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Building tomorrow’s leaders today – lessons from the National College for School Leadership


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DateJune 20, 2012 Posted by: Charles Humphreys   Keywords: blended learning, innovation, leadership skills, learner engagement, learners, serious games

The National College for School Leadership is where the future heads of our country’s schools are trained to become effective and inspirational leaders.

The College already had an accelerated learning programme in place for those from an educational background, but it recognised that for those who had an interest in becoming a headteacher from outside of teaching, something different was required.

Similar to a squirrel sizing up the juicy nut encased inside a hard shell, the College had to find ways to develop a diverse group of individuals coming from non-educational backgrounds. Tomorrow’s Heads became the answer, and this case study shows how blended learning can ‘extract the nut’, or talent, from a diverse group of experienced business leaders, and produce excellent school leaders of the future.

Developing leadership skills
The National College’s challenge of developing the skills of those on the Tomorrow’s Heads programme is shared by business leaders : that if the UK is to experience economic recovery then it must develop the qualitative and quantitative skills of its leaders in order to;

  • Improve efficiency
  • Improve productivity
  • Increase agility

For the College, this meant working with partner Lightbox to develop an innovative online approach to the online element of the Tomorrow’s Heads programme, to prepare participants to become inspirational educational leaders.

Facing the challenge
On the road to developing a bespoke elearning solution, the College and Lightbox faced a number of challenges that they would need to overcome, including:

  • Changing to a modular delivery - in line with the national policy to move away from commissioned programmes towards school based delivery.
  • Diversity of participants - Trainees will come with very different experiences and possess a wide range of learning styles, knowledge and perceptions of school environments. They will therefore require a highly-personalised approach that will allow them to quickly develop new skills and enhance existing knowledge.
  • Competency-based curriculum - The diverse mix of existing knowledge will mean that the learning has to be structured around what is familiar territory for the entrants: a set of management and leadership competencies. This approach will allow participants to quickly identify their existing strengths and those areas where they need to develop.
  • Educational context - As some participants were drawn from outside education, providing a context for the competencies and learning is highly important. Not only will participants have to develop the necessary leadership skills, but also how they will relate to the classroom, pupils’ learning and managing the school workforce.
  • Pressure - Being a headteacher is a highly responsible and pressured role. The materials will need to convey both the stress of the role and the rewards that it brings. The online experience will have to allow the participant to appreciate the need for quick, decisive decision-making and how to consider and evaluate the likely outcomes that would result.T

The Tomorrow’s Heads programme at the National College and the emerging Modular Curriculum content provides some powerful lessons on how to develop the talent of leaders from diverse backgrounds in any organisation.

So how did the Tomorrow’s Head programme achieve this? Click on the case study below to download

This case study has been independently investigated and developed by Towards Maturity as part of our Good Practice Partnership with eLearning Age and the eLearning Awards. It was first published in eLearning Age Magazine in 2012.

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