Elizabeth Holmes speaks to Catherine Fitt, the National College’s strategic director for children’s services, to find out what their remit changes will mean for CPD in schools

Any human anywhere will blossom in a hundred unexpected talents and capacities simply by being given the opportunity to do so.
Doris Lessing

The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services has a new remit, not to mention a new name. Formerly called the National College for School Leadership, the institution’s name has been changed to reflect an extension of its work to include directors of children’s services (although it will still be known as the ‘National College’).

So what will these changes mean for CPD in schools? I spoke to Catherine Fitt, the National College’s strategic director for children’s services, to find out more…

What will the changes mean for you?

CPD Week: Why was the National College’s remit extended?
Catherine Fitt: Those who lead children’s services need great school leaders in their local schools, and those who lead schools need great children’s services leaders in their local authority. When that partnership and collaboration works well, it is the children and young people who benefit – and that is what we want to help achieve.

In March 2009, schools secretary Ed Balls announced that he had accepted our proposals for an extended remit to include development opportunities for leaders of children’s services. It will enable us to support leaders to deliver services for children, young people and their families which are personalised, integrated and of high quality.

What exactly is the new remit?
We were given the remit to establish a leadership programme for directors of children’s services (DCSs) in December 2008. We were specifically asked to lead on a development programme that will offer structured training and support to every DCS and those who are close to stepping up to the role.

The provision is being developed in partnership with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC), with the first cohort of DCSs due to start the programme this autumn. It is hoped that half of all DCSs will have begun the programme by 2010-11.

The programme will improve outcomes for children, young people and families by:

  • further developing the leadership skills, knowledge and capabilities of DCSs and their teams, based on their own learning and development needs
  • helping to make the role of DCS more attractive and encouraging more people to aspire to it
  • developing career pathways and support for those who may want to step up to the role
  • helping to enhance the professional status of the role of DCS by promoting an expectation of continued high-quality leadership development and support.

In what ways will this new remit impact the work that the National College already does with schools?
School leaders will not see any reduction in the support they receive. We will continue to support school leaders with a range of strategic initiatives, leadership development programmes and policy and research activities to enable them to develop into outstanding leaders.

This extended remit provides us with the opportunity to benefit DCSs, aspirant DCSs and school and children’s centre leaders across the children’s services sector.

What is the latest focus/approach regarding professional learning (CPD) in schools and the development of leaders for the future?
One of our recent approaches, following extensive consultation, involves looking at self-sustaining middle leadership development with a strong focus on leading teaching and learning.

We are looking at ways of increasing the reach and number of places for middle leadership development, with a pilot starting this term involving up to 800 experienced teachers from more than 30 clusters of schools. The pilot clusters involve anything from two to 18 schools with each school nominating three or four participants. The schools are coming together to create the training and development interventions that will work best for them. It moves away from the traditional, structured programme and offers a more flexible, personalised approach. With our expanded remit in mind, we are also working with two multi-agency clusters taking middle leaders from, for example, health and social services.

Benefits to this approach should include better recruitment and retention of teachers who are seeking professional development and improved access to professional development.

Could you confirm what the organisation will be known as?
On 15 September, we officially became the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services. This name encapsulates our common commitment to children and addresses the widening of our remit beyond school leaders. It retains the key words ‘national’ and ‘college’ and keeps the focus on leaders. It’s expected that most people will continue to call us ‘the National College’.

Find out more…
Visit www.nationalcollege.org.uk

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2009

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.