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					     Training Leadership Pathways

                  School managers who are turned
         off by inflexible training courses might be
         pleasantly surprised by a new programme
               from the National College for School
                 Leadership. Jackie Switzer explains

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     own pathway

32                                      Managing Schools Today November/December 2006
                                                                           Training Leadership Pathways

         bsorb ed silence is the first thing y ou notice,      critically reviewing and challenging prac tice, building
         punctuated by the odd mouse click or keyboard         expertise, sc anning informa tion for p olicy and
         stroke. Twenty or so school leaders are spending      research updates, and leading others with a focus on
several days in a windowless ICT suite, surrounded by          making a difference to the school and its community.
colleagues , all glued to their computers and barely           The outc ome for leaders is a deep er sense of
stopping for a coffee. This was the scene in Leeds this        professional satisfaction and increased motivation to
spring as school leaders tested online units in the National   take on more challenging leadership roles. In turn, this
College for School Leadership’s (NCSL’s) new programme,        aims to strengthen internal leadership and succession
Leadership Pathways. A month later the levels of noise         planning.
generated by a creative problem-solving group prompted           The development of the programme included several
the venue’s duty manager to put his head round the door        cycles of resear ch, consultation and design. An initial
as a high-energy, high-humour workshop discussed               review of existing programmes identified the need for
solutions for non-competitive spor ts days and parental        a programme that could be tailored to participants’
homework expectations.                                         needs. Research into leadership, adult learning, blended
   Leadership Pathways is launched this autumn. It offers      learning, personalisation and the futur e agenda
a major leadership development programme to gradually          provided the underpinnings of a design framewor k that
develop experienced leaders who may move to headship           could exploit the int erplay of individualised learning
or join a leadership framework. The NCSL developed the         and social mo dels of learning in or der to r o ot
programme in partnership with the Centre for Educational       development deeply in to the school system. This was
Leadership (CEL), University of Manchester and BBC
Worldwide Interactive Learning.
   Jonathan Dale, operational direc tor for e-learning at      Leaders wanted instant access to learning that was
the NCSL, says: “While w e know our existing
pro grammes are good, the pathways through them are
                                                               relevant to their immediate needs - and these needs
ver y linear. You sign up for a whole year and are             could change from week to week
expec ted to attend all the face-to-face days. There just
isn’t a lot of flexibility. In the future it is going to be
increasingly important that programmes deal with               further developed by a r igorous r eview of existing
individual context as well as broad national agendas.          programmes, looking at what worked w ell and what
And the c ollege’s developmen t of learning                    had further unexplored potential.
technologies has driven this flexibility b y providing            The team putting together the programme quick ly
access to wider content alongside pro cesses to plot the       realised that it would need to offer a choice of content
individual learner’s journey.”                                 and real flexibilit y in how the learner engages.
   Leadership Pathways emerged in response to the              Pro grammes with fixed start and end dat es, fixed
Higher Standards, Better Scho ols for All initiative           timetables of face-to-face activities and defined orders of
(launched in Oct ober 2005) t o provide personalised           learning activities were increasingly seen as inappropriate
and flexible learning to match the current and future          for many school leaders working in relentless, hectic and
needs of school leaders. I t seeks to address the              accountable environments. Feedback strongly suggested
challenge of understanding and ac ting on the                  that leaders wanted instant access to learning that was
challenges of the DfES Five Year S trategy – embr acing        relevant to their immediate needs – and that these needs
the move to war ds extended scho ols, int egr ated             could change from week to week.
children’s centres, feder ations and multi-agency                 Jonathan explains: “Leadership Pathways is about
collab oration.                                                providing as much flexibility as possible. It is about
   “The most compelling reason for the programme was to        accepting that people need to plan their development
provide future school leaders with a programme that would      along with busy working and personal lives.We don’t want
challenge them to become mor e autonomous leaders              artificial constraints, like having to complete a set course
capable of responding to the Every Child Matters agenda,”      within a year, to interfere with this.”
says Brendan Murden, director of the CEL. “We wanted to           Mor e than a hundred experienced school leaders in
go beyond the standar d leadership development                 London, Yorkshire and the Humber region joined a pilot
programmes and challenge school leaders of the future to       programme to trial Leadership Pathways and create the
rethink their approach to leadership to be more rigorous       content and learning framework. Groups worked together
and analytical in their approach to problems and t o           to test the core programme and the face-to-face days.
stimulate more innovation and creativity.”                     Working on online content and conferencing also helped
   The programme aims to help managers lead school             to give a realistic evaluation of the pr ogramme. Pam
and communit y ac tivities more eff ectiv ely and              Holland, pilot leader for London, comments: “Participants
contribute to the developmen t of their colleagues.            have really enjoyed the online work and have had to be
This tak es place through skills de velopment in               prised from the computers, they are so engaged. They also

November/December 2006        Managing Schools Today                                                                          33
     Training Leadership Pathways

         appreciated meeting as a group and making cross-                 Every unit is divided into segments which blend learning
       school comparisons to enrich their learning.”                      activities such as research papers, think pieces, cameos, video-
                                                                          modelled practice and dynamic case studies.“The segment
                                                                          types are designed to throw light on each subject from
       Multimedia                                                         different angles,” says Ann Dering, CEL’s director of research.
       Leadership Pathways uses a range of learning media to              “Each adds a distinctive perspective to the study, from
       accommoda te all learning styles and approaches. It                relevant theory to practical examples on wider policy issues.
       combines e-learning, workshops, suppor ted workplace               We want to tempt learners to explore their chosen area in
       development and online communities to fully exploit the            some depth and to share their thinking with colleagues.”
       potential of each medium. Skilled school-based coaches                 The course acknowledges the relevance of learning to
       provide the support to turn the learning into impact at            the lear ner’s workplace as being crucial to motivation and
       school with a minimum of six sessions with each learner.           developing practical skills. The intention is to provide
         Leadership Pathways is designed round a ‘core’ of content        standalone online learning for exact regional or specialist
       which is accessed by all learners. After online registration the   needs. By working with regional providers and subject
       learning needs assessment, suggests routes through the             matter experts, the NCSL is committed to commissioning
       programme that are tailored to the needs of each learner,          a number of context-specific units each year. As Brendan
       and this feedback forms the basis of the initial coaching          Murden puts it: “Different st yles of leadership lend
       session. “It doesn’t pigeonhole you or compare you to a            themselves to different contexts. Context units afford an
       model of perfection,” says Jennifer Ibbetson, a consultant         additional dimension to the programme by providing
       with Hay Group, who collaborated on developing the needs           units tha t reflec t the particular challenge at loc al or
       assessment.“What it does is interrogate what you know, what        r egional level or to rapidly embed a new policy or
       you do and what will help you plan your future. Most of all, it    showcase developing practice.”
       asks you to think deeply about your readiness for learning.”           These units could addr ess specific community
                                                                          challenges such as high levels of social exclusion, minority
                                                                          issues, teaching and learning developments or any of a
       Milestones                                                         wide range of issues that could directly affect a school’s
       The three core days are milestones in the learning journey and     effectiveness.
       are the only mandatory elements. They aim to support the               In addition to the online units, the programme provides
       learner’s individual and school-based work with peer-based         optional face-to-face skills days which have broad
       learning in a supportiv e and                                      r elevance to leadership. Ann Dering says: “Skills days
       sustaining network. An introductory                                provide another powerful oppor tunity to learn as part of
       day provides orientation to the                                    a c ohort . They are designed to tackle int erpersonal
       programme, covering self-directed                                  leadership skills which cannot be developed online.”
       learning and the practicalities of the                                 The focus of all components is on helping leaders grow,
       work. A second core day takes place                                learn and change their behaviour to meet their schools’
       when the learners complete half of                                  objectives. The aim is a continuous focus on real change
       the pro gramme and focuses on                                        which leads to measurable improvement in learning and
       challenging existing practice, while                                  teaching. Brendan Murden suggests:“What we’ve designed
       the third is an ‘integration day’ at the                               is a leadership learning framework which will support an
       end of the programme. It’s expected                                     infinite number of possibilities for leadership
       that learners will register for one or                                   development. In effect this means it can be constantly
       two years on the programme, and                                           changed and upgraded ensuring it is at the cutting edge
       these days will support networking                                         of change and challenge.”
       for the work conducted online.                                                “I think Leadership Pathways is a blueprint for how
         The online content of the programme is organised into                     we will deliver leadership development in the
       four areas which correspond to the major leadership                          future,” concludes Jonathan Dale. “It’s built on the
       challenges related to the children’s services agenda:                         innovation of NPQH and Leading from the Middle
       ■ extending the community of learners (Networking for                          and is probably the first of the new generation of
         learning, Revisiting community)                                               programmes for scho ol leaders. We are offering
       ■ leading learning and teaching (Data and beyond,                               choice and personalisation – but it’s the learners’
         Influencing learning, Rethinking learning)                                     willingness t o deeply engage with the
       ■ resourcing change (Creative resource management,                                programme in their context that will really
         Human resources, Organisational change and                                       mean success.”
       ■ stepping up to leadership (Change and direction                                Jackie Switzer is a senior consultant at the
         setting, Leading the development of others, Leading                             Centre for Educational Leadership,
         through influence, Understanding self).                                          University of Manchester.

34                                                                          Managing Schools Today November/December 2006

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