Headlines: June 26th, 2003

Schools in England are embracing a ‘new order’ of leadership that is having a dramatic and positive impact on teaching and learning, according to the first annual report of the National College for School Leadership. It says that the standard of leadership in schools continues to make great strides and that the nature of school leadership is becoming more shared and widely distributed.It warns, though, that the pace of change could be slowed by problems with leadership succession and sustainability. The report will be launched by its author, the NCSL director of Research, Professor Geoff Southworth at the Secondary Heads Association Summer Conference next Tuesday.

It draws together a range of existing research and perspectives on school leadership, including the Chief Inspector of School’s annual report, Ofsted’s evidence base and three surveys commissioned by the college itself. Findings include the “striking improvement” in the quality of leadership by heads. The reports says 80 per cent of secondaries and three quarters of primaries are now well led in terms of monitoring, evaluation and taking steps to improve teaching. The report also says no profession is more highly regarded than that of a headteacher and that 71 per cent of parents think school leadership is good and nearly half believe school leadership has improved in the last three years.

The report points out that middle leaders, such as subject and year heads, are playing a more prominent role in school leadership and says there are “encouraging signs” that school leadership is changing.

But Professor Southworth sounds a note of caution, pointing out that the level of re- advertised headship posts highlights the lack of candidates wishing to move onto headship and the fact that 45 per cent of England’s heads, deputies and assistant heads are aged over 50. The report highlights independent research that suggests that prospective leaders are often reluctant to apply for headships.

School Leadership 2003 also measures the quality and success of NCSL activities during the last year and says its reach is “extensive and expanding.” Just over 10,000 school leaders worked with the College and that is expected to rise to 15,000 in 2003-4. NCSL programmes and activities are highly rated, it says, and nearly nine out of ten school leaders and more than 90 per cent of heads have heard of NCSL. Seven out of ten leaders expect NCSL to have a positive impact on them as individuals and on their professional development.