New to Senior Leadership Programme

For the first time in many years, there is an opportunity to raise the leadership capability and capacity of the Further Education (FE) sector through prestigious and high impact programmes built around what leaders have stated they want.

The New to Senior Leadership programme has been commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), the sector owned, government-backed workforce development body for the Further Education and Training sector.

The programme is funded and subsidised by the Department for Education for eligible organisations funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). This high profile New to Senior Leadership Programme is designed and delivered in partnership with the Birmingham Leadership Institute (BLI) at the University of Birmingham.

Programme overview

Those who are new to senior leadership in the FE sector are faced with the challenge of stepping up to their first major leadership role in a turbulent environment, building relationships with a range of internal and external stakeholders and developing their understanding of what it means to be an effective FE leader in the 21st century. To meet those challenges, leaders must be capable of combining a host of skills and attributes as influential systems leaders. The innovative New to Senior Leadership Programme (NSL) has been designed to meet these challenges.

The NSL programme is for leaders who have taken up a senior leadership role within the last 18 months, or for a senior leader that would like the opportunity to take part in leadership development for their strategic role. Aligned to the ETF’s leadership pipeline, it will enable senior leaders to take up their roles more effectively and forge a cross-sector cadre of leaders.

The programme will support leaders in several ways: a blend of theory ‘bursts’, leadership skills development, exploring knowledge and evidence, debate and facilitated group discussions, action learning sets, and learning from leaders, from the FE sector and the wider system. Importantly, the approach is underpinned by an emphasis on practical application to the real challenges faced by new senior leaders.

The NSL programme has been designed and delivered by a highly-skilled and experienced team based at the University of Birmingham’s Leadership Institute. The team has a track record of running successful award-winning leadership programmes over 30 years, for leaders at all levels, across all sectors of the economy and they bring a particular understanding of the needs of senior leaders.

Benefits for participants will include being taught by thought leaders and experts in leadership development, as well as learning with peers in a supportive and stretching environment.

The NSL programme was launched in January 2021 and due to its outstanding success, a further two cohorts are planned for this Autumn (see below for dates). Places on the programme are limited, to ensure every participant has a high quality experience.

Programme dates

Subject to Covid and social distancing guidance, workshops 1 and 4 and the alumni event will be held at either the Edgbaston Park Hotel, University of Birmingham or The Exchange in Birmingham city centre. Workshops 2 and 3 will be hosted online.

The action learning sets, also a blend of face to face and online delivery, will usually take place on the afternoon of the workshop.

Evening Leadership in Action events, with expert guest speakers, will be hosted online between 7.00 – 8.30pm.

Individual coaching sessions will be arranged at the start of the programme.





Workshop 1

Wednesday 8 December

10am – 4pm

Edgbaston Park Hotel, Birmingham


Date TBC with facilitator and group



Leadership in Action 1

Wednesday 12th January

7pm – 8:30pm


Leadership in Action 2

Tuesday 8 February

7pm – 8:30pm


Workshop and ALS 2

Thursday 13th January

8:45am – 1pm


Leadership in Action 3

Tuesday 1st March

7pm – 8.30pm


Workshop and ALS 3

Thursday 10th March

8.45am – 1pm


Leadership in Action 4




Workshop 4

Thursday 7th April

10am – 4pm

The Exchange, Birmingham


Date TBC with facilitator and group




Programme costs

The cost of this programme is £975 per participant.

This includes all materials, workshops, coaching sessions and learning sets and access to the virtual campus during and for 3 months after the programme.  It also includes lunch and refreshments during face to face events and excludes any overnight accommodation or travel costs.

Key themes

The programme covers a range of leadership themes, determined by extensive research into the leadership development requirements of newly appointed senior leaders. These include:

  • self-management, self-awareness and resilience
  • clarity on the expectations of the senior leadership role
  • building and leading effective teams
  • relationship management and developing impactful networks
  • negotiation and influencing
  • leading change
  • governance and strategic decision making
  • effective stakeholder management
  • operating in a cross-college role and wider systems leadership
  • corporate responsibility and being a member of the senior leadership team.

The programme is underpinned by the FE Leadership Excellence Framework and the ETF Model for Professional Learning and Development.

Programme delivery

The programme will be delivered in a variety of ways over six months:

  • four workshops – combining face to face and interactive online delivery
  • four Leadership in Action events – online evening sessions with invited senior leaders and leadership experts from FE and other sectors
  • four Action Learning Sets, focused on translating programme learning into specific actions
  • two one-hour 1:1 coaching sessions
  • personal reflection
  • application of learning to workplace
  • Virtual Learning Environment: a range of resources such as reading, videos, discussion groups relevant to senior leadership in the FE sector
  • an alumni event three months after completing the programme.

The BLI team is highly experienced in delivering virtual workshops and learning sets. We anticipate a hybrid delivery, with two workshops (1 and 4) face to face at the University and two workshops (2 and 3) delivered online. This may be subject to change depending on COVID restrictions at the time of delivery.

A suitable platform, such as Microsoft teams or Zoom, will be selected for online delivery.

Key benefits

As participants on the programme, you will benefit from:

  • Acquiring the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours to succeed and operate successfully at senior level.
  • Building your personal resilience, confidence, influence, and capabilities to prepare for the challenges and demands of senior leadership.
  • Being critically aware of your personal approach to leadership – biases, blind spots, attitude to diversity – and how to continue to develop your leadership after the programme.
  • Tackling real workplace issues, reflecting what is needed to promote confident high-performing, and continuously-improving organisations.
  • Building a powerful, regional and national support network of like-minded, influential leaders that impact the organisation and system.
  • Being able to move beyond organisational leadership, into system leadership roles that span organisational boundaries.
  • Working more strategically with greater collaboration across organisations.

Programme attendance requirements

Full attendance is required at all workshops, as well as participation in Action Learning Sets, coaching and 4 hours of self-directed learning per week. The award of a certificate of completion is dependent upon this.

Commitment to approximately four hours learning per week will be required, some of which will take place during evenings, and will include reading, videos and events such as the online Leadership in Action series, which are hosted by senior leaders from various sectors.  It is advised that participants follow the learning schedule to gain maximum benefit from the programme.

Is the programme right for me?

If you are new to senior leadership in FE and are looking for a programme that will give you the confidence, the support and the challenge to help you develop your career, this is the programme for you.

It is a highly competitive programme and places are limited. We welcome applications from people who meet the criteria outlined below (or refer to application pack), and who can demonstrate the passion and commitment to the personal and organisational development that is needed from future FE leaders.

New to Senior Leadership Programme Criteria

  • A senior leader that has been in post for less than 18 months or a senior leader that would like the opportunity to take part in leadership development for their strategic role.
  • A broad understanding of the role of senior leaders and the importance of leadership in the FE sector.
  • Support from your manager or a senior organisational sponsor to undertake the programme.
  • A firm commitment to attend all programme events and undertake personally-directed learning throughout and beyond the programme.
  • Demonstrable leadership potential in Further Education.
  • A passion for improvement and a commitment to creating opportunities for shared leadership and system-wide transformation as a leader in the FE sector.
  • A strong interest in your own leadership development and in sharing learning and experience with others.
  • Willingness and commitment to find ways to apply programme learning to your leadership practice and to continue your learning and development beyond the life of the programme.
  • An understanding of how your role can and will contribute to improving learning outcomes and opportunities for your local population.

How to reserve your place

If you wish to receive an application pack, please send an expression of interest to Annella Williams by emailing

Please submit your application as soon as possible but no later than 9am on Friday 26 November.

All applicants must complete the detailed application form, obtain support from an organisational sponsor (usually your CEO/Principal or line manager) and have identified a work-based project or focus for application of the learning.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the programme or would like further information, please contact Zoë Card by emailing

Prof. Christopher Pietroni – Director of the Birmingham Leadership Institute

Christopher’s work focuses on leadership and change in complex systems with a particular interest in applying and adapting insights from narrative, framing, movement building and adaptive leadership. Working in the UK, US and Europe he leads a number of senior executive and graduate development programmes and post-graduate teaching/Exec Ed as well as consulting widely.

He is a long-time collaborator with Prof Marshall Ganz and in 2016 was a member of Prof Ron Heifetz’s adaptive leadership teaching team at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Christopher has wide experience directing, designing and leading systems leadership programmes across the public sector including: Senior Civil Service Programme (Civil Service Leadership Academy) Leadership for Change (Systems Leadership Steering Group), Skills for Systems Leadership (PHE), Future Vision (Leadership Centre), C21st Aspiring Directors Programme (University of Birmingham), National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government (University of Birmingham).

Christopher has been a Senior Fellow at the Leadership Centre and a Senior Associate at the Kings Fund. In 2017-18 he was Fellow of Practice at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and he received the Lucius N. Littauer Fellowship from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2010.

Cohort Directors

Dr Annette Neath, Programme Director

Annette is Senior Fellow at Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Programme Director for 21st Century Public Servant Leadership Development programme for Cornwall County Council and former Director of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme. She lectures in Organisational Development and Change; Leading People and Organisations; Innovation and Improvement in Healthcare.

Annette is an occupational psychologist with 18 years’ experience in designing and delivering leadership programmes for executive and senior leaders. She is an experienced executive coach and has expertise in organisational change and quality improvement. She has specific expertise in blended learning design, receiving the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Gold award for her contribution to the EGA programme. She has a particular interest in the leadership of organisation change, the focus of her PhD research and has worked as consultant and expert advisor to the Department of Health, numerous NHS organisations, NatWest Bank, Prison service, Leicestershire Constabulary, Shaw Group and Anglian Water.

Before joining HSMC, Annette held senior leadership posts with the NHS Modernisation Agency and the Institute for Innovation and Improvement. She designed and led leadership development programmes, led research and evaluation programmes on the spread and sustainability of national NHS service improvement programmes, and facilitated national and international master classes for The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and International Society for Quality Improvement (ISQUA).

Annette has worked as an independent consultant and a visiting lecturer/fellow at the Universities of Warwick, Cranfield, Nottingham Trent and Lincoln and as an associate with Praxis (Cranfield), OPM and Deloitte.

She holds a BSc in psychology, MSc in Occupational Psychology and PhD. She is a qualified executive coach, NLP Master Practitioner, MBTI Step 1 and II, Oshry Power+Systems and accredited facilitator for the NHS Healthcare Leadership Model 360.

The most pressing contemporary challenges – local, national and international – are frequently characterised by complexity, difference, disruption and conflict. The Birmingham Leadership Institute exists to research and develop the leadership required to make progress on them.

The BLI’s mission is to:

  • Better understand, through research and practice, the leadership required at all levels to enable progress on complex organisational, social, political, environmental, commercial and economic challenges.
  • Educate, train and develop people with the knowledge, skills and capacities to practice this leadership.
  • Inform public debate and the public understanding of leadership.

We believe that leadership always reflects values. We value:

  • Collaborative leadership across boundaries, sectors, organisations, spatial levels and areas of life.
  • Inclusive leadership that promotes, reflects and prizes diversity and seeks to develop the leadership of others.
  • Responsible leadership that seeks to enable positive and sustainable outcomes for people, places and our planet.