The Virtual College for School leadership could be the big step towards shaping the school of the future.
The Virtual College for School Leadership, which starts operating next month, will play a vital role in the new National School Leadership College by making its courses and qualifications available to school managers throughout Britain.
The virtual college will be headed up by Tony Richardson, Northamptonshire's chief education adviser and a former IT adviser in Birmingham. He said the college will serve the 50,000 heads and deputies and the estimated 50,000 teachers aspiring to leadership roles.
The online venture will precede the physical college that opens in 2003 on the campus of Nottingham University.
As well as offering the new National Professional Qualification for Headship, the virtual college will allow heads to share ideas about good practice, get updates on the latest research, download course materials, ask questions anonymously and establish relationships with their peers.
Richardson, a former primary head, acknowledges that the job can be very isolating, and the Government hopes the online service will address the problem by helping heads to communicate with others.
The interactive elements of the website will e based on the Talking Heads pilot project that has been available to the 1,200 new headteachers appointed in the past year. Oracle and Ultralab, headed by Professor Stephen Heppell, ran the pilot and the two organisations are partners, along with the BBC and the Open University, in the virtual college. BT is the project's prime contractor.
Richardson, a former chair of the computer advisers' association NAACE, believes the college will also play an important role in helping to shape the school of the future, as technology becomes inseparable from teaching and learning as well as administration.
With the pressures on managers during school hours, many will only have time at night and weekends to use the virtual college. Although the Government is giving laptop computers to all new heads, there has been no commitment to do the same for serving heads. Richardson says the key to the virtual college's success is personal access to technology and he will support any plans to give this to school managers.
He said that the virtual college will be an integral part of the National College for School Leadership and that some face to face contact is essential.
National College for School Leadership www.dfee.gov.ukncsl