'How long do superheroes last?'

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
GTCS calls for new leadership training standard, as 300 heads are to retire over the next 10 years

Training for school leadership in Scotland is inconsistent, incoherent and ad hoc, according to Tony Finn, the chief executive of the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

Mr Finn and Tom Hamilton, GTCS director of education policy, want to see a new "standard for leadership" created, available to teachers early in their careers and accredited by the GTCS. It would be designed to fit in with existing standards, such as that of chartered teacher, they told a Scottish Learning Festival seminar entitled Leadership Development for Scottish Teachers.

The time was ripe for such a standard to be introduced, given the age- profile of Scotland's headteachers, three-quarters of whom were aged over 50 and half of whom were aged over 56, said Mr Finn. In secondary schools this meant that more than 300 heads would retire over the next 10 years.

"Where are these headteachers of the future going to come from, given current recruitment patterns?" he asked.

The new curriculum would also need strong leaders to drive it forward, he argued. "Before people become headteachers, they need to have an understanding of leadership from the early days of their career," he said.

There were pockets of good practice, with the professional associations and some local authorities and universities already running leadership courses worthy of praise. But there was neither "consistency" nor "accessibility across the country", he said.

Mr Finn defined leadership as "the positive impact which credible, influential and authoritative colleagues can have on the ethos, performance and community life of a school".

He questioned the concept of the "superhero head", capable of single- handedly turning a school around, and posed the question: "How long do superheroes last?"

Mr Finn went on to relate the story of Jean Else, made a dame for turning around a failing school in Manchester, but later sacked after giving her twin sister a job at the school and then promoting her to the pound;58,000-a- year assistant head's role without interviewing anyone else. "She was using methods that turned out to be criminal," said Mr Finn. "Her use of funds was creative and her use of employment practice malevolent."

He said he preferred a "collegiate and distributive" model of leadership.

Age profiles

  • Age of primary headteachers: 51 per cent are over 56 79 per cent are over 50
  • Age of secondary headteachers: 46 per cent are over 56 78 per cent are over 50
  • Age of primary teachers: 23 per cent are over 56 39 per cent are over 50
  • Age of secondary teachers: 23 per cent are over 56 41 per cent are over 50 Figures supplied by the GTCS.

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