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Into Headship

This is an Education Scotland leadership programme.

Into Headship is Scotland’s national programme for aspiring headteachers. On successful completion of the programme participants will be awarded the GTCS Standard for Headship, which will become mandatory for all new headteachers from August 2020. The programme is delivered in partnership between universities, local authorities and Education Scotland and awards a 60-credit postgraduate certificate at SCQF level 11 which can form part of a Masters leadership pathway.

Into Headship aims to ensure aspiring headteachers are supported to develop and continue to build the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding required of senior leaders in leading a dynamic school community. The programme is aimed at those teachers who aspire to achieving the post of headteacher within the next 2-3 years.

Covid-19 update

In line with the advice and guidance from the Scottish and UK Governments, we have paused all professional learning and leadership activity, including this programme. We have prepared a set of FAQs which we hope will answer some of the questions you may have at this time. We will update these with additional information as we have it.

Read our FAQs for information on changes to our programmes as a result of Covid-19.

Programme structure

Participants on the programme undertake:

  • a self-evaluation task against the GTCS Standard for Headship
  • an Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, which provides 360° feedback 
  • learning at a launch conference and mid-way conference for the national cohort
  • Masters level learning in the form of taught courses with one of seven university partners
  • online supported study management modules.

Throughout the programme, participants will have the support of a headteacher mentor and a local authority co-ordinator.


What are the benefits?

On successful completion of Into Headship participants are awarded the Standard for Headship, which will become a pre-requisite for all new headteachers in Scotland from 2020.

Candidates will:

  • 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.
Who is it for?

The programme is aimed at those teachers who aspire to achieving the post of headteacher within the next 2-3 years.

The previous qualifications of the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH) and the Flexible Route to Headship (FRH) are no longer available. Teachers who have successfully completed SQH or FRH continue to hold the Standard for Headship.

How is the programme delivered?

The programme is delivered in partnership with seven universities across Scotland. Each local authority has an agreement in place with a university partner which enables close collaboration on the programme.

The programme is delivered through a mix of online learning, taught days and national conferences.

Duration and key dates

The Into Headship programme will run for 12-18 months, dependent on partner university requirements.

Applications are currently closed and will open again in January 2021.

Next steps in delivering the Masters pathway

The Specialist Qualification for Headship Masters pathway includes the three 60-credit SCQF 11 postgraduate elements of Middle leadership, Into Headship and In Headship. On successful completion of all three elements a Masters of 180 credits can be awarded.



Completion of one middle leadership element awards 60 credits at SCQF Level 11. Those who attain the Middle Leadership certificate and go on to achieve Into Headship will be awarded a Post Graduate Diploma (120 credits at SCQF level 11).

The third part of the Masters Pathway, In Headship, is for those who have recently gained their first post as headteacher. This also awards 60 credits at Level 11. Those who achieve all three elements will be awarded a Masters degree subject to awarding body regulations.

The Design Group now includes:

  • Neil McLennan – University of Aberdeen
  • Tara Harper – University of Dundee
  • Zoe Roberston – University of Edinburgh
  • Rosemary Grady – University of Edinburgh
  • Julie Harvie – University of Glasgow
  • Jackie Purdie – Glasgow City Council and Glasgow University
  • Jean Ward – University Highlands and Islands
  • Valerie Drew – University of Stirling
  • Joan Mowat – University of Strathclyde
  • Carol Turnbull – Falkirk Council
  • Ann McIntosh - Glasgow City Council
  • Iain McDermott - West Lothian Council
  • Lesley Whelan – Education Scotland
  • Alison Weatherston - Education Scotland
Funding and costs

As the Professional Learning and Leadership Team is currently funded to develop a suite of programmes, participation in the programme is free of charge. However there is no funding for cover. A small fund for travel expenses is available only for participants from Eilean Siar, Shetland and Orkney.

Applying for the programme and further information

Recruitment for the programme is now closed. Successful applicants will receive an introductory email communication by early June 2020. 

Into Headship - Cohort 7

Applications for the next cohort will open in January 2021. Keep an eye on this site and our Twitter account for more information.

If you would like to apply you should first discuss your application with your line manager and/or employer. You should then complete the Into Headship application form which must be signed by your headteacher and employer. The application form will ask you detail your experience of significant leadership practice, relevant professional learning and readiness for headship.

Your headteacher/line manager will also be asked to complete an endorsement form.

For local authority employees, the application process is managed by the local authority co-ordinator and completed forms should be returned to them. Applicants may then be invited for interview. Each local authority will have their own arrangements for recruitment to the programme which will include submission deadlines. Applicants should confirm deadlines with their local authority co-ordinator.

For further information about this programme, or for an informal discussion with a Lead Specialist, contact us at edspll@educationscotland.gov.scot.

More information is also available in this guidance/FAQ document:

Into Headship application guidance and FAQs – January 2020

There are a number of people who will support you in your learning, including:

Headteacher mentor specification

Local authority co-ordinator specification

Professional verifier role