Rogue heads of public schools snubbing instructions to attend leadership training at the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) could, in short order, face the wrath of Education Minister Ronald Thwaites.
Thwaites told The Gleaner yesterday that some principals who are clearly in need of leadership training are openly defying instructions to attend programmes at the institution established for that purpose.
NCEL Principal Director Dr Maurice Smith told The Gleaner yesterday that approximately 60 per cent of the cohort of more than 400 principals have met at least the basic requirements, while the remaining 40 per cent are yet to so do.
That figure far surpasses a previous report that 25 per cent of principals enrolled in the Effective Principals' Training Programme had failed to show up for training up to November 2012.
"It is this 40 per cent that has not met the mark to whom the minister is referring," said Smith.
He suggested that as a result of the exposure to the training programme, members of the inaugural cohort have been able to reconstruct their understanding of school leadership.
"They are in a better position to lead positive change in their institutions," said Smith of those principals.
Thwaites, while indicating that no principal has yet been booted because of disobedience, served notice that successful applicants for positions as principals in the future would have to pass through the NCEL.
"This is not a regulation, but that is the course that we are charting," he said.
Thwaites signalled that he was running out of patience with the delinquent principals and argued that some of those who have stayed away from the NCEL are operating under-performing institutions.
"None of us can be too big for learning," he said.
"There are some principals who feel that they know everything and when we call them to the NCEL training, even though their schools are underperforming, they don't want to go," he added.
The minister said when the principals opt to attend, they choose not to do the assignments because they consider themselves "too big for that".
"I [will] write to their board chairmen to inform them that unless they comply, disciplinary proceedings should be instituted," said Thwaites.
He told The Gleaner that, while it remains too early to judge, there are indications that the NCEL is emerging as a success story.
Thwaites disclosed that approximately 400 serving principals have received training since the institution opened under the previous administration, as well as more than 120 aspiring principals.
"I want it to be the rule that if they don't go through that course, they don't get appointed," he said.
Effective management key
Added Thwaites: "Effective management is the key to an effective school and having them in the classroom or being a vice-principal for years - or seniority, church affiliation or politics - none of those can really provide us with an assurance of competence."
Thwaites cited the principal of Trench Town High School, Yvette Bloomfield, indicating that "since the course, I sense a new strength in her backbone".
He added: "I just think of her as someone doing best by it."
The NCEL was set up in 2011 to develop a cadre of well-trained leaders in the education system. It is aimed specifically at principals, as certain deficiencies had been identified in the quality of leadership provided at that spectrum of the teaching profession.