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SCEL and I

Over the last six months I have been a participant in the inaugural Fellowship Programme being run by SCEL, the Scottish College for Educational Leadership. SCEL was set up following the publication of 'Teaching Scotland's Future' authored by Graham Donaldson, and published in early 2011. The setting up of a ' virtual college of school leadership' was contained in the final recommendation, number 50, of Donaldson's report. The report considered in detail ITE, initial teacher education, and continuous career-long professional development of teachers once trained. Towards the end of his recommendations he considered the provision of professional development opportunities for experienced headteachers. Recommendations 48-49 looked at further development for headteachers and stated that 'a scheme for national leaders of education should be developed to enable experienced high performing headteachers to contribute to system-level leadership of education in Scotland.'

Following a scoping exercise, initiated by the National Implementation Board in 2013, the college was established in early 2014, and has been taking its first steps in trying to meet the requirements that Donaldson had laid out only one year earlier, all of which had achieved Government approval and support. One of the first steps was the starting of the Fellowship Programme aimed at experienced headteachers. The aims of this programme, which was sent out to all applicants were a reflection of the statements Donaldson had made at the end of his report. The programme wanted to give experienced headteachers, at least 5 years in post, a platform and opportunity to develop their practice and understandings and to contribute to the direction of travel for Scottish education. They would achieve this through collaboration with colleagues and exposure to leading thinkers and movers and shakers in education and leadership development. They would also carry out a professional investigation or enquiry around leadership and school or system development.

Following a selection process, which included support from senior managers at local authority level, eleven of us attended the launch event at Stirling University in April of this year. We are a mixed group of headteachers from all across Scotland, primary and secondary, and with a mix of different leadership contexts. At the first event we were fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from a range of leaders from across Scotland on their vision for Scottish Education 2030, amongst whom was Graham Donaldson himself. At this event we heard a range of perspectives on where people thought Scottish education could be by 2030, and Graham gave us some further insights into the thinking behind his report to Government.

SCEL and the fellowship participants recognised that this initial fellowship programme was very much a pilot one and that both sides of the programme would have to learn as we went along, rather like all good development opportunities. It has not always been a smooth journey as we have all made progress over the last six months, but again that is what real-life learning and development is like. Never linear and smooth, but rather more complex and messy than that. The participants have all benefited from access provided to an experienced and knowledgable professional coach to support us and offer a sounding-board for our thoughts and progress. Over the period we have met a whole range of thinkers on education and leadership development. These meeting have been very much two-way interactions and have certainly helped me to develop my thinking and further consider my practice. This week we are meeting Professor Alma Harris ahead of her appearance at the Scottish Learning Festival and I am sure this will not only be interesting but also challenging and thought provoking. I, and a number of other fellowship participants, will be also presenting with SCEL at the learning festival, as part of our wider engagement colleagues from across Scottish education. I will be speaking about some of my findings regarding practitioner enquiry as a vehicle for professional and school development, and how we might best promote and facilitate such approaches. I  hope to see many of you there, but if you can't be there I also like to engage through this blog and through Twitter.

Early in January 2015, I will be submitting a paper around my investigation to SCEL, as will all fellowship participants. If these are accepted and approved we may then become the first Fellows of SCEL and then begin to contribute even further to the national picture and journey of development . High aims, but I am a great believer that we need to aim higher and higher to achieve even more for the young people of Scotland. I look forward to supporting SCEL in the future, but more importantly I look forward to contributing in any way I can to the development of a truly world class education for all learners in Scotland. As John Lennon sang 'Imagine .....?'

'Teaching Scotland's Future' published by Scottish Government January 2011

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