Solutions for headteachers

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
South Lanarkshire CPD aims to solve heads' problems, says Raymond Ross

A three-year programme of development for heads of establishment has been set up by South Lanarkshire.

Launched last August, the programme offers a dozen courses, on subjects including reflective school leadership, strategic management, managing conflict, negotiation skills, financial management, working with professional associations and pupil and parent involvement.

"It has allowed me to focus on aspects of my job that I don't get the chance to look at every day at work," says Penny Morton, headteacher of Gilmourton Primary, near Strathaven. "It allows you to think, to network and to discuss common issues and differences with other heads."

Mrs Morton has completed three courses to date, a three-day course on reflective school leadership, a day on performance management and a day-and-a-half on managing teams.

"There's a need for this kind of thing because of the shift to an accent on leadership skills and values," she says. "Headteachers could easily begin to feel de-skilled in the near future, with deputies doing the Scottish Qualification for Headship, so there's a real need for this kind of CPD.

It's also great to get the opportunity to think again at a higher level."

What appeals to Mrs Morton and her colleagues, especially in primary establishments, where the uptake has been greater by far than in secondaries, is the "solution-focused approach" of the courses. In other words, they focus on finding solutions to issues that affect a particular head's situation and school.

Tutors are drawn from industry, from universities and from independent specialists. Mrs Morton says the standard of tuition is universally excellent.

Headteachers are expected to opt into three or four courses per year, ranging from three-day courses to twilight classes, with the recommendation that all modules are completed over three years, though there's no compulsion to do this.

The programme is not certificated, but is part of a head's CPD record.

Costs are met by the local authority "because they want to get the best out of their headteachers", says Mrs Morton. "I believe it's unique in Scotland and could serve as a model. Some authorities do offer courses but not a menu of discrete courses built to make a whole. It's comprehensive and up-to-the-minute."

Two of the three-day courses - strategic management and reflective school leadership - are set up with a buddy system, where heads are paired to work with each other over nine months. "It has proved productive in terms of sharing outcomes and objectives," says Mrs Morton.

The courses require a high level of planning and thinking. They are run two or three times each session in order to accommodate all heads of establishments, and are supported by updates at headteacher meetings, conferences and other courses on learning and teaching, curriculum and integrated partnership working.

Brian Boyd of Strathclyde University, one of the programme tutors, believes the South Lanarkshire model is ground-breaking and that it could be extended to other local authorities.

"We need more collegiate work, more sharing of good practice and the next stage may well be for other local authorities to learn from this," he says.

"Some other local authorities will have their own courses, so we need a central overview so that we are not constantly re-inventing the wheel.

Perhaps there is a role for SEED here, not in setting or delivering programmes for headteacher CPD, but in facilitating the sharing of good practice."

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