The body which trains state school teachers to become heads has launched a "charm offensive" on the independent sector in an attempt to encourage private school teachers to sign up for its courses, offering discounts to schools buying "in bulk".
The National College has employed three "advocates" from the private sector to tour independents, extolling the virtues of the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) and courses for school business managers and middle leaders.
Private school teachers will have to pay #163;3,800 for the courses, with a 10 per cent discount if a school books five or more members of staff on to its core headship training course. This is substantially more than the subsidised state school rate of #163;760.
The college is expecting a reduction in its budget in forthcoming cuts, although details are not yet settled. But it insists that the principal reason for the recruitment drive is to encourage better relationships between state and independent schools.
As the expansion of academies and the free school programme begins to blur the lines between the sectors, the college says independent schools should understand how the programme can benefit them.
It wants private school heads to sign up as members of the college, attend its annual conference and network with maintained school heads.
Jill Berry, the former head of the Girls' Schools Association, who is working as one of the advocates for the new programme, said: "Although the initiative to do this predates the new Government, the idea of state schools having more autonomy means we have more to gain from working together.
"The lines are blurring. We have more in common than ever before. There's prejudice on both sides, but relationships are better. People are more open minded. It's not so much us and them, but there's still work to do."
She said there was also a way to go to convince independent school staff of the relevance of the college's qualifications to their schools.
"It has changed a lot," she said, "it is not all oriented to state school heads."