The Into Headship Qualification

Leadership development is a key area on the national policy agenda in Scottish education and alongside a clear commitment to leadership at all levels within school, the specialist role of headteachers must also be recognised.

A consistent finding from school effectiveness and school improvement literature is the significance of headship in the development and performance of a school.

SCEL led the development of the new national Into Headship qualification designed for those aspiring to headship. There are currently seven university partners accredited by the General Teaching Council for Scotland to deliver the qualification. In our first year of delivery 145 participants from across 31 local authorities enrolled on cohort one of the Into Headship programme.

The Into Headship qualification was designed by a group made up of universities who delivered the Scottish Qualification for Headship, local authorities, Educational Scotland, GTCS and SCEL. It focuses on the specificity of headship and the strategic leadership role of the head teacher, and is designed as a 60 credit postgraduate certificate qualification at SCQF level 11 which, longer term, will form part of a Masters leadership pathway. On successful completion participants are also awarded the Standard for Headship.

The Standard for Headship lays down the foundations for professionalism and leadership required by all headteachers. It is a framework for aspiring headteachers and identifies key qualities that are required to succeed as an experienced headteacher.

The previous two routes to achieving the Standard for Headship in Scotland, the Flexible Route to Headship and the Scottish Qualification for Headship, are no longer available.

Qualification Aims

Into Headship aims to ensure aspirant headteachers are supported to develop and continue to build the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding required of senior leaders. The qualification is aimed at those teachers whose next post will be that of a headteacher, likely to be within two to three years.

It aims to enable candidates to:

  • develop and deepen the ability to critically reflect and enquire to enhance their strategic leadership practice
  • develop their strategic leadership and management skills in practice as specified by the Standard for Headship in Scotland
  • build and apply sound knowledge and understanding of strategic leadership and management practice and theory in the context of the role of headteacher
  • design and initiate a strategic change initiative which will strengthen the school’s capability for improvement to,
  • meet the Standard for Headship.

How Into Headship is delivered

The qualification has a two-course structure and combines a number of delivery approaches to enable access across Scotland:

  • Practice-based learning: the qualification seeks to foster a strong link between the principles of strategic leadership and practice in schools and so a major focus is the practice-based element where participants identify an issue or problem facing their school and build a strategic change process to address this
  • Taught elements: through face to face delivery, or through digitally-mediated taught sessions where the focus is on developing knowledge and critical analysis and on building social and collaborative learning
  • Directed study: with set reading, online study tasks, reflective activities and short school-based tasks involving exploring practice
  • Social cohort learning: collaborative tasks through workshops on taught elements and online, particularly through the use of forums. Collaborative learning and the building of networks are an important element in the development of aspiring and newly appointed headteachers
  • Experiential pedagogies: an important outcome of this qualification is the building of leadership capacity and capability. The evaluation and review of the previous national qualifications highlighted the potency of mentoring and coaching methodologies in leadership development, both for aspirant headteachers and for their role in building leadership capability in their school. Set tasks in the taught elements and directed study components build opportunities for peer coaching and mentoring
  • Support from many sources including Coach, Headteacher Mentor, LA/Independent School Co-ordinator and Field Assessor as well as SCEL.

Into Headship – Coach specification

Into Headship – Professional Verifier’s Role

Into Headship – Headteacher mentor specification

Into Headship – Local authority mentor specification

Applying for the qualification

There is a nationally agreed application form which is available below. Please discuss your potential application with your line manager and/or employer before completing the application form as it will need to be completed by you, supported by your head teacher and endorsed by your local authority or employer. If applying from a local authority setting your application, once agreed with your head teacher, should be submitted to your local authority coordinator.

Those applying from the Independent sector should forward the application and the Headteacher’s endorsement, in the first instance, to
Into Headship – Application form

You will also need a reference as part of the application form and the reference form can be found here:
Into Headship – Endorsement form

Diversity monitoring form can be found here:
Diversity monitoring form

Further support and guidance can be found here:
Into Headship Application Guide

Into Headship – FAQs

Equality Impact Assessment

As part of the design and development of Into Headship, an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) was undertaken to support continuous improvement and quality assurance and to provide a framework for the mainstreaming of equality into all aspects of the development, delivery, monitoring and review of the programme. The report sets out a strategic EIA up to the point of accreditation by the GTCS and publication of access and application information.

Impact Assessment Report – July 2015

Next steps in developing the Masters pathway

Our intention is to build a Masters pathway for educational leadership in Scotland which will start with middle leadership, have Into Headship as its central component and be completed by Extended Induction. The diagram below outlines our approach.

We have extended the design group and are now working to develop the other two aspects of the Masters pathway. This will include a scoping exercise to confirm middle leadership provision and development activity to design a structured programme for Head Teachers as they take up post (Extended Induction).


The Design Group now includes:

  • Ann Pearson – Falkirk Council
  • Margery McMahon – University of Glasgow
  • Deirdre Torrance – University of Edinburgh
  • David Eastwood – University of Aberdeen
  • Valerie Drew – University of Stirling
  • Joan Mowat – University of Strathclyde
  • Margaret Tracey – South Lanarkshire Council
  • Alison Allan – North Ayrshire Council
  • Erika Cunningham – University of Dundee
  • Rhona Jay – Perth and Kinross Council
  • Terry Kerr – Highland Council
  • Jackie Purdie – Glasgow City Council
  • Morag Redford – University Highlands and Islands
  • Lesley Whelan – SCEL
  • John Daffurn – SCEL