Serving heads to go back to school

16th May 1997 at 01:00
A training scheme for heads already in post is on the cards. Neil Merrick reports.

After years of trying to stretch the in-service training budget so that it meets the needs of teachers throughout their school, heads are coming under increasing pressure to spend a little more of it on themselves.

Following the introduction of training programmes targeted at aspiring and newly-appointed headteachers, the Teacher Training Agency is about to unveil proposals for a training scheme aimed at all serving heads - some of whom may have been in post for up to 30 years.

According to Frankie Sulke, the TTA's head of policy, headteachers are often the last people thought to require any training. But, she said: "The world has changed considerably for headteachers during the past five years. The expectations upon heads mean that they need professional education just like anyone else."

It is nearly two years since the launch of Headlamp - the first national training scheme for heads. So far nearly 2,700 newly appointed heads have been through the programme, which focuses on leadership and management skills as well as the individual needs of their school.

Each year there are between 1,500 and 2,000 heads taking up their first posts. Headlamp training will continue. But it will not be until well into the next decade before all or most heads have been through it. Hence the need for a more wide-ranging scheme.

But, according to Ms Sulke, the new programme will be just as relevant to heads who have already received Headlamp training as it is for more established colleagues. "Certainly heads who have been through Headlamp will have received some training, but it's important to consider how, when someone has been in post for, say, five or six years, their professional development needs don't stop."

Headteacher training is another part of the TTA's comprehensive framework incorporating new teachers, subject leaders, special needs co-ordinators and senior managers and deputies, who have the chance to gain a National Professional Qualification for Headship.

The framework is based around a series of national standards which, in the case of heads, cover areas such as strategic direction, teaching and learning, deployment of resources and professional knowledge.

Under the Headlamp scheme, heads receive a grant of Pounds 2,500 to spend on training - at least 80 per cent of which must be spent with one or more of the 300 training providers registered by the TTA.

The new training scheme for serving heads is unlikely to cover such a large number of providers, although nor should it be restricted to the 11 regional training and development centres delivering the NPQH.

Instead, a separate group of training providers will probably be invited to bid to run a module designed by the TTA with professional teaching associations but which also encompasses wider management qualifications.

"We want to draw in the best from management and leadership programmes used in industry as well as working with the teaching associations," said Ms Sulke, also stressing how the TTA is most keen to raise standards in schools. "The purpose of professional development is to help children in the classroom and we should never take our eyes off that."

It seems unlikely that the scheme will lead to any certification but, rather like Headlamp, it will be training for training's sake. It will also be voluntary. "Once people have gained a headship, you don't start imposing a qualification on them," said Esther Williams, senior assistant secretary for training at the National Association of Head Teachers.

The NAHT, however, would prefer trials to be based around the training and development providers already registered to deliver the NPQH. "It makes sense to use the network which is already established," Ms Williams said.

The Secondary Heads Association, meanwhile, is afraid that the new training module may not be sufficiently flexible to meet individual needs and also claims that the framework of standards is too hierarchical.

Kay Driver, SHA's deputy general secretary, said individual heads should be given the scope to buy in training as and when required. "It's not so helpful if all heads have got to follow the same rigid structure."

Although the new Labour Government has not revealed how headteacher training will be funded once a formal in-service scheme is in place, there are fears that less money may be available to spend on qualifications such as MBAs and National Vocational Qualifications in management which have wider acceptance outside education.

Esther Williams believes aspiring heads might be advised to undertake an NPQH before embarking on NVQs, but said serving heads should certainly be able to look outside the TTA scheme. "If all money is directed towards one option, then it will greatly restrict opportunities."

Professor Brent Davies, director of Lincoln University's international education leadership centre, welcomed the NPQH and Headlamp but fears that overall management training could be restricted.

"After a certain stage, the needs of heads become quite diverse," he said. "There is definitely a role for senior executive programmes for heads."

The centre runs an international MBA in educational leadership, which costs Pounds 2,600 over two years. Some heads have chosen to take the MBA with their Headlamp money and about half of this year's 60 candidates receive full- or part-support from their school.

"There is a contradiction in what the Government is doing if, on one hand, it believes in self-management and heads spending money as they choose, and yet, when it comes to training, they all have to buy in the same standardised product," he said.

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