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Showing posts from October, 2015

Austerity, education and losing sight of learners

Since Nicola Sturgeon' announcement that standardised testing was to be reintroduced into all Scottish primary schools and the early years of secondary schools, as a key component of the National Improvement Framework, much has been written in the media, blog posts, by academics and some organisations that must make for very uncomfortable reading for the Scottish Government. The vast majority of what has been written is opposed to the reintroduction of standardised testing as a tool to drive forward improvements in our schools, both in terms of attainment and closing the gap between the attainment of the most privileged and the least. President Obama signalled last week that even in the USA, with the 'No Child Left Behind' agenda, they have gone too far and American children are over assessed and under taught. Worse, the programme aims, which were to raise attainment and to close the equity gap, have not been delivered. Recent research has shown that the equity gap in the …

The power of uncertainty for school leaders

I am writing this on the back of an article I read recently on The Guardian newspaper website which was entitled 'Prisoners are like CEOs - they're skilled at hiding low self-esteem' and for some reason this made me think of school leaders. The article was about a 'life coach' Clare McGregor who had spent most of her professional life working with CEOs, charity bosses and senior police officers. About five years ago she had taken a change of direction and had started working with prisoners in Styal women's prison in Cheshire. What she had identified was that both groups of clients were very skilled at hiding their low self-esteem and lack of confidence. 'Clients in prison can seem extremely confident, but that can be just a mask - just like people in the boardroom,' she noted. Again, I was reminded of myself and so many other school leaders I know, or have met, who harboured just the same uncertainties and lack of confidence about about their capacities…

School leadership skills: the trained and the tacit

Having been a senior leader in schools for over twenty years now, I have attended many leadership and management courses, numerous conferences and read many books and articles on leadership generally, and of schools specifically. Indeed, I even had a go at putting my own thoughts down, in the form of a book, School Leadership- A Scottish Perspective which was a first attempt to gather my own thoughts, and through this ongoing blog. I have learnt and discovered a lot of things about leadership. Some of these were taught, but many of them are tacit and experiental and have developed over time in the light of experiences, good and bad. I have also learned from leaders I have experienced in my career in education, and during my time outside it in the world of commerce. Last year as part of the SCEL Fellowship programme I had the pleasure of working with Clive Dimmock. Clive has worked in school and system leadership programmes all over the world and is currently working out of The Robert …

Thoughts on another gap in education

Earlier this year I attended the  International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement ( ICSEI ) in Cincinnatti. At this congress one of the big issues still vexing many of the researchers and educational thinkers was the gap that still exists between the knowledge base of what we know works in improving learning and education systems, and the actual practice that still exists in schools and systems all over the world. If we have research, evidence and data that clearly demonstrates practices and principles that improve outcomes for learners, what is stopping systems, schools and teachers from implementing these? After all, we all constantly state our desire to improve and the need to be better for the benefit of all our learners, and society as a whole, so why wouldn't we try to implement what we know works? Something gets in the way, and I have been wondering what this might be. Unsurprisingly, my conclusion is that there are a number of factors at play which prevent …