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Tough leadership job seeks right head

Tony Blair's so-called "Sandhurst for sirs" has suffered more than its fair share of controversy over the years. The appointment of its first leader was a typically drawn-out affair.

The Prime Minister, in an interview with The TES almost five years ago, was clear who should get the top job - an "outstanding headteacher". But when the chief executive of the National College for School Leadership was finally unveiled, did not quite match up to his vision.

Four heads had been named on a six-strong shortlist for the post, but the eventual victor, Heather du Quesnay, was not one of them. Mrs du Quesnay was a former deputy head of the Bartley Green girls' school, in Birmingham, but had never made it to the number one job, spending the past 17 years of her career in local government, with Cambridgeshire county council and, latterly, Lambeth.

Unions queried the appointment and criticism has scarcely left the college's side since. In 2002 it was revealed that running costs had risen sharply - from pound;29.2 million to pound;111.3m in just a year.

A year later it was being criticised again - this time by the former chief inspector of schools. Chris Woodhead accused it of preaching "evangelical twaddle" and demanded it be closed down.

However, more than half of the heads in England have used the college and 90 per cent say they are satisfied with its services. The college is now responsible for the National Professional Qualification for Headship which all new heads are supposed to pass.

But the new chief executive will still have a tough job on their hands to convince everyone in the establishment that NCSL is worth the millions so far invested in it.

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