jargon."

* graeme.paton@tes.co.uk

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