Headlines: November 12th, 2002

Teachers are being offered a chance to test their decision making – and see the potential consequences of it – by using a computer-simulated school being piloted by the National College for School Leadership.Virtual School is a high-tech multiple choice game in which subject heads taking part in NCSL’s ‘Leading from the Middle’ programme will have a safe environment in which to practise their skills.

They will be faced with scenarios and problems they might encounter in real school life and are then asked to choose from a number of possible responses. Those taking part will be shown the short, medium and long term outcomes of their choices.

Director and Chief Executive of NCSL Heather Du Quesnay, said, “Schools are complex and often chaotic environments where decision-making can be a¬† nerve-wracking prospect. But if schools are to keep improving and changing¬† for the better teachers, and especially those with leadership responsibilities, need to be bold, courageous, and willing to take risks.” She believes Virtual School, which has been developed by the BBC, could be one of the most ground-breaking advances in teacher-training in recent years.

One teacher involved in trials of the system, Winston Bygraves, head of humanities at Canons High School in Harrow, said, “It really makes you think in a multi-task situation about the decisions you are making and what the knock-on effects will be. Virtual school is for teachers a bit like what these new car simulators are for people learning to drive.”

Two hundred teachers- all subject heads – in London and Manchester are taking part in the Leading from the Middle programme pilot from this week. It was developed to meet an increasing need for training and support for middle level school leaders and is expected to be rolled out nationally next year and will eventually be offered to other middle-level school leaders, including year heads, special needs co-ordinators and ICT co-ordinators. NCSL is developing specific learning materials for each of these groups.