pounds 30m bill for school heads' training

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The Independent Online
A planned compulsory qualification for aspiring headteachers must be backed up with pounds 30m government funding each year to prove workable, heads' leaders claimed yesterday.

On the day that applications were invited for the first voluntary professional headship courses, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) warned that potential heads should not be expected to dip into their own pockets or their schools' reserves to fund mandatory training.

There was also a danger that introducing a compulsory rigorous qualification could worsen existing problems in recruiting heads in some parts of the country, the NAHT said.

Department for Education and Employment sources yesterday said issues of funding the new qualification would be part of a consultation being carried out over the summer before the publication of an education Bill in the autumn.

Under the proposed legislation, all prospective heads would be expected to achieve the qualification in order to be appointed a school leader.

Outlining the plans yesterday during a visit to a primary school in Brixton, south London, the Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that boosting heads' leadership and management skills was essential if school standards were to rise.

He said: "I have never found a good school with a bad headteacher. There are too many schools without the strong leadership they need. That is why today we take the important step of introducing mandatory qualifications for all new headteachers.

"In the future, no one will be appointed as a headteacher until they have demonstrated they have the qualities to lead and motivate staff and pupils so that our children get the education they deserve."

David Hart, the NAHT general secretary, said that his union wholeheartedly supported the new professional qualification, which would allow aspiring heads to demonstrate proven skills to governors.

But he warned that pounds 30m would be needed annually to cover the costs of a potential 10,000 candidates taking the pounds 3,000 courses. He said: "Candidates must have the right of access to these courses. asking them to pay would be rather like asking somebody who wants to be promoted from colonel to brigadier to put their hand in their pocket to go through staff college."

Meanwhile, the first advertisements were placed yesterday for the new National Professional Qualification for Headteachers - the qualification proposed by the last government as a voluntary requirement for all heads in order to raise standards of leadership in schools.

Although Labour intends to make formal training compulsory, Department for Education and Employment sources said ministers saw no reason why the NPQH, developed by the Teacher Training Agency (TTA), should not form the foundation for the mandatory version.

Work towards the new qualification would depend on the experience levels of aspiring heads, most of whom are expected to be serving deputy headteachers. The TTA expects that some will qualify in a year, but others may take up to three years to complete their training.

NPQH training will include one compulsory module, teaching potential heads to develop an "educational vision committed to raising standards". They will be taught strategies for translating that vision into practice and how to monitor school effectiveness.The compulsory module will also cover accountability to governors and parents for the efficiency and effectiveness of a school.