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Welsh heads 'missing out without college'

We need leadership opportunities on par with England, union told. Karen Thornton reports

Headteachers and deputies in Wales could be missing out on job promotions and chances to share good practice with colleagues because Wales lacks a national college for school leadership.

England has had one since 2000, and Wales needs one too, according to members of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru.

Delegates at the association's annual conference will today be asked to back a call to set up a Welsh Sandhurst for school leaders "at the earliest opportunity". But there were warnings that a college could prove expensive, and would need to reflect the education agenda in Wales.

Richard Edwards, head of Lansdowne primary school, in Cardiff, is expected to tell colleagues they could be missing out on promotions to rivals with qualifications accredited by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) in Nottingham.

Speaking to TES Cymru before today's conference, he said: "Governors are looking at people and saying they have done this or that course, but those working in Wales may not have equal access to those courses.

"We get the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) and the leadership programme for serving heads, but there are other courses that empower school leaders. Those exist with NCSL and we want access."

School leaders in Wales, particularly those working in rural areas who face long journeys to attend training courses, would benefit from online learning opportunities of the kind currently provided by the English college.

And there would be huge opportunities for networking online and via networks of schools, he said.

"We wouldn't want to set up something really expensive, and I accept we don't have to do everything that happens in England, and that we have to have a Welsh version of this," he said.

"We need something that pulls leadership development, online learning and networks and information all together, where heads can get accreditation."

An Assembly government spokesperson said it was already working with England's national college to pilot a research associate programme for school leaders, and an online community for newly-appointed heads in Wales.

The two organisations are also piloting courses for mid-level school leaders, such as heads of department and subject leaders, and for heads of small primary schools.

The government launched a quinquennial review of school leadership training in Wales earlier this year. Its recommendations will help shape a new leadership development programme, due in 2007, which "will pave the way for even more successful school leaders in the 21st century". Alun Williams, manager of Wales's NPQH centre, in Cardiff, said he and colleagues shared materials with the NCSL and kept in touch.

He acknowledged there were some school leaders in Wales who would benefit from online learning. But he said: "What they will miss is the cross-fertilisation that takes place face-to-face.

"Online services are expensive, and the agenda in Wales is quite different from England."

Prime Minister Tony Blair first mooted a "Sandhurst for heads" in 1998. The NCSL opened in 2000 and moved into purpose-built facilities at Nottingham university in 2002.


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