We need a stronger steer for leadership

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
A national framework is not enough to ensure continuous support for development, says Danny Murphy

CONSULTATION process is now under way, until the end of next week, on the recently published draft guidance from the Scottish Executive on the Continuing Professional Development of Educational Leaders. Few can doubt the importance of the highest quality of leadership and management in our schools. Will the draft guidance ensure that development?

The draft guidance identifies four broad levels, through which progression takes place - project leadership (time-limited, small-scale projects for teachers early in their career); team leadership (permanent teams of staff, or regular leadership of working groups); school leadership, including the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH); strategic leadership (for those with overall responsibility for a school, or engaged in leading major initiatives at a local or national level).

Although it is a great improvement on what we have at present (since nationally we have only had SQH sitting in splendid isolation), the framework has some significant weaknesses. These stem from two difficulties - insufficient conceptual clarification of leadership and management and a failure to ask whether or how the framework might lead to suitable programmes, accessible to all in Scotland.

The relationship between management posts and leadership is defined early on - management is about ensuring that things happen in practice, leadership is concerned with direction and purpose. But this relationship is then confused by the use of the "management functions" of the SQH to categorise the professional actions of leaders. Many will reasonably infer from the examples of professional action given that a relationship exists between the four levels of leadership and four levels of management post (project = main grade teacher seeking "taster" experience, team = PT, school = DHT, strategic = HT). It seems then that the framework treats leadership and management as effectively the same thing.

But, while management involves making the best use of resources to fulfil a set of clearly defined functions associated with a particular post and job description, leadership is a quality which any individual can possess and is not associated with a particular post. Management is top down.

Leadership can be shown from any part of the organisation. Managers are given responsibility, leadership involves taking responsibility. Management is about structures, leadership is about cultures.

Developing leadership in all members of the community (pupils and staff) is one of the key educational functions of schooling in a democratic society, so leadership development is important not just to make school more effective, but because it is a central purpose of school itself.

Good management can not only help realise the goals set through leadership, but can make new goals possible by creating space, time and resources.

Skilled management limits uncertainty, evens out opportunities, ensures consistency, maximises resources.

Managers are well placed to play leadership roles. They exercise considerable strategic and operational power over what happens. Their position also gives them a wide view on the school community as a whole.

But being a good manager does not mean you stop needing development. Many principal teachers, depute heads and heads may spend 15 or more years in post. There is no guidance in the framework on how these staff might continue to progress professionally over the long term.

In our recent report on how the SQH was being implemented across Scotland's local authorities, my colleagues and I confirmed that the 32 Scottish authorities vary greatly in their capacity to support and deliver effective professional development for those in positions of responsibility. With only a framework established nationally, professional development within leadership and management might end up as a postcode lottery.

Scotland will not have a national college, as in England - we are a much smaller country. But without a plan of how we can achieve our ambitions, it seems even more likely that leadership and management development in Scotland will continue to be episodic, uneven and discontinuous.

Danny Murphy is director of the Centre for Educational Leadership at Edinburgh University. See www.scotland.gov.uklibrary5educationcpd_leaders.pdf

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