Knighted head tops new year honours

The first Scottish secondary head to be awarded a knighthood under Tony Blair's policy of rewarding outstanding headship is Richard Staite, the head of Beeslack Community High in Penicuik. He was also a member of the Scottish Executive's curriculum review group.

His award means that Sir Richard, who already holds the OBE, is now the only knight in Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education, which he is joining next Monday. Interestingly for a former secondary head, he is taking charge of the inspectorate's directorate 2 which is responsible for primary schools.

Sir Richard's former school received a glowing accolade from HMI in April 2003. The inspectors could only find one point of action for the school to consider: that the authority and the school should ensure its high standards are maintained.

The inspection scored 18 of the 21 quality indicators as very good and three good. The overall quality of lessons was judged very good in a remarkable 48 per cent of observed classes and good in 52 per cent.

The HMI described Sir Richard's leadership over 20 years in the post as "outstanding." He had "sustained a clear vision for the school as an inclusive community, maintained an energetic involvement in the daily life of the school and had built up a very strong team spirit among staff".

Asked later for his advice on running a successful school, Sir Richard said in an interview with The TES Scotland: "It's messy, it's complex, can be contradictory and cannot be reduced to aphorisms, shibboleths or sound bites."

He suggested the role of school management should be to act as a buffer for teachers from outside distractions so they can concentrate on what is going on in the classroom. This requires "whole school systems and the consistent and insistent application of school policies."

A final piece of advice to new heads was to "wear down your shoe leather in the school - daily."

Sir Richard is not the only Scottish state school head to be knighted. Sir James Munn, the head of Cathkin High in the 1970s and early 1980s, was given the accolade for his chairmanship of the eponymous committee which reviewed the third and fourth year curriculum from 1975-77.

Other leading Scottish education figures to feature in the honours list include Frank Pignatelli, the chief executive of learndirect scotland, who receives a CBE; and Maggi Allan, education director in South Lanarkshire, and Joyce Johnston, principal of Fife College, are made OBEs.

Among non-teaching recipients, there is an MBE for Donald Morrison, who is janitor at the 5-14 Lionel School on the island of Lewis.

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