Headlines: November 28th, 1997

The Government’s education strategy is beginning to take shape as the focus of attention moves from inadequate performance of teachers in the classroom to the big issue of leadership at the top. The quality of leadership is equally as important in education as in any other activity. The new approach looks to Chief Education Officers to deliver better results and to school governors to provide firmer leadership.School Standards Minister Stephen Byers today called for top quality candidates from business and education to take on the post of Chief Education Officer. He said: “Raising standards in education is not just our top priority for schools but also for local education authorities which should give schools vital support. The role of Chief Education Officer can make the difference between the success and failure of an LEA – it’s vital that quality people with vision and determination take on this pivotal role.” He added that he wanted to see more head teachers and business people becoming Chief Education Officers.

In a bid to improve the competence of Chief Education Officers plans are being prepared for a virtual staff college. There will be no bricks and mortar, rather a post-graduate qualification from a university linked directly to competencies whichChief Education Officers will need for their new role. A number of universities have agreed to participate in developing a pilot scheme in some regions and it is expect that the College will be up and running by 1999.

In parallel with this development an additional £5m is being put into a training programme for school governors. In making this announcement David Blunkett said: “Governors can make a vital contribution to raising standards in schools. That is why we want to secure their training and help them to do their jobs better.”

Mr Blunkett also announced more support for governors particularly in the personnel area. He said: Nearly all major organisations have personnel departments yet governing bodies and headteachers can be left without appropriate support and advice. That is why I want to start a dialogue to improve the personnel aspects.”