Beware the dark side of the limelight

29th March 2013 at 00:00

In the week the Scottish government publishes its response to the Leveson inquiry into the media, we look at how schools handle newspaper reporters and television cameras on their doorstep (pages 10-13).

We're not talking about telephone hacking or payments to the police here, but how primary and secondary staff must always be prepared for that moment when they are suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into the limelight. "By the time you hear the thunder, it's too late to build the ark," as Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, counsels wisely. So we offer important words of advice to all schools.

It could be the death of a child, an illicit teacher-pupil relationship or simply an innocent project like primary schoolgirl Martha Payne's school meals blog. It sparked a global wildfire of publicity when her local authority, Argyll and Bute, banned her from publishing photographs of her dinners - and helped her to raise over #163;130,000 for the charity Mary's Meals, in Malawi, in the process. Headteachers have to be ready for all circumstances.

But it's not just heads, our News Focus points out - the whole senior management team should be trained in these matters, as Auchmuty High in Glenrothes discovered when David Wilson, its headteacher in 2009, was arrested and jailed for storing pornographic images on his computer. Heads can have criminal tendencies like anyone else in the school community.

Just how misleading the media can be, too, is revealed in the TESS Interview with Cherry Gough, director of the British Council in Libya, when she describes the truth behind the images of militias roaming the streets (page 14). Even when they were there, they were usually well-educated, polite young men "trying to protect the revolution", she says. She talks to Henry Hepburn about her very different experiences of education in Libya, China and Venezuela.

Iraq and soldiers of the Black Watch regiment are the subject of the National Theatre of Scotland's internationally renowned production of the same name, which we feature as it returns again to packed audiences in Glasgow's SECC. While the actors are strutting their stuff upon the stage in the big city, the man behind it - award-winning playwright Gregory Burke - and theatre director Gareth Nicholls have been working with students and teachers at the high school in Crieff to analyse and pass on their creative techniques, from selecting themes to writing to music to choreography and dance (page 16).

We are "all storytellers", as Burke explains to the teachers in a special CPD session, and he's right. Whether it's theatre, television or newspapers - or teachers in the classroom encouraging debate on contentious issues (pages 24 and 32) - we are each trying to communicate messages in the best way we can. Some with more success; others with greater integrity.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor,

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