Half the first group of candidates for the National Professional Qualification for Headship have already been appointed to lead their own schools. But those in charge at the Teacher Training Agency are still trying hard to persuade women to put themselves forward for headships - one of the original purposes of the qualification when it was introduced last year.
Several theories have been advanced for women's apparent reluctance to promote themselves, centred round the stereotype of management figures being male.
Leela Cubillo, of Manchester Metropolitan University, told last month's British Educational Research Association conference in Belfast that when NPQH candidates were undergoing their initial needs assessment, there was a tendency for women to under-assess their own performance and abilities. They under-performed in group discussions and in a writtenquestionnaire they rated their abilities too low.
What worried Ms Cubillo was that these women were part of a high-ability group of candidates who were expected to become heads very quickly. She carried out a study oncandidates in the North-west, all of them deputy heads, and reports that the men had no problems or inhibitions about proclaiming their abilities: only the women (44 per cent of them) gave themselves a low rating.
When tackled about this, the women said things like: "I felt slightly in awe of the others"; "Ifelt it would be arrogant if I gave myself high marks"; "I think women need to look at the need for improvement at heart than how much they have done."
During group discussion, one woman observed, there appeared to be no room for listening nor for considering styles of management. Ms Cubillo asks whether we simply train women to cope with the prevailing culture of schools or do we change the structure of schools to realise the full potential of the leaders of schools?
l The training institutions providing the new leadership programme for serving headteachers which starts this term are: 1 CCDU Training and Consultancy LtdCapita Education Services Ltd (SIMS)Newcastle University;
2 The Centre for Educational Leadership (The University of Manchester, Nord Anglia Education plc, The University of Liverpool and Manchester Business School);
3 Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Initiative for Staff TrainingSouth West Educational ConsortiumICL Training Services and others;
4 Heads, Teachers and IndustryNational Educational Assessment Centre;
5 The Industrial SocietySecondary Heads AssociationLeeds Metropolitan University;
6 Quality Assurance Associates Brathay Development Training;
7 The University of London Institute of Education.
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