An outstanding headteacher in every local school

Dan BelcherWe need to invest in our leaders and explore new collaborative models of working. Dan Belcher, Head of Secondary SSAT, outlines how SSAT can help you in equipping the next generation of outstanding school leaders.

The election carnival has arrived – and parties of all colours have begun to announce their education policies. So far pledges proliferate around academisation, free schools, teacher quality, curriculum and exam reform – but there has been relatively little discussion of school leadership.

As the Education Select Committee have just identified in their report into academies and free schools, for all the tinkering with structures – academies, free schools, MATs etc – there is no conclusive evidence that these schools fair either better or worse than the schools that preceded them.

As Fiona Millar exhorted in her Guardian article of 13 January, the buzz words of ‘choice’ and ‘diversity’ need to give way to a simple goal – an outstanding headteacher for every local school, leading excellent teachers.

So how do we inspire and prepare leaders for headship? For a decade The National College of School Leadership (NCTL) elevated the profile of leadership, giving leadership development the place it deserves. For all its limitations and faults (the emphasis on paperwork and encouraging a managerial approach) the National College provided a clear framework for leadership development. However, as Fiona Millar points out:

The downgrading of the National College of School Leadership to a minor government agency, the National College for Teaching and Leadership, has dismayed many existing school leaders, who feel it is neither independent, motivating, or leading the profession.

So where does this leave us? The National Professional Qualification for Headship ceased to be a mandatory qualification in 2012 and the current model of licensing for NPQH, NPQSL and NPQML programme to teaching schools runs out in 2016. There is a gap for nationally recognised and accredited leadership courses that offer excellent practical preparation and progression routes to headship.

For many years, school leaders have chosen SSAT leadership courses as a practical alternative to National College programmes. We’ve been delivering nationally recognised leadership courses for school leaders since 2002 – from the first steps on the leadership ladder to executive headteacher. More than 9000 leaders have already benefited from these national courses which are accredited at master’s level, led by practising headteachers and school leaders, and underpinned by a value-led approach to education – not government prescription.

SSAT is now offering a new partnership model that will offer schools the opportunity to become licenced deliverers of SSAT’s nationally accredited leadership programmes. We are welcoming interested schools to apply to become licence holders for the National Award for Middle Leaders (NAML).

The NAML consists of 10 essential modules for middle leaders, fully accompanied by training materials and two train-the-trainer places. The collaborative model means you can align your existing leadership expertise and needs, in your context, with our experience, expert content and national perspective.

We are also looking to work with schools to co-construct new models of leadership programmes that meet the needs of school leaders.

The national and international evidence on the importance of leadership to improving pupil outcomes is overwhelming, second only to high-quality teaching. As a country, if we aspire to have a world-class education system we must invest in our school leaders and inspire them to develop more leaders.

When budgets are tight, the temptation can be to cut the CPD budget.

But if we fail to give our talented leaders exposure to high-quality training and development, we can’t expect to get the leaders our schools and children need. I hope school leaders who share our view will join us to shape a new school-led approach to leadership development.

View the full range of SSAT Leadership Programmes or email

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