Headteachers are missing out on training opportunities because of funding shortages and heavy workloads, according to research commissioned by the Department of Education.
The study by CooperGibson Research found that very few leadership development courses are actually targeted at headteachers or executive headteachers.
It also found that “budgetary constraints, workload at full capacity and staffing shortages” are creating barriers that prevent them from accessing this training.
Courses designed for heads also tend to be “informal” and involve reflecting on “the impact of one’s own behaviour”.
The cost of accessing external provision was prohibitive for several MATs and teaching school alliances
In contrast, the majority of leadership development opportunities identified by the study were targeted at middle leaders and were found to be more formal, involving practical exercises such as learning “how to hold a difficult conversation”.
The report said that, while there was a range of training provision available for school leadership development, this was “not always easily or efficiently found”.
Several multi-academy trusts and teaching school alliances involved in the research also reported that the cost of accessing external courses was prohibitive, forcing them to work on developing new ways to deliver training in-house instead.
Researchers suggested a number of potential improvements to current leadership development programmes, such as adapting the content to keep up with the evolving demands of leadership roles in education and the “fast-paced” changes to national policy and the curriculum.
More collaborative approaches to working and learning were also recommended, as were “increased opportunities for self-reflection”, and “space to apply new theories or approaches in practice and to evaluate these”, both of which the report said could be a challenge given the pressures of teaching workloads.
The research looked at the school leadership development market by carrying out web searches for training opportunities, exploring written examples of good practice in a literature review, and interviewing representatives from MATs and TSAs by phone.
This process identified a myriad of individual leadership courses and programmes: 332 of them delivered across 93 providers, including teaching schools, universities, specialist providers and private training providers.
A small proportion of courses were offered by professional bodies, unions, charities, local authorities and MATs.
The findings are being “used to inform the approach in developing a new model of delivery and content framework for future NPQs [national professional qualifications]”, according to the DfE’s summary of projects by its analytical associate pool.
In March 2017, the government developed a new and improved set of national professional qualifications to better prepare school leaders for their work. These included a qualification in executive leadership for those aspiring to headship.
The new qualifications were developed with headteachers, MAT chief executives and other sector experts, and will be offered by 44 accredited providers from September 2017.
In February, Schools Week reported on the findings of the education select committee’s teacher recruitment and retention inquiry, which called on the government to give all teachers the chance to formally improve their professional development as one way to boost retention rates.
The committee urged the government to “recognise its own role in promoting the professional development of teachers”, including a “central statement of annual CPD entitlement” for each teacher.