Train your way to the top job

A new course helps college heads tackle the tricky issues of managing people and money

When Sunaina Mann was appointed principal of North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) 16 months ago, she became the first Asian woman in the UK to take charge of a further-education college.

In spite of having completed a course for senior college managers five years earlier, she was keen to get as much experience as possible and jumped at the opportunity of a short induction programme for new principals run by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL).

Before Mann's appointment in September 2005, Nescot had been declared a "failing college". In helping to turn things around, she acknowledges that she was forced to learn on the job as well as putting into practice what she picked up during her training.

That is one reason why Sunaina Mann was among the first people to put her name forward for a new qualifying programme for further education (FE) principals that gets under way later this month.

While school heads have been required to gain a leadership qualification since the mid-1990s, there has, until now, been no such requirement in FE. Having announced in September that it was introducing a qualification for new principals, the Government decided when launching its FE Bill in November that the qualification should be extended to principals moving jobs, as well as those taking up their first post.

Mann expects the programme, also run by the CEL, to take about three months. But she will only be away from college for six days and should complete much of the work through distance learning. Among the topics to be covered are governance, funding and human resources, as well as themes such as ethics and leadership in the public sector.

She is keen to pick up tips from other principals. "In education, you always want to learn and to know that you're providing the best," she explains. "You want to make sure that you're not missing out on something that will benefit your organisation."

The 32 principals starting the qualification this month include people who have been in the post for one or two years, as well as some who have been in the job far longer. As the first to take the new programme, their fees will be paid for by the Department for Education and Skills.

By the end of the year, the CEL expects up to 100 principals to have either completed or be taking the programme. Each candidate will be assigned a "critical friend", either from FE or another sector, who can advise them on their leadership style.

Lynne Sedgmore, the CEL's chief executive, says the programme will be highly personalised and reflect the demands placed on principals in colleges. "The most effective leadership learning is work-related," she says. "We are not talking about academic learning that's separate to what people do in the workplace."

Alison Clarke, principal of Canterbury College, is looking forward to work-shadowing a leader from outside FE, as well as learning more about finance and strategy. Before moving to the college in 1992, initially as personnel manager, she worked for the Storehouse retail group.

"Working with other managers is part of any leadership training in the retail sector. You get to understand the pressures that people are under and bounce ideas off them," says Clarke, who was appointed principal at Canterbury a year ago after eight months as acting principal.

After 22 years as a principal, Ioan Morgan is likely to be among the most experienced people on the first programme. He is in charge of his third FE college - Warwickshire College - and is in the process of overseeing his fourth merger.

Morgan believes the qualification should focus on issues such as how to manage change. "I find that I'm learning something every day," he says. "The challenges of the job now are quite different from when I first took it on."

While it might appear that FE is catching up with schools, says Morgan, college principals need different training to head teachers. "The role of an FE principal is much more complex," he says. "We don't get any of the support that schools receive from local authorities. We are stand-alone corporations, and so a qualification of this sort is certainly long overdue."

scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

Early Years Foundation Stage Primary Teacher in Lytham St.Annes

£80 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Early Years and Foundation Stag...

KS1 Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

£80 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Preston: KS1 Primary Teacher Jobs in Bla...

Supply Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

£80 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Supply Primary Teacher Jobs in ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape