We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

The Scottish Qualification for Headship : Programme Outline

Description Details the structure of the SQH Programme, the framework and learning support.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateNovember 22, 2002


    The Scottish Qualification for Headship
    Programme Outline

    This document is also available in pdf format (76k)


    The Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH) was introduced to ensure that people who wish to become headteachers can obtain the professional development opportunities they need prior to their appointment.

    The qualification is designed to develop and improve participants' practice as school leaders and managers and so it involves not only attending courses and workshops but also a large element of work-based learning. Because of this blend of modes of learning, the SQH Programme is delivered on the basis of a partnership between local authorities and approved Higher Education Institutions.

    The SQH Programme began as a pilot in 1998 and became fully operational in the year 2000. It is open to teachers who have 5 years' or more teaching experience and who are registered with the General Teaching Council.

    Candidates will be selected for the Programme by their employers on the basis that they have already shown the potential to develop the competences required for effective school leadership and management. The number of places available to candidates is based on the national requirement for new headteachers.

    This booklet sets out to describe:

    There is also an accelerated route to the qualification for experienced senior managers.

    For further information, please contact:

    Scott Reid
    Teachers Division
    Scottish Executive Education Department
    Victoria Quay
    EH6 6QQ
    Telephone: 0131 244 4544
    Fax: 0131 244 0957

    The Provider Consortia

    There are three approved Provider Consortia for the Scottish Qualification for Headship. Each consortium consists of a partnership of one or more HEIs with a number of Local Authorities. Candidates are selected by their employers and then register with an HEI. All the candidates must be registered with an HEI which is part of an approved provider consortium prior to undertaking the Programme.

    The contacts for the three consortia are:

    The Northern Consortium
    Dr Mike Cowie
    University of Aberdeen
    Hilton Campus
    Hilton Place
    Aberdeen AB42 3FA
    Telephone: 01224 283662
    : michael.cowie@abdn.ac.uk

    The Eastern Consortium
    Ms Jennifer Kerr
    Programme Co-ordinator
    University of Edinburgh
    Moray House Institute of Education
    Old Moray House
    Holyrood Road
    Edinburgh EH8 8AQ
    Telephone: 0131 651 6266

    The Western Consortium
    Dr Christine Forde
    Programme Co-ordinator
    University of Glasgow
    Department of Education Studies
    St. Andrew's Campus
    Duntocher Road

    Glasgow G61 4QA
    Telephone: 0141 330 3428

    Dr Jenny Reeves
    Programme Co-ordinator
    University of Stirling
    Institute of Education
    Stirling FK9 4LA
    Telephone: 01786 466276

    Ms Ann Glen
    Programme Co-ordinator
    University of Strathclyde
    Department of Educational Studies
    Jordanhill Campus
    76 Southbrae Drive
    Glasgow G13 1PP
    Telephone: 0141 950 3362

    The Structure of the SQH Programme

    The purpose of the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH) Programme is to enable candidates to develop the competences they need in order to meet the Standard for Headship in Scotland. The Standard specifies the key purpose of headship and the professional values, management functions and professional abilities which describe competence in headship. The Standard is central to the whole programme as it underpins all the processes shown in the diagram below.


    Meeting the criteria for the Standard involves the candidate going through a process which has three main stages:

    1. Assessment against the Standard.

    2. The implementation of school projects which will allow the candidate to develop the professional competences required to carry out the key functions of school leadership and management successfully.

    3. Demonstration of an holistic grasp of school leadership and management and its relationship to the key purpose of headship.

    The Programme and associated systems of learning support for the Scottish Qualification for Headship mirror this process.

    Addressing the Standard

    Assessment against the Standard. Planning learning and school projects.

    Lead implementation and evaluation of school projects which allow the candidate to practice and demonstrate competence in relation to the four key management functions.

    Integration of learning. Showing an holistic understanding of school leadership and management.

    The Programme

    Unit 1 The Standard
    Self-evaluation. Preparing for learning and development projects.

    Unit 2 Managing Core Operations
    Project work covering managing learning and teaching and people

    Unit 3 Managing School Improvement
    Project work covering managing policy, planning, resources and finance.

    Unit 4 School Leadership
    Seminars, problem solving, comparative investigation. Final assessment for SQH.

    Learning Support

    Tutor Support. Unit 1
    Guide and Study materials.

    Support from line manager, supporter and network group for learning and preparation for proof of performance. Tutor support for preparation of portfolios and commentaries, Unit 2 and 3 and Study Materials.

    Tutor/facilitator support. Expert witnesses. Unit 4 Guide and Study Materials.

    The Programme

    Entry onto the Programme will normally be through sponsorship by employers and selection will be based on completed application forms for the Programme. All candidates must have access to a suitable work environment where they can be offered whole-school management opportunities as a basis for their professional development. There will be an upper limit on the time taken to complete the award of 5 years from the point of registering with the Programme.



    Unit Type

    Unit Title


    Year 1


    Introduction to the Programme

    The Standard for Headship

    2-3 months


    The first experiential project

    Managing Core Operations

    9-12 months

    Year 2


    The second experiential project

    Managing School Improvement

    9-12 months

    Year 3


    Integrating and extending learning

    School Leadership

    3-4 months

    Overall, the Programme would normally be expected to take 2 to 3 years to complete. The level of an applicant's current post will not be a criterion for selection, however, for many people the most suitable point of entry will probably be soon after taking up a senior management post.

    The Programme will lead to the professional award of the Scottish Qualification for Headship. The professional award will be made by the Scottish Executive and will be concurrent with a postgraduate diploma award from the HEI that the candidate is registered with.

    The Programme has a credit rating on the SCOTCAT Scottish Masters scale of 120 SM points and has been validated as a postgraduate diploma by all the HEIs in the approved provider consortia.


    Learning Support


    In order to carry out the practical projects associated with Units 2 and 3, candidates will need the support of their headteachers. Essentially, the projects which candidates select should be part of their school's development plan so that they are working on tasks which the school has already identified as needing to be done. The candidate's headteacher will also need to be able to verify that the candidate has undertaken the work specified in the portfolios presented for assessment.


    In many instances, the headteacher will also act as the candidate's SQH supporter/critical friend although in some cases, this may be someone nominated by the employer from outwith the school. The critical friend will meet with the candidate on at least three occasions during Unit 2 and again during Unit 3 to advise her/him on carrying out the learning programmes and to aid critical reflection on practice.


    Candidates are also assigned a tutor who will support them through Units 1 - 3 particularly in relation to the preparation of assignments for assessment.

    SQH Co-ordinator

    The local authority SQH Co-ordinator will also arrange for regular network meetings to take place with other SQH candidates. These can be used to work through some of the study materials and also to discuss general issues and principles relating to candidates' learning programmes and project work.

    All supporters, local authority co-ordinators and tutors are required to have undertaken SQH training for their role.


    The Unit Guides

    These provide a detailed overview of the Programme and the main stages in the development process:

    • self-assessment against the Standard;
    • planning school-based projects and the learning programme;
    • critical reflection and learning from experience; and
    • preparing for assessment.

    They also outline the kind of support candidates can expect to receive and make suggestions about how they and their supporters can work together.

    The Guides also detail recommended and further reading for each Unit. There are also booklets offering advice on completing the assignments.

    Course Contact Areas

    course content areas

    Framework for the Assessment of the SQH Programme

    All Units will be assessed. The framework of assessment for the Programme is laid out below.

    Elements of Standard to be assessed


    Assessment Task

    Management Values

    Professional Functions

    Professional Abilities

    Unit 1

    Critical self-assessment and personal justification for aiming for headship. 2,000 words.

    1.1, 1.2

    Learning Programme including project plans and rationale for implementation during Unit 2.

    1.2, 1.3

    3.2.1, 3.2.4

    Unit 2

    Presentation of appropriate and authenticated portfolio of evidence of successful performance of key management functions.

    1.1, 1.3

    2.1, 2.2

    3.1, 3.2

    Critical commentary on practical project(s) and reflection on learning and personal development backed by appropriate evidence. 6,000 words.

    1.2, 1.3


    Unit 3

    Presentation of appropriate and authenticated portfolio of evidence of successful performance of key management functions.

    1.1, 1.3

    2.3, 2.4

    3.1, 3.2

    Critical commentary on practical project and reflection on learning and personal development backed by appropriate evidence. 4,000 words.

    1.2, 1.3


    Unit 4

    Report on a comparative study of a leadership and management issue in school and in organisation from another sector. 4,000 words.

    1.1, 1.2, 1.3
    1.1, 1.3


    The School Improvement Interview.

    1.1, 1.3

    3.1, 3.2

    Observational assessment of individual and group tasks.

    When candidates are assessed for Units 2 and 3, the assessment will be in two parts, a portfolio and a commentary. There will be two assessors involved in looking at each candidate's work: a field assessor and a tutor assessor. Field assessors, who will be nominated by employers, will visit each candidate at their school to verify the portfolios of evidence and talk to the candidate, their line manager and a colleague involved in one of the candidate's projects. Final assessment of each of Units 2 and 3 will depend on agreement between the field and the tutor assessor.

    Field and tutor assessors will have to undertake SQH training for their role.

    The Accelerated Route

    There will be a number of people who have already had extensive and successful experience of school leadership and management and who may also have undertaken management courses to prepare themselves for headship. Such people may be in the position to claim all the professional competences relating to the four key management functions.

    These candidates can follow an accelerated route that ensures they demonstrate all the criteria specified by the Standard for Headship in Scotland. Successful candidates on this route will be awarded the Scottish Qualification for Headship by the Scottish Executive. In relation to a postgraduate award, candidates should ask their provider consortium for information.

    Candidates for this route will have to submit a portfolio and commentary for assessment covering all the core activities listed under the management functions. There will also be a verification visit from a field assessor as with the other candidates.

    If these assignments are assessed as satisfactory, the candidate will proceed to undertake Unit 4 and final assessment.