Wanted: new skills;Middle Managers;Training;School Management

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Many headteachers are willing to pay for mentoring for their staff The new qualification for subject leaders may not materialise, says Phil Revell, but the standards are still there

With the NPQSL, the new subject leaders' qualification, stalled but their management in the spotlight, schools are trying to equip middle managers with the skills that the Office for Standards in Education and others say they do not have.

Derek Esp, a training consultant, argues that the same problems face anyone leading a team, but these are likely to be greatest for co-ordinators such as RE specialists who are leading diverse groups of teachers -problems such as dealing with poor teacher performance, supporting colleagues, time management, agendas and delegation.

Taking time to work out what the individual and the school actually need is a central plank of the courses run by Touchstone Training. Judith Chivers, an instructor, argues that her job is to bring everybody to a standard that they have defined for themselves, but that teachers should look outside the profession for management models. "We should invest more money in giving teachers the opportunity to go out into industry and commerce," she says.

Touchstone's programme includes an overview of the Teacher Training Agency's qualifications; a leadership hierarchy that sets out what is expected of a manager at every level; the qualities of a successful manager and the characteristics of an effective team.

Education Management Associates begins its training with a needs analysis and moves on to issues some of which are specific to your post and others that focus on personal development. Many of the skills are interpersonal: leadership, motivation, coping with underperformance, and diagnosing and facing up to problems.

"A passion for criticism is the fast track to excellence. Bad news is the best news you can get," argues EMA's Bernard Abrams.

One way to get a really close look in the mirror is to opt for the benchmarking process offered by the National Education Assessment Centres (NEAC). This measures teachers against a range of criteria covering five areas: leadership, judgment, problem analysis, organisational activity and sensitivity.

Candidates undertake practical tasks, including an in-tray exercise and a selection procedure while under continuous observation. At pound;650 per person, this is expensive, but staff at Aldersley High School in Wolverhampton felt that the cost and the strain were worthwhile.

Phil Lambert, the school's staff development co-ordinator, says teachers are selected "once we feel they have settled into their role". Aldersley closely supports them with mentoring. This adds to the overall cost, but Brenda Steventon, the headteacher, feels it is essential.

Donna Broad, head of PE, agrees. "You are measuring your competencies and you come away and think 'Oh my God, I'm no good at this'. To be able to talk it through with somebody and take the bits that you want to work on - that was important."

A Keele University evaluation of the NEAC's revealed a need for close support for teachers undergoing evaluation. Researcher Jill Cleland says that mentoring needs to have started before training or assessment happens. The NEAC candidates strongly welcomed the opportunity to discuss their performance with another professional. "Too often the focus is on the people they teach - not on the teacher," she said.

* Touchstone Tel: 0171 387 1563 * Educational Management Associates. Tel: 01242 511689 * Derek Esp Tel: 01460 72355 * The National Educational Assessment Centres are a joint venture between the Secondary Heads Association and Oxford Brookes University. The scheme is open to both primary and secondary teachers. Tel: 01865 485804

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