Superheads will show the way
The best headteachers in Wales are set to be plucked from their schools to form a "supergroup" of leaders who will challenge educational standards and performance.
Teams of "systems leaders" will be appointed in each of the four regional consortia to provide schools with professional support, guidance and leadership.
The Assembly government plans are part of a programme of radical reforms to drive school improvement following Wales' poor Pisa test results.
Working with leading educational improvement officers, the leaders will be deployed to meet the needs of the schools in their areas, based on inspections and self-evaluation.
Heads will be expected to become as concerned about the success of other schools as they are about their own, becoming "critical friends" who constantly monitor performance and challenge heads and governors.
Outlining the plan at a recent conference, Steve Bowden, a headteacher and Assembly government adviser, said the "demanding role" would see "highly skilled" individuals move beyond "restrictive boundaries, perceived wisdoms and entrenched cultures" to bring about change.
The role will also require the leaders to act as mentors to newly appointed heads, coaches to serving heads and consultants to provide specialist advice where needed.
Acting as the main channel of communication between schools and local authorities, they will review the performance of both headteachers and schools, and set targets and development objectives.
They will then report their findings to the local authority to determine what support is needed.
Headteacher unions have welcomed the plans, but have asked to see more details.
Gareth Jones, secretary of ASCL Cymru, said systems leaders could be the "missing link" between the Assembly government and schools.
"There has been a weakness in local authority school improvement services, which has often led to a gap between national policy and school level," said Mr Jones.
"I think the (headship qualification) the NPQH has encouraged a culture where school leaders stay in their schools and don't get involved in anything that takes place outside.
"Awareness of what is happening in the community and other schools around them is a crucial part of school leadership."
Iwan Guy, acting director of NAHT Cymru, said: "Heads are quite willing to share their expertise, but this is a huge task and some heads fear their own schools may suffer as a result."
A national training programme will be set up, and chosen heads will leave their schools for about six weeks a year. Both heads' unions expressed concern over whether the role will be properly funded.
The Assembly government is consulting on the plans.