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A rose by any other...

In The Wind in the Willows, Mole endures a torrid time lost in the Wild Wood, surrounded by the whisperings and whistlings of an unseen enemy, whose words and meanings are just out of reach of the bewildered animal.

Sometimes it feels similar to that in the Wild Wood of education, as we stumble on our own journey towards Badger's Sett of Excellence. However, while Mole was feart of stoats and weasels, it seems more like snakes out there for us, given the hissing of A Curriculum for Excellence, and Assessment is for Learning.

But maybe the most haunting noise, especially for those preparing for an interview, is the whispering of "SMT" or "SLT".

Hang around the water cooler at any deputes' meeting and hear the conversational gambit: "Senior Management Team, or Senior Leadership Team?"

Those of us still driving the SMT model tend to be in receipt of the kind of "how quaint!" expressions bestowed by rocket scientists on steam train enthusiasts.

So, as we spring enthusiastically into the new year, brushing off the mince pie crumbs and shoving the decorations back into the furthest corner of the attic, a reflection on the differences between management and leadership may be timely.

"Management" suggests the role of ensuring that policies and procedures are in place, and that they are being followed appropriately - inevitably, part of the role played by the heidie and his pals but, I suspect, a little lacking in the positives that a school community would have the right to expect.

"Leadership" perhaps better illustrates the proactive role: strategy and vision, listening, supporting, assessing and encouraging, enabling visions to be spread and taking along the whole staff as a team, with shared ownership and common aims and purposes.

Inevitably, perhaps, neither title completely captures the range of roles expected of such a team in our schools. Naturally, I hope our staff recognise all of the above in the approach we take to our roles, and there is a strong ethos in our school aims that suggests to lead is to serve.

In the end, I don't mind what acronym is used, and I'm sure the disaffected could suggest a few more possibilities. We'll head into 2007, as always, doing our best, and hoping we are managing to lead.

Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston

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