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Dear John

Dear John

I would like to congratulate you on your new appointment and welcome you to the lead role for Scottish education. I am sure you recognise the importance of your role and the complexity of the issues and challenges you, and we the profession, face as we move forward together. I am also sure like us you relish the challenges ahead and are determined to do all that you can to help us deliver what we all desire.

If you don't know already, I will tell you at the outset that everyone in Scottish education shares your, and the First Minister's, ultimate aims for the performance of education. You will not find a headteacher, or teacher in Scotland that does not want the same as you. We all are committed to giving our learners the very best and holistic educational experience we can. We want them to be high attainers and achievers, we want them to be healthy (physically and emotionally) and we want this for all of our learners, not just some. So, we also want to work with yourself,  the government, our universities and other agencies to help close attainment gaps that exist, especially for those at risk of missing out from our most deprived families and communities. In short, we want a world class education system and an equitable society that we can all be proud of.

We recognise our responsibilities as the professionals in the system, and we have a range of experience, knowledge, insights and understandings that we wish to share with you and with each other. We know that if we are to achieve our common aims we will need to collaborate, as we look both inwards and outwards. Every school leader I know understands that we can do better, and that to achieve this we need to collaborate and to look to what research, and practice, shows us works, in order to improve. We want to improve, not because we are not good already, but because we understand that we can all still get better, and that we owe this to all our learners. None of us can achieve the high aims we all have for Scottish education on our own or by top-down dictat. We understand, as I'm sure you do, that we have to examine what really works (and equally what doesn't) across other systems and take what we can from these, then apply this to our unique Scottish context. Not easy, but I am sure we are all up for it. To get where we want to be requires the active particiaption of all of us, not just some of us. Not only do we need to work together, we need to talk to and listen to each other. 

I am sure you will have strong opinions of what needs to be done, as do we. We are all in the roles we have because we are committed to making a difference. None of us is privy to a single strategy that will work to address all the issues and challenges we face. There are no panaceas or silver bullets to system growth and development. What I am sure you and we recognise is that we all need a relentless determination to tackle the issues and to keep developing and improving. Not all are in the same place, so what we will require are polices and structures that recognise this, but which support all to aim high and enable us to achieve those aims over time.

I am equally sure that your in-tray and emails are full already of tasks waiting for your consideration and we wish you well with all of these. Prioritisation of tasks is a key skill for all leaders. Believe me, we do understand the pressures of heavy workloads and competing demands for your attention. Like new school leaders, I am sure it is similar for yourself, in that you will need to spend some time getting to thoroughly understand your brief and your role, and it is important that you take this time to understand, before you make decisions about the way forward. In schools, everything we do is dependent on having a culture and ethos that supports what we want to achieve, because we know it's down to people to deliver, not policy. Policy can support this, or hinder. I expect you will work hard over the next few months to set out your vision and build the relationships and partnerships you will need to achieve your aims.

Please don't be put off or influenced all the media stories about the reception that awaits you from the profession. We have always been fair and will give anyone a chance who wants to work with us to improve what we do. We really do want to work with you to achieve the best for our learners. Yes we have concerns, particularly over standardised testing and the drift towards acadamisation that some see, and we would like to talk to you about these in the coming months. But, we wish to do this in a positive and professional way, and we are sure you will bring the same attitude to your meetings with us. As you listen and talk to us, so will we with yourself. I am sure you recognise we have some fabulous people working in the Scottish education system and that we need to engage with and utilise these to achieve all that we wish. We genuinely wish to develop a self-improving system with adaptive expertise spread within it, and across all levels.

We wish you well in your new role. I hope you trust that we want the very best for all our learners, and trust us to always do the right thing for them. This may lead us to disagreements at times but we all share the same desire to get better. Should we achieve this, we will have a more equitable society and, once again, a leading education system that others can learn from and look to emulate.

Good luck, and perhaps we can check in again in a few months to see how things are going.

Yours sincerely 


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