More heads to help weak schools

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The Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to more than double the number of teachers involved in the National Leaders of Education (NLE) programme over the next four years in a bid to turn around the fortunes of under-performing schools.

The number of NLEs - outstanding headteachers committed to supporting struggling schools - will rise from 393 to 1000 by 2014. In addition, the number of local leaders of education (LLEs) – successful heads who work as coaches and mentors to other local headteachers – will also increase from 1,161 to 2,000 by 2014.

Heads joining the programme will be expected to use their skills and experience to advise struggling schools and help them improve. The role of NLEs will also be strengthened and extended in a white paper, with new incentives for the most dramatic improvements in performance.

Michael Gove said: "Great schools are the product of great leadership. There are many superb heads in our state system doing a wonderful job. But there are also many schools which are still not giving children the start in life they deserve. We still have one of the most unequal education systems in the world and half of young people leave school without the basic qualifications you need to succeed.

That’s why we will invest in recruiting more great heads to turn round our weaker schools and extend the academy model so more strong schools can help weaker schools."

Funding for the Leaders in Education programme is to rise from £4.2m in 2010-11 to £7.2m by 2014, Mr Gove said.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I think the model of working with schools to help each other is exactly the right one - but I don't think models which compel schools to collaborate generate the effect that we would want.

"Before the leadership of a school is changed, or the school pushed towards becoming an academy, it should be ensured that the school has received the best support it can get from external experts."

NLEs need to have demonstrated sustained high performance in their own school before being awarded this new status, and they will only maintain NLE status if they succeed in turning around underperforming schools. The NLE model has a proven track record. Primary schools that received NLE support in 2007-08 saw a ten percentage point increase in pupils reaching the expected level by age 11 and in secondary schools pupils’ success at GCSE improved twice as fast as the national average.

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