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We Are Not Alone!

For the last there and a half years the schools I manage have been working very closely with colleagues from Edinburgh University. In that time we have developed a relationship built on mutual respect that has, I believe, produced benefits for both organisations. We in school have had access to a level of professional expertise, knowledge and experience that has enabled us to update and improve our understanding and our practice, to the benefit of all our pupils. The university has had the opportunity to work closely with committed staff, trial new approaches to teacher development, understand and witness the complexity faced by schools and teachers in managing curriculum reform and development and help them in understanding how they may build sustainable partnerships with schools and local authorities.

So if this is seen by both schools and university as a 'win-win' situation why are such partnerships and joint working not more common? There has been for many years an atmosphere of mistrust between schools and universities. Schools have often seen universities as cut off and remote from the real, day to day work of education. How often have NQTs been told by schools that "all that academic stuff might be alright in university, but now you will find out what teaching is really about," or something similar? For how many years have staff in universities looked down on on a lot of what goes on in schools, and dismissed developments that seem to have little evidence, thinking or rationale behind their adoption? There is a hierarchy in education and schools should know their place in that, seemed a common view in higher education. Both these levels of mistrust kept on feeding each other!

However, we now seem to be moving on in our thinking and identifying how both sectors can, and should, support each other. In Scotland Graham Donaldson's report 'Teaching Scotland's Future' identified the necessity for higher education establishments, who are providing initial teacher education programmes, and local authorities and schools to work closely together. This is seen as vital not only to help train the next generation of teacher, but also to help the rest of the profession attain career-long professional development as articulated by the GTCS and their new professional standards for teachers in Scotland. The Donaldson report has been adopted in its entirety by the Scottish Government and so, when combined with the new GTCS standards, we have a climate and support to build bridges and establish new relationships, for the benefit of all.

If the experience my schools have had over the last few years is replicated by other partnerships, Scottish educationation and schools are going to be the winners. I know similar partnership and closer working practices are being developed in other areas and with other universities. My recommendation to Headteachers and schools is to look for and embrace these relationships. You will have the opportunity to deepen your own understanding, and that of your colleagues, by engaging with latest thinking and research around teaching and learning. You will be contributing to meaningful research around these same areas, and you and staff will be given high level support in managing change and school development. If you and the university keep things real you will support and help each other and, in the process, help the staff and the pupils in your schools reach improved levels of attainment and achievement.

You are only alone in school development if you choose to be. The choice is yours!

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