Coherent strategy needed

25th September 2009 at 01:00

I can't help but feel that some people need to get out more. If there is a leadership capacity issue in our schools (your report last week), then pity help us all. From a lengthy experience in Scottish education in a variety of different posts, history seems to me to record that any major change which has taken place in Scottish education has been delivered at school level and major disasters averted because of the leadership shown by senior management in schools and, increasingly, at all levels within schools.

Clearly, the critics you reported last week are meeting a different group of headteachers from myself and HMIE, if their reports are to be believed. I agree with Neal McGowan that if the stifling influence of central direction is not overcome, it will be difficult to deliver A Curriculum for Excellence in the way its authors intended. Hopefully, the will is there to do that - time will tell.

But to naively assume that any headteacher in a market-driven economy is going to ignore what is the public test of best practice for their school community is to ignore a fundamental aspect of leadership.

I've also got news for Neal: as long as I've had knowledge of the national scene, every minister of education has talked at length with headteachers as well as other stakeholders. England is no different, but he might find that the inspection regime, while improving, is still playing catch-up with our own. Whether we need inspectors - arguably they should, of course, do themselves out of a job through self-evaluation - is an international as well as a national question.

I do think there is a need for a more coherent leadership strategy, but there are several such providers with high-quality input - including my own organisation.

Finally, if headteachers and their teams do not come up to the plate in the straitened financial times they all find themselves in, Scottish education simply will not survive. But I know the calibre of my colleagues and they'll still be there when other voices have fallen silent.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary, School Leaders Scotland.

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