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Trainers smell new opportunity

University in talks with government officials to bring 'education's Sandhurst' to the Midlands. Chris Bunting reports

THE PROSPECT of a multi-million pound expansion in the market for school leaders will have set a few minds ticking in the highly competitive and often whacky world of leadership training.

Over the last decade, the industry has grown enormously. Professor Amin Rajan, trainer and author of an industry study, estimates that it is now worth more than pound;6 billion in Britain.

The undisputed leader in leadership training is Stephen Covey. The Mormon professor and confidant of President Clinton is behind Utah's Covey Leadership Centre where executives read "wisdom literature", invest in their "emotional bank accounts", and rescue each other from nearby mountains.

In the UK, Speakers International and Franklin Covey Organisation Services fly the flag for Professor Covey's "principle-centred" theories of leadership, but they seem to moderate some of the excesses of the US jargon.

There are also plenty of rugged alternatives. Dozens of British companies are hawking pursuits ranging from paintballing to bridge building and big yacht sailing in the name of leadership education.

Oxford Training, for instance, sends groups of top directors up mountains in the Lake District with the climber Sir Chris Bonington. And, while previous visits to the Royal Marines training centre in Devon have concentrated on military leadership, the company is considering a more direct experience of the parade ground and assault course for its clients.

For the more sedentary, there is also a large slice of Britain's sporting history offering keys to the winning mind. Ex-England rugby captain Will Carling is believed to have made pound;20,000 from one company for a two-day seminar. Olympians David Hemery, Adrian Moorhouse and Sebastian Coe are also on the the market along with yachtswoman Tracy Edwards, and ex-England cricket captain Mike Brearley.

But Professor Harry Tomlinson of Leeds Metropolitan University, a leading figure in school leadership training, warns the stars not to get their hopes up. The budget of the national college was likely to be too tight to fund a gravy train.

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