Glenn Rodger

25th November 2011 at 00:00
The new president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland talks about the challenges ahead, his career highs and lows, and how rural schools are weathering the economic storm. Photography Cate Gillon

As incoming president, what do you think the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland's key priorities should be for the coming year?

The obvious things are the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and the Donaldson review. For ADES, it's about ensuring that our view is heard and that we work well with all our partners.

You chair a working group implementing the Donaldson recommendations on teacher education. How is it going and are the resources there?

We're pleased with progress. We've established a structure to manage implementation and we have an initial plan now, supported by the Cabinet Secretary. There are a lot of resources in the system but we need to understand more about where they are before we can say whether they are enough. All the recommendations are important. We want to be making early progress on recruitment, teacher training and leadership development.

Do you fear the Government will go down the same route with education as with policing - creating a single national force?

No, I think we are looking at working within the local authority framework to find opportunities for shared services.

What are your views on devolved school management and the East Lothian community trust model?

I think everyone across Scotland has signed up to the principle of devolving as much as we can to schools, but there are things it does not make sense to devolve, like procurement of electricity and gas. It would be difficult to devolve that and the danger would be penalising the most efficient schools. There are merits in looking at any model that suits local circumstances. I don't think there is a "one size fits all" model. We have to look at ways of engaging better with the local community.

How do education directors reconcile shrinking budgets with Government's policy on trying to keep small rural schools open?

It's difficult at the moment because there is protection for teachers and buildings, which make up the vast amount of our resources, so making significant financial adjustments becomes very difficult. You pare back, looking at ways to be more efficient but when you've been doing that for some years you have fewer places to go.

What was it like, taking up your post at the Borders when the education department was at rock bottom thanks to a financial `black hole'?

The HMI had identified what needed to be moved forward and I arrived when a number of other people were brought in to form a management team to do that, so in some ways it was easy. I was pleased to find a lot of excellent work going on, because the danger of negative publicity is thinking everything is black and white. There are a lot of good people here and we had to give them the confidence not to think that everything they did was bad.

What was it like dealing with the Irene Hogg tragedy (the primary head who committed suicide shortly after an inspection) and what are the ramifications of the case, locally and further afield?

It was professionally one of the lowest points of my career in terms of the challenges of dealing with it and the impact it had, not only on Irene's family and everyone associated with her, but also on the education department and other schools. There was a huge knock-on effect and we looked closely at how we supported schools, but after much discussion we concluded that we were doing things the right way, and that was supported by the Fatal Accident Inquiry findings. It was just a very tragic set of circumstances which knocked people for six for some time.

How is your system of shared heads in primaries going?

Broadly speaking I'm pleased with how it's gone, which is down to the quality of excellent heads who are doing a fantastic job. There are some issues for heads managing two parent councils and sets of parents, and they cannot be everywhere at once.

What are the most urgent issues in rural areas like the Borders at the moment?

How we manage the senior phase is a major preoccupation for us in the Borders. Like other schools, we use Scholar and other mediums to try to maintain wide subject choice, which is sometimes difficult in small secondaries. There's going to have to be a great focus on expanding e- learning, and perhaps moving teachers around, because moving children here, there and everywhere won't work (in rural areas).

As a former PE teacher, what do you think should be done to increase fitness levels in Scottish children?

Part of it is about schools and how we promote physical activity as part of the curriculum and through links to communities. The Active Schools initiative goes a long way. But there is a huge responsibility on parents, so it's also about how we educate and encourage parents on the importance of exercise.

How do you keep fit?

My rugby-playing days are over, but most weekends I watch my son playing. My wife and I enjoy walking in East Lothian, where we live, and my target for next year is to get into running again.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Reading fantasy and science fiction by authors like Michael Moorcock. It's a sad admission.


Born: Irvine, 1956

Education: Ardrossan Academy, Ardrossan; Nonnington College of Physical Education, Kent, B Ed and PGCE; Moray House, Edinburgh, diploma in outdoor education

Career: Various PE teacher posts in East Lothian; assistant head at Gracemount High, Edinburgh; professional assistant to Lothian education convener; head of pupil support, Edinburgh; director of education and lifelong learning, Borders.

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