Changes within the education system are creating more autonomy but more accountability.
“Our changes are designed to empower and extend the reach of the great leaders….”
The aim is for more leadership training to be delivered by successful schools – including teaching school alliances and multi-academy trusts. The government sees a growth in both of these “in areas where they are most needed”.
The National Professional Qualifications will be redesigned to make them fit for purpose within the new systems, but there is no stated plan to make them statutory, so they will remain voluntary.
The best leaders will be given a greater opportunity to spread their influence wider, with executive heads, MAT CEOs and system leaders playing a growing role within the system. MAT leaders (at all levels) in particular are seen as central, with the paper stating that a head of subject could lead that subject across 30 schools.
Executive heads and MAT CEOs are seen as the best placed professionals to “talent spot”, i.e. recognise teachers with leadership potential and provide opportunity for them to develop. They will also play a key role in the development of National Professional Qualifications for all levels of leadership within the new system.
A new National Teaching Service will be introduced to support elite teachers and strong middle leaders, aligning this with existing targeted leadership programmes.
There is an undoubted drive towards a school-led ideology. Central to this is the role of schools in developing future leaders by spotting, nurturing and managing talented staff. Whether these can be delivered in sufficient numbers across the system remains a key question. There currently seems to be a reluctance to admit to the severity of the problem in recruiting high quality leaders.
Although the White Paper points out the need to “have great leaders right across the country”, governing bodies who have had experience of trying to recruit head teachers during the last two or three years will take some convincing that the proposals will have a positive effect quickly enough.
There have to be questions about how a subject leader can successfully influence their subject across 30 schools, particularly as many MATs currently are significantly geographically spread. This issue of separation must be addressed for there to be any chance of success.
Teaching School Alliances
The White Paper sees these as a source of support on which autonomous schools can choose to draw. As centres of excellence they will have a specific focus on providing high quality leadership development activities. The government is committed to ensuring that teaching school alliances cover the whole country, especially boosting capacity in challenging areas.
The DfE intends to create up to 300 more teaching schools and 800 more leaders of education (NLEs) with school improvement funding “increasingly routed” through these system leaders from September 2017. They will be held accountable for the quality and impact of the support they provide.
They will act as “brokerage hubs” by coordinating the supply and activity of NLEs and specialist leaders of education (SLEs) and matching these with schools in need.
Teaching schools will take on a “more focused role” that prioritises coordinating and delivering school based ITT, spreading excellent practice and providing evidence based CPD for teachers and leaders across their network.
There is merit in a process where schools play a fundamental role in the development of teachers and leaders, but there are also some concerns, where the detail needs to be expanded.
There is no explicit mention in the White Paper whether their remit will continue to be “The Big Six,” covering initial teacher training, continuous professional development, leadership training, school-to-school support, promoting specialist leaders of education, and research and development, although these areas do seem to be those covered.
There is no clarity at the moment about how, or by whom, system leaders will be held to account. Variations in both quality and capacity already exist in different parts of the country.
Currently any alliance is based around one school, which has to be rated outstanding for teaching and learning to become a teaching school. There is a continuing issue about developing a successful approach based on sharing good practice between schools, rather than one school imposing its vision on its partners. This notion of genuine collaborative working is fundamental to really effective school to school support and recognises that most schools, even those in very challenging circumstances, have some practice worth sharing.
Much of the rhetoric within the White Paper tends to suggest an agenda where only the “best” schools” are contributors to development, rather than recognising evidence which shows that schools helping others can learn as much from the process as those being helped. Building capacity within an alliance also helps to ensure that hub schools do not end up spreading themselves too thinly. There also needs to be clarity about what happens if a hub school loses its outstanding grade.
Excellence in Leadership Fund
Funding will be made available:
- For the best MATs and other providers “to tackle significant leadership challenges in areas where great leaders are most needed.”
- Seed-funding will be offered to stimulate new activities to support the development of strong leaders in challenging areas, where providers “with innovative new approaches” propose programmes that are able to become self-sustainable over time.
Details of funding are yet to be made clear, but with a pump priming/seed funding start up model it will be difficult for bidders to demonstrate in their bidding that initiatives will be self-sustainable over time.
Increasing Diversity in Leadership
The White Paper commits to increasing the proportion of under-represented groups in leadership roles, by offering funding to schools to support the development of groups such as black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) teachers.
The DfE will support the creation of a Women in Education network to further support them in career progression.
Any moves to improve equality of opportunity are welcomed.