Two years to spend Pounds 2,000

16th May 1997 at 01:00
It is two years since Val Thomasson was given Pounds 2,500 to spend on her own training and development after she became one of the first heads to take part in the Headlamp scheme.

Mrs Thomasson, was appointed principal of The Minster College, an 11-18 school in Leominster, Herefordshire, in September 1995. She had been deputy of a Devon school with responsibility for staff development.

The Pounds 500 she spent attending the National Educational Assessment Centre run by the Secondary Heads Association and Oxford Brookes University partly confirmed what she knew about her strengths and weaknesses, as well as her further needs.

The remaining Pounds 2,000, which could be spent over two years, allowed her to attend conferences and courses looking at subjects such as strategic leadership and how to manage difficult people. "It was a godsend. I could tailor the money to my needs and I was not robbing anybody else."

According to Mrs Thomasson, it is important that newly appointed heads do not have to spend their entire grant during the first year. Yet she still knows some heads, without the same background in staff development, who had difficulty spending all of their Headlamp money.

Peter Mountstephen was appointed head of Christ Church School in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, in the same month that Mrs Thomasson took up her first headship. "The last thing you have time to do is to leave school during the first few months or even year of a headship," he said.

Mr Mountstephen drew up a personal training package with a local provider and advisers from Wiltshire local education authority. It was so difficult for him to spend the entire grant that he ended up helping to produce Headskills, a CD-Rom aimed at new heads who prefer self-learning or who are too busy to leave their office or work station.

As well as receiving help with budget setting and preparation for an Office for Standards in Education inspection, Mr Mountstephen visited schools outside Wiltshire and received advice from more experienced heads.

"Nobody can tell you how to run your school. All professional development can do is give you space and the appropriate framework for managing the thing yourself."

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