New Institute of Leadership to tackle severe shortage of inspirational heads

22 April 2016
Sir Anthony Seldon

Sir Anthony Seldon

The University of Buckingham is setting up a new Institute of School Leadership with the backing of Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and free market pioneer Toby Young.

The Buckingham Institute of School Leadership (BISL), to be launched in 2017, aims to become the country’s dominant supplier of leadership training for headships and executive headships.

The University is currently ranked number one in Britain among all universities for the quality of its teaching in The Times / Sunday Times table, and has a long-standing record of innovation in teacher training and excellence in educational research.

Learning from the experience of the now closed National College of School Leadership, founded in 2000, the Buckingham Institute of School Leadership will be led by Sir Anthony Seldon. He has been one of the most successful heads in the independent sector over the last 25 years. Brighton College and then Wellington College both improved under him quicker than other independent schools at that time. Wellington improved from 256 to 21 in the Sunday Times A-Level table from 2006 to 2014 and achieved ‘Outstanding’ in every category at inspection in 2014.

The Buckingham Institute of School Leadership will fast track top graduates into schools after they leave university. These fast stream teachers will be given the opportunity of seeing different kinds of schools in the independent and state sector as their careers develop. It will train leaders not only for individual headship but also executive headship of several schools. It will also bring in proven leaders from other sectors and retrain them as heads and executive heads. It will draw on the best of leadership preparation across business and the public services.

The new institute will operate under the auspices of its highly regarded School of Education. Former Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Chris Woodhead, who died last year, set up a teacher training department at the University of Buckingham when he joined in 2002 as Professor of Education after leaving Ofsted. He was determined to improve the standard of leadership in schools and was instrumental in setting up a postgraduate course at Buckingham which has successfully trained many assistant and deputy heads to become outstanding headteachers. Dean of the Faculty, Professor Geraint Jones, who worked with Chris Woodhead at schools chain Cognita, said: “We have a track record of developing and supporting outstanding headteachers. The new Leadership Institute is a natural next step for us. With the national shortage of heads, part of Sir Chris’s vision was to build a qualification which would prepare teachers to lead schools. Our course is run by successful heads who, in true Woodhead style, cut through the unnecessary bureaucracies of leadership to get to the point of how to lead people.”

Sir Anthony said: “There is no more important issue today for schools than the quality of headship – not academisation, not curriculum, not exams, not inspections. Nothing is more important in schools than headship.

“We have done too little in Britain to recruit and properly train the best potential heads, and to understand the character traits and professional skills needed for great school leaders, in part because we have been too inward-looking. We need a far more dynamic approach to identifying, nurturing and preparing great school leaders. The Buckingham Institute of Leadership will transform the landscape of British schooling, and the performance of our school students, which badly needs improving further.”

Michael Wilshaw said: “I propose a College of Leadership at the University of Buckingham. It will be to deliver good leaders to schools and colleges across the country.”

Toby Young, the Chief Executive of the West London Free School Academy Trust, added: “The shortage of headteachers in this country is rapidly approaching crisis point. Creating a new college of school leadership and getting senior managers in other fields to retrain as heads is one way to solve this problem, but it won’t work unless it gets the buy-in from teachers, parents and governors. That’s why Sir Anthony Seldon is the ideal person to set up this new college. He’s an experienced headteacher with a proven track record of raising standards.”