Training future leaders in-house gains head start

27th November 2009 at 00:00
Coaching by colleagues saves cash and benefits all, say staff at south Wales school

Original paper headline: Secondary trains aspiring leaders in-house to gain a head start

A South Wales secondary has launched an innovative in-house training scheme to develop the department heads of the future.

Ambitious young teachers at Brynmawr Comprehensive in Blaenau Gwent are being given the chance to learn professional leadership skills and management techniques from senior staff.

The scheme was set up last year by deputy head Alison Edwards, who realised some staff had the drive and potential to become heads of department but lacked training opportunities.

Rather than send them on expensive external training, she realised she could use the high-quality skills of senior staff, who were keen to share their ideas and good practice.

Ms Edwards identified a cohort of 10 teachers aged 24-35 as ideal candidates for the professional skills group. "I think they felt they were in a bit of a dip - that they had reached the glass ceiling," she said. "They are all ambitious and felt it was time to move on, but a little more training and development was needed first."

Three members of the senior management team led the sessions on the general theme of `What makes a good head of department?', but trainees decided on the specific areas they each wanted to cover.

As well as looking at key skills such as leadership, team-building, accountability, delegation and data handling, they were given a series of typical scenarios faced by heads of department and asked how they would deal with them.

An off-timetable training day was held in June, and another is planned for December. Ms Edwards said the training has already proved effective, with group members gaining the confidence to play a more effective role in school development.

"It's evident in their teaching - they are comfortable at employing their skills both in and out of the classroom," she said.

Rebecca Lewis, who teaches English at Brynmawr, said she was keen to join the group as she has ambitions to run an English department.

"I will try anything to improve my teaching and my pupils' learning," she said. "I want to run my own department because I have got clear ideas on how English can evolve.

"The course has been very beneficial because I'm in that middle ground where I'm not an NQT or middle management. You can become a bit jaded. This has given me something to work towards."

Head James Retallick, who started at Brynmawr last year, feels the 960- pupil foundation school is more effective as a result of the programme. Although he would rather retain the teachers and their newly developed management skills, he realises some might want to take up roles elsewhere.

"They may well feel the need to use these skills in other schools - it's inevitable that they would seek opportunities wherever they arise," he said. "But that staff progression is a healthy thing. We would hope we can benefit from staff from other schools too. We are helping our pupils, and the teachers will go on to help pupils in other schools. This can only lead to an increase in quality."

Staff from other schools have visited Brynmawr to learn about the scheme and Ms Edwards and Mr Retallick are keen to spread the good practice even further.

It is something the Assembly government is also encouraging nationally via its attainment-raising school effectiveness framework, which aims to reduce variations at school and classroom level through sharing good practice.

Mr Retallick said: "One of the most important things we need to do to have an effective education system in Wales is learn from each other, and that does not have to be an expensive process."

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