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Who will teach the headteachers?;School management;Briefing

A college for school leaders approaches reality with the

naming of college director, reports Diana Hinds

THE National College for School Leadership - child of last November's Green Paper on the teaching profession - begins its official journey from government vision to reality next week.

On Thursday the first director of the college is expected to be announced, together with the site chosen to house it. With these cornerstones in place, negotiations will begin in earnest over which organisations and businesses are to have a place in delivering services when the college opens its doors towards the end of next year.

What the Department for Education and Employment is seeking in a director is someone who can win the confidence of the teaching profession with "an outstanding track record in the development and delivery of high-quality education leadership". The prime contender for the job is rumoured to be Dame Pat Collarbone, a former headteacher (Haggerston school in Hackney) and special adviser to the DFEE. She is now leading a review of the national professional qualification for headship, due to become mandatory for all new heads from 2002.

Another strong contender is Sir Lyndon Jones, recently retired as head of Harris city technology college in upper Norwood, south London. The net was cast worldwide, with

academics such as Professor Michael Fullam, of Toronto University, and his colleague, Andy Hargreaves, being approached. Neither could be enticed away from academe.

As for possible sites, London appears to have been ruled out because of the need for a more central location. The hot favourite is Warwick University's business school. The university is already home to the 13-year-old business-funded organisation Heads, Teachers, Industry. Set up by businesses keen to share some of their experience with teachers, HTI takes heads out of school for a year and, with an underpinning development programme, puts them in a management role in business.

Chief executive Anne Evans hopes HTI will be invited to play a role in the new college. "It's very important that it delivers more than training and research," she said. "It needs to deliver the emotional intelligence and experience that is gained by working in partnership with a culture other than education."

Part of the college's function will be to co-ordinate the range of headship qualifications: NPQH, which has caused problems because of the workload it imposes on busy deputies, Headlamp, the induction programme for new heads, and the Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers, introduced earlier this year. It will also manage more coherently business involvement in schools, which includes big players such as Lloyds TSB and Unilever.

This kind of collaboration has always been fairly ad hoc, says Peter Brereton. Until recently he was director of education at Business in the Community, a charity that co-ordinates corporate involvement in neighbourhoods. This is where he developed the Partners in Leadership programme involving mentoring of headteachers by senior business executives. Through the college, he hopes to see such programmes becoming formalised.

He looks to the college to act as a catalyst for developing leadership programmes, rather than being simply a course centre. Although the college is likely to have some residential facilities, the prospectus says a major part of its operations must include being available on-line as a "virtual college". In order to serve its target audience of 24,000 heads and others in management positions, online "masterclasses" and discussion groups on priority issues, plus access to the latest research, are expected on the college's website.

"There are better ways of learning than just going on courses," said Mr Brereton.

The college is to be managed by a core of permanent staff who will be responsible for

programmes, but will contract out their delivery.

"There is a danger in creating a single institution like this that its work will become ossifed," said Howard Green, an adviser to the DFEE who helped develop the serving heads programme. This happened in the United States when it required all

principals to have a masters' degree in education administration, he said.

"Best practice moves on. The challenge for the college is to make sure that it remains on the cutting edge."

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