Woodhead's scorn for leadership 'drivel'

10th October 2003 at 01:00
Former chief inspector lambasts 'Sandhurst' for heads, report Emily Clark and Karen Thornton

Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector, has accused the National College for School Leadership of preaching evangelical twaddle.

He wants the "Sandhurst" for heads, based in a pound;28 million conference and administrative centre in Nottingham, to be closed.

"A lot of what is written by the college is drivel," said Professor Woodhead, who resigned in 2000 after six years as chief inspector. "Much of the material produced by NCSL is evangelical twaddle. If you subject it to a puff of scrutiny it tends to collapse. These new age panaceas distract us from the truth and I object as a taxpayer.

"It is a grotesque waste of public money and should be obliterated forthwith."

The college, which has an pound;85m budget this year, has the firm backing of the Prime Minister, who believes it has the potential to transform school leadership.

"It will promote an ethos of excellence and high achievement, ensuring for the first time that headteachers and other teachers and leaders have the professional support and training they deserve," said Mr Blair, when he announced the college's location in 1999.

To date the centre, based at Nottingham university's Jubilee campus, has provided training for more than half of England's heads and deputies and says that more than 90 per cent were satisfied with what they got.

Professor Woodhead, now at Buckingham university and researching how to raise standards in the private sector, agreed vision was crucial but advocated a common-sense approach. He suggested the debate had been "corrupted by complex jargon". "Many luminaries in the world of education say convoluted things which should be kept simple."

Professor Woodhead spoke out at the Independent Education conference last week, where he suggested 10 "non-theoretical" rules for effective leadership. These included being approachable, offering differential rewards for teachers based on performance, taking risks, being optimistic and avoiding jargon.

"Leadership is a question of common sense," said Professor Woodhead. "It helps to understand your own motivation and what is going on in the heads and hearts of those around you."

Heather Du Quesnay, the college's chief executive, defended the college, which threw open the doors of its cedarwood and glass-fronted building last year. "As is often the case, Chris Woodhead's views fall well short of reflecting reality. School leaders value NCSL and more and more of them are connecting with us."

She said 70 per cent of school leaders expected the college to help them professionally and as individuals.

Leader 22

A load of twaddle?

"Leadership programmes focus on building skills in the instructional, organisationalstrategic and personal interpersonal domains."

NCSL think-tank report

"Leadership programmes focus on building skills in the instructional, organisational strategic and personal interpersonal domains."

- NCSL corporate plan, 2002-6

"Leadership development responds to the needs of individuals, enabling them to help shape, interpret and implement the national transformational agenda for education, and in so doing promote a discourse around leadership for learning."

- NCSL corporate plan, 2002-6

"The Networked Learning Communities programme... capitalises on and celebrates the diversity... (in the schools') system. By working in interdependent and mutually supportive ways, groups of schools have formed... networks and are using the diversity present within and across institutions as a positive force for knowledge-sharing and innovation."

- NCSL website

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