Professional standards for leaders are coming

Supporting leaders and managers has been a fundamental aspect of the ETF’s activity since its inception. In order to truly get behind the FE and Training system, supporting those who lead it as they strive to deliver excellence for their teachers, trainers and learners is a prerequisite. Doing so is central to our core values and our belief in its importance underpins the support for leaders we have developed.

Working alongside experienced sector leaders, we have recognised the desire for coherent support that nurtures a pipeline of talent and developed a suite of highly valued programmes aimed at individuals at the various stages of their leadership development journey.

Our mission is to continue developing this pipeline, ensuring that experienced teachers, middle managers and aspiring leaders are provided with the continuous professional development they require to progress. The next landmark for that mission will come this Autumn, when we will launch a new set of professional standards for leaders. Those standards will set out a framework for excellence in leadership across our sector, and further underpin the design and development of our leadership development programmes.

Developing the leadership standards

The Professional Standards for Leaders in the Further Education (FE) and Training sector were developed in 2021, informed by research and feedback from the sector. That work included collaboration with a group of leading CEOs/Principals examining the development of leadership capability in the face of the challenges the sector has faced, and the ETF’s wider role in supporting leadership and governance with high-quality provision.

The standards were trialled by participants on existing ETF programmes at different levels of leadership, who provided feedback on them. Moderation, evaluation and review were undertaken by ETF at each stage of their development, and a leadership steering group was actively engaged in that process. These standards are both for, and importantly by, the sector.

How will these standards fit into the wider ETF support offer for the sector?

They have been designed to provide guidance for individuals and organisations about professional expectations of leadership roles, as well as to help identify where relevant high-quality training is needed to support future and existing leaders. They are intended as aspiration statements and as a tool to help reflection, the assessment of roles, and the identification of skills gaps.

They will complement the Professional Standards for Teachers – the revised version of which were published earlier this year – focusing on the core values, knowledge and skills of individuals. The intention is that this design will make them easier to understand and use for teachers and trainers aspiring to progress into leadership.

There will be four sets of leadership standards, reflecting the different stages of a leader’s career. They will be launched in the Autumn and will be available on the ETF website. I encourage you to look out for them there and to sign up for the ETF’s newsletters – if you haven’t already done so – in which we will highlight their availability.

The four stages are, of course, also mirrored in the leadership development programmes the ETF offers such as Stepping into leadership, Leading from the Middle, New to senior leadership, and the ETF-Saïd Business School leadership programmes. If you’re not already familiar with those programmes, I encourage you to read more about them.

As the standards launch, we will be working closely with a small group of early adopter colleges on embedding them to help develop their leadership and management teams. This will help us to assess how the standards might inform training needs analyses and whole organisational development for leaders.

If you would also like to get involved in advising and guiding the development of the standards, or have any questions about them, please contact me.

Anju Virdee
Interim National Head of Leadership, Education and Training Foundation

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