As the start of the new session approaches, we ask a range of people working in Scottish education to outline their aspirations for the coming year
Gaelic will soon Glow
For the last couple of months I have been involved in writing the Gaelic outcomes and experiences for A Curriculum for Excellence, says the Gaelic development officer, Learning and Teaching Scotland. I've also been involved in planning one of the sessions at the Scottish Learning Festival next month.
The timetable for A Curriculum for Excellence means that the Gaelic outcomes should be produced within the year. At the end of my secondment, I'll be going back to Condorrat Primary in North Lanark-shire, but I'm looking forward to seeing these outcomes put into practice and I'll hopefully be able to support and mentor other teachers as they do that.
Glow, the schools digital network, goes live soon. Because of where a lot of the Gaelic schools are located, it will allow them to form an online community.
On a personal level, I plan to try and improve my Spanish. I taught basic Spanish to children in my previous school. However, as I haven't been practising, I have forgotten most of it so one of my main aims is to be able to hold a simple conversation in Spanish by next summer just in time for a Spanish holiday.
A lot to build on
First, there's a question of further clarity over our new Scottish Government's programme for education and children's services, particularly in terms of further information on the school estate investment programme, says the president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. We also await guidance on the direction of travel of integrated children's services.
I am also awaiting the outcome of the Crerar review into inspection and regulation. ADES feels that we are being overburdened with inspection, on top of some of the regulation through organisations such as the Care Commission.
The next academic year is likely to be make or break for A Curriculum for Excellence. ADES is frustrated by the pace and nature of development, and we feel that unless there is some significant breakthrough by then, we could miss the opportunity to impact on curriculum design for session 2008-09.
The last thing is good industrial relations. A good working relationship between the three main players teachers' unions, employers and the Scottish Executive is vital for a successful year.
Return of teaching freedom
Our aspirations are two-fold, says the director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools. We are here to help schools do the best job they can for 31,000 children, and to continue to make as meaningful a contribution to Scottish education as we can.
We're looking forward to getting more involved in A Curriculum for Excellence. Everyone has signed up to the four capacities and the teaching profession is excited that, at long last, professionalism is being given back to classroom teachers, making them free to teach the way they want, and to be creative and imaginative without the same restrictions and pressures.
It will only work if we have a debate about the level of assessment and examination in schools. We'll be working with other agencies to resolve this issue and improve the system for young people.
We are also keen to improve our partnership working. The independent sector is working better than ever with MSPs and the new administration. We would like to work more closely with local authorities and to be seen as a resource to help young people. Instead of thinking of us as a closed world, I'd like them to start thinking they can approach independent schools.
A big part of my remit is Schools of Ambition, says the depute headteacher at Dunbar Grammar. We became a School of Ambition in the second tranche, around October.
I was on secondment for five years and have been back in school for around six months. A lot of that time has been spent planning how we are going to develop the school through the creative and performing arts. I'm looking forward to all the activity we have planned beginning to take off.
We want to develop seven companies within the school. Some are building on existing strengths: theatre and dance. But we'll also be developing new areas.
We are calling one company "corporate identity", where we will be looking at ways to market the school and give pupils a sense of belonging and pride in it. Already, for instance, pupils have designed a new logo. We are also developing animation and are going to be getting hardware and software next year.
So far it's just been a lot of strategic work and unless you're actually involved, people think: "We're a school of ambition so what?" But following the launches for staff, pupils and the local community at the end of the year, people are beginning to realise the opportunity it's going to offer to everybody. We also need to look at how we can make Schools of Ambition sustainable, because the extra funding isn't going to be there forever.
Transform, don't tinker
No country yet has an education system which is genuinely fit for purpose in the 21st century, says the director of Tapestry education partnership and former chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council. Several are trying: Scotland is among these. The problem is that official agencies feel safer tinkering than working for real transformation.
In this, Scotland has an advantage. A Curriculum for Excellence sets out a framework which has met with very widespread approval and which is capable of being used both as a short-term agenda and a long-term vision. Indeed, there is really no other way of planning fundamental change. There has to be a starting point and some clear first steps.
Inevitably, these will be small and cautious. This is perfectly proper so long as the long-term vision is kept in mind and the immediate agenda is consistent with it.
My aspiration for the coming session is that Scottish education will recognise the need for an imaginative and radical interpretation of the ideals it is already committed to and will begin to put in place a long-term as well as an immediate agenda for change.
Small classes, big results
If I could wave a magic wand, it would have to be for smaller PE class sizes across Scotland so that pupils can experience the physical benefits that would come with it, says the principal teacher of PE and drama at Larbert High.
Having that experience with smaller numbers would mean that people would have a great quality of education and, hopefully, that they would continue with sport outside school. With 16 people in a class, you would get them far more physically active and help tackle obesity levels which are not great just now.
In terms of class sizes, there seems to be a focus on subjects with a practical element, such as chemistry, and PE is the most practical subject we've got. Certainly, 20 or below is an achievable goal. You can sometimes have as many as 29 or 30 in one small gym.
Strategies and shopping
We are going into the first year of our three-year strategy, which is about the importance of youth information for young people and how it helps young people make informed choices about their lives, says the deputy chief executive of Young Scot.
It's in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: children have the right to access information that is trustworthy and up-to-date. How do you make a good decision if you don't have all the information to hand?
Over the next year we want to build closer relationships with schools. We want teachers to use our resources, better to support citizenship education in schools and to support youngsters through transitions.
We run the national youth information portal, which gets two million hits a month. We've got information on arts, education, volunteering, travel, sport, health, careers, relationships. In September, we are launching the new improved website which will have practical things for lesson plans. We want to be of practical value to young people and also to the teachers helping them.
On a personal note, I hope to learn Italian. To be brutally honest, it's about shopping. I want to go to Milan and do my shopping in Italian.
New Year resolutions
I've always thought that the start of a new session is a bit like the start of a New Year, when you're sitting stuffing your face with turkey and copious amounts of alcohol, reminiscing about the year that has passed and what you're going to achieve in the one that's about to come, says the headteacher at Drummond Community High in Edinburgh.
Only, in this case, it's not around a Christmas tree, it's around some swimming pool in some far-flung place OK, minus the turkey this time but, hey, the alcohol still remains. And then, of course, it's not Mr Claus that comes to visit but that happy Mr SQA or, if you're really lucky, the charming Mrs HMIE who may cross your doorstep instead.
The end of a summer though, for me, is always a powerful time for reflection and planning forward, especially as a new head, when you feel invigorated and refreshed from the break and ready to face any challenges which lie ahead.
My aspirations are simple (always have been in all of my posts): to keep on making a positive impact on the lives of the youngsters and colleagues that I'm fortunate enough to be leading, and investing whatever energies are necessary in the year ahead to bring that a step closer.
And then, of course, there are the personal aspirations (which are much closer to New Year resolutions) - must get back to the gym, mustn't eat the macaroni in the canteen, should really cut down on the alcohol. Well, maybe next year for some of those ones.