Welcome to the age of collaboration

6th June 2003 at 01:00
Incentive grants herald a new era of working together, says Susan Young

Controversial education policies have been a feature of this government, but the leadership incentive grant has caused more uproar than most - even though it is giving away an extra pound;500 million to schools over the next three years.

It's not hard to see why reaction has been so negative. First there was the cliff-edge problem: either your school is one of the 1,400 secondaries which gets the money, or it isn't. Many schools which had worked their socks off to improve standards just missed out as a result, while others that seemed in far less need got it. Then there was the email which went out from the Department for Education, asking local authorities to what extent they expected to use the funding to close schools or lose weak heads, deputies and middle managers. Most local authorities have made it clear they want to help weak schools and managements rather than get rid of them - but a few heads have quietly fallen on their swords.

Less well-publicised have been the good things about the grant. For instance, the insistence of the department that participating schools must work in collaboration, rather than in competition, with others - an aim which most heads and teachers would applaud. And, astonishingly, there are no targets to be met. Smart money must now be on the development of a very different model of school leadership, partly as a result of the grant and partly because of the new Ofsted framework for inspecting management teams.

From now it will not be enough to show good leadership, run an inspirational solo show or have great visions for your school. What is going to matter is how leadership translates into pupils' learning and achievement. Good leadership will be that which makes a difference.

This magazine looks behind the headlines to see how school leadership is changing, understand better what the Government wants from the leadership incentive grant (and what it is likely to get) and also get a glimpse of the sort of projects which are likely to develop. This is useful information for every school, not just those getting the money, because if the ideas work ,they will spread.

If increased collaboration or innovative leadership schemes improve results markedly, then more schools will want to join in. After years of competition, it could be a quiet revolution.

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