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Alison Lewis is a rare example of a young teacher pushing early in her career for a school leadership role.

Aged 27 and in her fourth year of teaching, she is principal teacher of English at Craigroyston Community High in Edinburgh. She puts her early advancement down to the encourage-ment she received from colleagues from her probationary year onwards: "I was given opportunities to lead things from early on. As a probationer, I had responsibility for a project on Assess-ment is for Learning it was a risk by the head at the time, but I felt privi-leged to get that chance. I don't think that is everyone else's experience, so encouragement is important."

Miss Lewis (above) agrees with Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, that tomorrow's leaders will have to look different from today's and that perceptions must change.

Her main challenges to being a young leader are a lack of time in the week to develop leadership skills; and being able to "take other people with you".

"You have to have a vision and be able to inspire other people to want to work with you. That's a daunting task, especially for a young teacher. I have a member of staff who started teaching before I was born. She has never outwardly expressed any problem that I am less experienced than she is."

Miss Lewis's vision is "that every young person can succeed and that each one is really valuable".

A positive, "can-do" attitude helped her when she took up the PT post last year, particularly as the previous department head had left under difficult circumstances and staff were left feeling "unvalued" and "quite cynical" about what had happened.

Fortunately, she was not competing with any internal candidates for the job of leading a department of five.

She has encountered no direct criticism, but discovered that another teacher thought she had "a messianic gleam in her eye" when they took part in a CPD event on Assessment is for Learning. It was her first brush with the "Who does she think she is?" attitude but she remains undaunted.

Photograph: Colin Hattersley

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