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Good school 'not afraid of the word love'

Willis Pickard reports from the Scottish Educational Research Association conference in Dundee.

A STRONG attack on the culture of assessing and valuing schools by statistical measurement was made by the headteacher of a Roman Catholic secondary that has pioneered new methods of pupil support and of professional development for staff.

Frank Lennon, head of St Modan's High, Stirling, complained: "The accountability agenda drives everything." He accepted the need for a "data-rich" school but it was a mistake to think of that as the end product.

Mr Lennon was particularly scathing about development plans that had to be drawn up every year, describing it as "pointless bureaucracy masquerading as quality assurance".

He welcomed the different emphasis in the Inspectorate's recent paper on self-evaluation, How Good is Our School?, if by "good" was meant an assertion of moral worth.

Mr Lennon, who told researchers about the challenge of bringing together the learning support and guidance teams in his school and of creating with Glasgow University a professional development course voluntarily taken by a third of the staff, said: "Teachers need not more relevance in their work but more philosophy, to be able to contribute to the development of the whole child."

He added: "We are not afraid of the word love in St Modan's."

He would ban the term "extracurricular activity" since all activities, including sport, contributed educationally.

May Sweeney, St Modan's depute head, said that the promotion structure in schools can inhibit professional development. A principal teacher often interpreted their identity and role in terms of the subject department and felt uncomfortable at contemplating doing anything else.

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