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On trial: for promotion

More than three years after becoming deputy head of John Mason school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Despina Pavlou is about to start hunting for her first headship. By the time she starts scouring advertisements later this year, she should be one of the first aspiring heads with a National Professional Qualification for Headship.

Ms Pavlou began the Open UniversityNational Association of Head Teachers pilot in January and, following her assessment, was told that she was well on the way to gaining the three optional modules based on her previous teaching experience. She has been working towards the compulsory strategic leadership module through the OU and is due to attend her final review on June 25.

Ms Pavlou praised the support she had received from colleagues at her school in helping her to complete assignments and collect a portfolio of evidence. "The joke here is that anything which is written down in this school is helping me towards the NPQH."

Sue Cope, head of Penwith First school in Milton Keynes, was appointed her tutormentor and helped her to draw up an action plan and prepare for the tasks she needed to perform. Ms Pavlou may also attend sessions run by GWIST, the consortium that won the regional training contract in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

One of the most useful features of the pilot was liaising with other aspiring heads through the OU. "Just meeting people from different sorts of school was superb in itself," she said. "The NPQH focuses on what you do every day but at the same time it's the first real preparation that I've had for becoming a head."

Hugh Benjamin, deputy at the Stantonbury Campus School in Milton Keynes, also does not have to expect to do very much training to gain most of the NPQH modules. After seven years as deputy, he can draw on a wide range of experiences to assemble the evidence he needs. Materials provided by the OU and NAHT have given Mr Benjamin a valuable chance to compare what he does each day at Stantonbury with practices elsewhere.

He is especially interested in how other schools lay out reports to parents. "As a triallist, I wanted to make sure that I was up to date with current research," he explained.

Neither Ms Pavlou nor Mr Benjamin had to pay to take part in the trials but both have given up a large amount of their own time. "Anyone who does this qualification is going to be a senior teacher or deputy and they are going to be pretty busy people," said Mr Benjamin. "There is a lot of work involved and the expectation is that most of it will be done at weekends or during the holidays. I'm not sure how realistic that is."

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