About the programme and how to apply

The Leading Learning Programme 2018

Leading Learning is now in its 9th year and has supported over 130 senior managers working in culture, leisure and sport sector across the UK either in local authorities or in partner trusts and social enterprises.  The future of culture, leisure and sport provision for communities lies at the centre of the programme but with a focus on developing the leadership skills necessary to lead and sustain organisational change in these challenging times.   As the pattern of local provision has changed in the light of funding reductions over a number of years now, we have also decided to extend the Programme’s reach to all those working in community development. The programme has been a critical factor in helping a number of individuals develop their careers and go on to achieve Director and Chief Executive roles. Each programme runs over a period of twelve months with between 12 and 16 people participating.

The programme has five components:

1.  A 360-degree review of participants’ current leadership style.  Each participant selects between 7 and 10 respondents to complete a questionnaire concerning performance and personal qualities chosen from direct reports, line managers, peers, external partners and elected members, as well as themselves. They then receive a report and an individual debriefing lasting two hours.  These sessions are subsequently used to formulate personal development plans. Participants also complete a learning styles questionnaire before the first residential and receive a written summary of the findings to compare with other participants at their first session together.

2.  Three residential sessions totalling 7 days facilitated by experienced tutors from Cass Business School and other academic and specialist consultancies. All the residentials take place at the Woodside Conference Centre, Kenilworth in the West Midlands.
The first residential is provisionally booked for dates in October. This first part of this programme enables participants to look at their own approach to leadership, personal learning capacity, the production of personal development plans and the keeping of reflective logs, facilitated by Paul Birch and Chrissie Godfrey of VisionJuice.

The second part of the first residential looks at concepts of strategic leadership, collaborative leadership and change management, facilitated by George Levvy from Cass Business School. Inspirational guest speakers talk about their approach to leadership, career development and work experience. Recently these have included Martyn Allison former National Advisor for Culture and Sport with the Local Government Association (LGA). Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council and Ian Fytche Chief Executive of North Kesteven District Council.

The second residential in mid February focuses on working at the political interface with elected members and external partners, facilitated by Simon Baddeley formerly of Inlogov, University of Birmingham.

Guest speakers have included members of the LGA Culture Tourism and Sport Board and Paul Lankester, Chief Executive of Stratford upon Avon until April 2106 and now an independent consultant.

The third and final residential planned for mid June brings the programme together by using scenario planning to help you prepare participants ’ organisations and themselves for the future as well as a review of personal development plans. The session is facilitated by Christine Fogg of Cass Business School. Guest speakers for this session have included Christine Fisher, Chief  Executive of NW Leicestershire District Council and Peter Murphy of the Nottingham Trent School of Management.

3.  Facilitated action learning sets with an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) qualified facilitator. In most years there are two groups which each meet five times.  The groupings are geographically based but do require a commitment to travel. These sessions are designed to facilitate reflective peer learning on current problems and issues being faced in work settings. Virtual learning sets can also be organised.

4.  A website which will contain all information pertaining to the taught elements, news and opportunity items, forums for participants, course lecturers and mentors.  The address is www.ncfleadinglearning.co.uk

5.  Most importantly all participants are offered one to one mentoring. Participants and mentors separately attend induction sessions, which allow them to explore a range of issues that may arise during a mentoring relationship.  Both mentors and mentees fill in registration forms, which allow the mentoring coordinator to make the best match between mentees and available mentors.  The relationship is set up by the coordinators and monitored by them so that if either party in a relationship is unhappy with it at any time mediation and/or reallocation of mentors can be accomplished.  The expectation is that mentees can expect to have around nine one to one sessions, with their mentor, preferably face to face, and lasting 1½ to 2 hours.  These take place at roughly monthly intervals with the mentee travelling to the mentor’s chosen venue. At the second meeting the mentor and mentee enter into a contractual relationship where they agree a programme of priorities, to be addressed based on negotiation around the mentee’s Personal Development Plan. This is written up on an agreement form and copied to the mentoring co-ordinators.

The whole programme is externally evaluated and all participants, mentors, facilitators and lecturers will be asked to assist in this process by filling in interim and final questionnaires and by being prepared to be interviewed.

A summative evaluation report of the first five years of the Programme is available on the website and on request from the Director. There is also an LGA supported brochure with interviews featuring the development stories of several alumni.

Any questions on the programme, how to participate and where to get application forms can be addressed to:

Sue Isherwood, Director NLCF Leading Learning Programme, via leadinglearning@artsdevelopmentuk.org or tel 01749 871110


Information for applicants                         

What it’s all about

The National Leisure and Culture Forum is an association of professional bodies representing managers across the fields of culture and leisure.

The NCF Leading Learning Programme was generously supported by the Cultural Leadership Programme as the first leadership programme to be specifically aimed at the cultural sector within local government.  It is now supported by professional associations in membership of the National Culture Forum to support the leadership development of all their members.

It has five main support elements –

The programme previously offered optional accreditation from City University. City are no longer running their Cultural Leadership MA so we are currently exploring alternative accreditation through the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) or Chartered Institute of Management (CIM).

This will be the ninth year of the programme. There is now a summative independent evaluation of the first five years and an Local Government Association supported brochure telling some of the previous participants’ personal development stories. Please see website ncfleadinglearning.co.uk for more details.

Who it is for

The programme is aimed at:

We would expect participants to have overall responsibility  for or expertise in more than one area of cultural services, but because local authorities and cultural organisations have such varied structures we can be flexible.  People currently managing Cultural Services may not even have a Cultural Services background. What is most important is an ambition to succeed in the workplace and to extend the creative and innovative perspectives of culture, leisure and community services to influence the wider political agenda.  
It is open to managers, officers and independent consultants from all four nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How much it costs

The subsidised cost in 2017 of each place is £4,000 + VAT for local authorities, charitable trusts and individual consultants and £5,000  + VAT for commercial companies and national cultural bodies. (The price has been kept stable for four years and this is the last year that the cost can remain at this level.)

There is an early bird discount of £500 for those applying by 1st November 2017.
For 2017 we may be able to offer a few bursaries worth £500 or £1000 each, bringing the price down to well below its true cost.  Please contact the Programme Director if you would like further details of these.
We are also prepared to stagger invoicing so that fees can be spread across two financial years and even in monthly instalments.

Where and when

The timetable for recruitment runs from 1st `September to 11th December 2017

The delivery of the whole programme will run from January to December 2018.
The residential sessions will be held in the West Midlands.
The indicative dates for the residentials are:


About the programme

Latest news

Resources for participants


Master classes

The National Leisure and Culture Forum

Previous participants


Contact us


Leading Learning Year 7 report now available
The summative evaluation report of year seven of the LLP can now be downloaded as a pdf via the news page.

Resilience support now available
The NLCF Leading Learning Programme has developed a package of specialist in-house learning, development and improvement support. This support has been specifically created to help leaders, teams and partnerships within the culture, leisure and sport sector to develop enhanced workplace resilience.

Master Class Series: workplace resilience

A new Leading Learning Programme Master Class Series will focus on the subject of workplace resilience.  These four interactive one-day work shops will enable leaders to survive the unprecedented challenges that the sport, leisure and culture sector is currently facing; and even to thrive in this environment!

Rate your own workplace resilience
Try the free Workplace Resilience Diagnostic Exercise to help you assess your requirements for training and support. Download the tool now.