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What really matters in school leadership?

Last week, I was invited to give a 'keynote' presentation for the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) to an audience of Deputy Headteachers and Principal Teachers. Having discussed the possible themes for this with Greg Dempster, the General Secretary of this school leaders' organisation, we agreed the title of my input would be 'What really matters in school leadership?' This post is a recap of what I spoke about on the day.
Thanking AHDS for the chance to speak to the middle leaders from our primary sector, I started by saying what an honour it was to be asked to speak to current leaders, many of whom would be forming the core of leadership in Scottish primary schools for many years to come. Not to put too much pressure on the people in the room, but they were the people who would help shape the future of education, and perhaps solve some of the challenges we still face, or have created, in Scottish education. I hoped to at least stimulate…
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Play not tests

Last night I attended the launch the 'PlayNotTests' campaign being led by Sue Palmer and the Upstart organisation in Scotland. This campaign is aimed at getting the Scottish government to think again about their decision to introduce standardised testing into Scottish schools, particularly in Primary 1. Upstart is a group whose main aim is the establishment of a play-based 'kindergarten stage' in Scottish schools, and they want to delay children's introduction into the formal education system until they have reached seven years of age. Before that, Upstart and their supporters, of which I am one, believe that young children learn best, and begin to develop the attributes they will need for life and learning, through play based learning, most of which should be located outside of classrooms and school buildings. This is a model that has been successfully developed by a number of Nordic systems, with positive impacts on the well-being as well as the learning of young…

Yin and Yang, golf and leadership

Being a leader, whether it be of a school, or any other type of organisation, can be both challenging and rewarding. We could see these as the Yin and Yang of formal leadership roles, no matter what the level of experience you bring to that role. Whether you are in your first year of leadership, or your twenty first,  challenges and rewards still remain. However, if you are a leader who is finding their role neither challenging or rewarding, then surely it is time to move on, or move out, which can be a challenge in itself.

To experience both challenge and reward requires action. Actions you take as a leader will bring both risk and reward. If you have chosen them carefully, the rewards will be experienced by all. Chosen poorly and you, and others, might only experience challenge, and struggle to identify many rewards. They may be there, but sometime it takes time for them to emerge. Not every action you take as a leader will bring about positive results. There will be times when you …

Professional learning on a Saturday?

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a professional learning event for teachers, provided by teachers. PedagooTweed was one of a series of events happening across Scotland, supported by Pedagoo, a self-created teacher support group, and SCEL (Scottish College for Educational Leadership). This is an interesting dynamic of the formal and informal  that exist in Scotland that aim to help teachers to learn and develop, by unleashing the power that resides in all of them. So on Saturday teachers and educators from across the south of Scotland met up in Peebles for professional learning and dialogue that was shaped completely by themselves, with no agendas set by others. Also, the mix of sessions were being led and facilitated by practitioners, who were willing to share insights and offer support. No-one had been bought in to deliver, and no-one was selling anything.

There were a mix of activities available. A sharing-table, where attendees put a book or resource that had particula…

Where next for Curriculum for Excellence?

Today, I took part in a seminar in Edinburgh which focused on Scotland's curriculum and the priorities for the new Education Bill currently being prepared for parliamentary approval by the Scottish Government. Entitled, 'Next steps for Curriculum for Excellence - supporting teachers, tackling the attainment gap and priorities for the Education Bill' it was held at the Royal Society Edinburgh, and featured a range of educational and political speakers, starting with Graham Donaldson as someone heavily involved at the outset of CfE and who is now helping to shape the new curriculum for Wales. Graham is also a member of the International Council of Education Advisors to the Scottish government.

He started the day with an overview of CfE as it was originally envisioned and proposed, as well as a consideration of where we were now at. He said that it had been acknowledged by the OECD, academics and other countries that the approach encapsulated in CfE was one that many sought t…

Speaking of ethics

'ethics: moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conduct of an activity'

I have been part of a couple of discussions around ethics over the last week. The first was as a result of the seminar I attended at Edinburgh university around the development of literacy in early learners, and the second was a chat with my daughter, who is an occupational therapist working with adults with severe dementia. Both these, got me thinking more about ethics in education, for teachers school leaders and system leaders. I have been involved in a few discussions with Suzanne Zeedyk of Dundee University around the issues and problems when teachers and school leaders act, or take decisions, in ways that they know may well be detrimental to some learners. I have always seen this as an issue around values, but actually it is more than that, because it comes down to working ethically, and in the best interests of all learners, all the time.

At the Edinburgh event a question had b…

Evidence informed, or something else?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at Edinburgh University's School of Education, Moray House. The title of the seminar was 'Reading the Evidence; Synthetic Phonics and Literacy Learning'. The title referred to one book edited by Margaret M Clark, and another 'Teaching Initial Literacy: Policies, evidence and ideology' again edited by Margaret. The first was produced in 2017 and the second is hot off the press, both being available from Amazon as either an ebook or paperback. Both are filled with contributions by leading academic researchers and writers on the subject of literacy acquisition and the use of evidence to inform this.

The main contributors to the seminar, beside Margaret herself, were Professor Sue Ellis of Strathclyde University, Professor Terry Wrigley Visiting Professor at Northumbria University and Professor Greg Brooks from Sheffield University. Given that Margaret herself is a Visiting Professor at Newman University and Emeritus…