Skip to main content

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 

George




Popular posts from this blog

Testing Times for Scotland

'These are not high stakes tests; there will be no 'pass or fail' and no additional workload for children or teachers.' John Swinney 25/11/16 news.gov.scot

I start this look at the introduction of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) with  statement above from John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, made when he announced the contract for our new standardised testing had been awarded to ACER International UK, Ltd. This organisation is a subsidiary of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), whom have been responsible for the development of the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) regime of high-stakes testing in the Australian system since 2008. I also believe they were one of a very short list of providers who tendered a bid for this contract.

I was drawn to this statement as I reflected on many of the responses I have received after I put out a request on Twitter …

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…

Some thoughts on Scottish education

This week I was asked if I would go along to speak to labour MSPs and MPs about Scottish education and schools. My brief was to talk about education. its current state, the reality of how the attainment gap can be tackled, how teachers can help government address the challenges of poverty, and how we might start to reinvest in our schools and our teaching staff. The politicians did not want to hear from the 'same people' who always spoke to them, and wanted to hear from someone 'fresh from the chalk-face'. I had forty five minutes, about twenty minutes input from me then a discussion and question and answer session. No pressure there then! Anyway, I gave it my best shot.

I started with a brief introduction to myself and my background, to give them some idea of who this person was, and why they might be able to help them and I tried to cover most of the following in my time slot.

I started with some the positives from our system.

Stuff we should be proud of:
Our learners …