Fast track leadership scheme seeks to attract successful managers to Headships


Accelerate to Headship is an intensive leadership development programme run by the National College for School Leadership for ‘ outstanding individuals with the ability and commitment to follow this accelerated route to becoming a headteacher’. There are two main routes through the Accelerate to Headship programme.  First, Tomorrow’s Heads. Teachers, former teachers and other non-teaching professionals who have the drive to lead primary, secondary or special schools in England should apply through Tomorrow’s Heads. If you’re not a qualified teacher, you’ll need at least two years’ suitable management experience to take part in Tomorrow’s Heads. So, Non-teachers could be taking up heads’ positions in primary and special schools within just four years. Classroom experience will not be a prerequisite for those participating in this new fast-track course, being developed by the National College.  The NCSL also wants people to apply who have experience of working with children, perhaps as a business manager or governor, or have worked in children’s services. About 170 people a year will participate in the programme, which is made up of one-to-one coaching and residential courses.

The second route is through Future Leaders. Current or former teachers committed to managing a challenging urban secondary school in London, the North West, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, Bristol, or on the south coast are advised to  apply for Future Leaders.  The first route prompted a shock Daily Mail Headline this month  ‘Managers with no teaching experience will be given headteacher posts’. The policy of putting non-teachers in charge of schools was kicked off by a Government-commissioned study into school leadership three years ago, which suggested that splitting the tasks of administrative head and head of teaching and learning would make the job of school leader more feasible, as well as enabling the senior teacher to focus on their role as lead practitioner.

The National Association of Headteachers, however, has campaigned against appointing school leaders with no classroom experience. Mike Welsh, NAHT vice president, claimed the course was an attempt to ‘cut corners’. He said: ‘Those who are not trained teachers will not be able to raise standards. This is a way of having a “chief executive” style role, which is wrong. ‘It’s all in the name “headteacher” – they should lead teaching and learning. Recruitment difficulties are a separate issue and the best way of solving that is to give heads more support and make the job more attractive.’  Both routes are described as ‘ intensive, demanding, three-year leadership development programmes, which will give you all the knowledge and experience you need to apply for the National Professional Qualification in Headship (NPQH), the mandatory qualification for headship.’

On completion of NPQH, they will then be eligible to run a school – and as the NCSL puts it ‘change thousands of children’s lives’. Applicants who apply have to pass cognitive ability tests, a one-day assessment process, give personal references and submit an essay. They will also need a reference from a head.  Those selected will then spend three years training, supported by a “leadership development adviser”. They will receive one-to-one coaching, work experience in outstanding schools and residential courses.  Both programmes are built around individuals personal development needs, with an emphasis on school-based activity, learning on the job, and coaching and mentoring. Throughout, individuals receive one-on-one support from their own personal leadership development adviser who will act as a ‘critical friend’ and coach.

This is the first attempt by the National College to run a fast-track course since a previous version ‘Fast Track Teaching’ was dropped two years ago. Fast Track was a programme developed and funded by the  then Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (eventually becoming the responsibility of the NCSL) and sought to identify, develop and retain talented individuals from within the  teaching profession by offering an enriched professional development route to early positions of senior school leadership .Although evaluations of this  programme determined that  it was broadly meeting its objectives, it was nonetheless  judged to be too expensive – costing £43,000 per participant.  Tomorrow’s Heads will cost around £11 million a year. About 170 people a year will participate in the programme.


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