We explore how CPD leaders can support colleagues who are interested in working towards headship

Home-grown anything tends to be best and if the experiences of many countries are to be believed, this includes school leadership staff! This week, we look at how those who express an interest in leading schools in the future can be best supported in that goal within their existing school. We also take a look at the revamped NPQH ahead of the next application round.

Practical Tips

When cut-backs are prevalent, growing your own is a natural solution, and not just when it comes to fruit and veg! Just when the UK, and many countries globally, needs a steady supply of well-trained, experienced and flexible school leaders, the numbers willing to take on this complex role appear to have reduced.

The key to good succession planning for school leadership seems to be the development of skills through effective dispersed leadership. If too much control is retained by too few people, the role becomes shrouded in mystery and unnecessarily complicated. A spirit of openness and a will to mentor, coach and simply encourage those with an interest in school leadership helps to show exactly what the job entails, what support is available and how attractive it might be.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been exploring the challenges and rising expectations for school leaders in response to its belief that effective school leadership is vital to education reform and improved outcomes. It is currently exploring two main areas:

  • What are the roles and responsibilities of school leaders under different governance structures?What seem to be the most promising policies and conditions for making school leaders effective in improving school outcomes?
  • How can effective school leadership be best developed and supported? What policies and practices would be most conducive to these ends?

 A final comparative report is due to be published this year (watch this space!) and while this will greatly contribute to the international debate on school leadership, it is well worth considering these kinds of issues within your school too. For example, what development opportunities do aspiring heads want to undertake?

A useful starting point when exploring these ideas within your school and from a professional development perspective is to look at the current challenges facing school leaders. These can be summarised as:

  • Ensuring quality of teaching and learning
  • Managing a broad and balanced curriculu
  • Overseeing behaviour and attendance
  • Managing resources and the school environment
  • Developing the school and linking to the local community
  • Seeking out learning opportunities for pupils and staff members

 Significantly, though, there are additional challenges to throw into the mix:

  • With the move towards the integration of services for children, young people and families, the Every Child Matters agenda is key to what goes on in schools now. This ‘welfare agenda’ is much broader than the relative simplicity of ‘teaching and learning’.
  • Education for children from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) families is also a focus for schools now, as we seek to provide an accessible curriculum that can suit the needs of the whole community. 
  • Personalised learning remains on the agenda for schools and Assessment for Learning is also a central feature.
  • While there are certain aspects of school leadership and management which remain the domain of the head, there does seem to be a drive to ensure that the skills involved in the job are developed in all school staff. Schools which adopt this view are naturally supporting a home-grown approach to leadership in staff with that inclination, so when vacancies arise they are not solely reliant on outside applicants. 

If you’re interested in exploring these ideas through professional and personal development in your school, these ideas may help: 

  • Make sure there is a safe atmosphere in which ambitions can be freely discussed. If career goals have to be kept under wraps, it will be impossible for aspiring leaders to gain the skills, training and experience they need to move onwards and upwards.
  • Aim to include all staff in the development of your school’s mission and ethos. While this needs to be led by senior staff, it must also be generated and owned by all members of staff. A surprisingly high number of staff do not feel fully part of this important aspect of their school.
  • Consider working with schools in your local cluster so that staff with a desire to develop their leadership potential get a chance to learn from senior staff in neighbouring schools. These kinds of arrangements are almost always mutually rewarding.
  • Explore ‘job swapping’ possibilities within your school. Being able to gain a brief insight into the roles that others perform can have immense professional and personal development possibilities.

 Find out more

You can find further information about developing school leadership and management on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development website

Issues and Information

The new look NPQH 

The National Professional Qualification for Headship has been redesigned in response to the changing role of heads in our schools as well as the developments in school leadership generally (linked closely to some of the issues raised above). These strategic leadership and management challenges are now a central part of the new look NPQH programme, the next application round of which opens on 23rd May and closes at noon on 9th June.

If any staff at your school want to pursue the NPQH the following webpages will help:

Information for prospective applicants

Information for heads and line managers

Information for governors

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.