Headline initiatives such as synthetic phonics, restorative justice or the focus on leadership will not by themselves solve intractable educational problems.
Brian Boyd, professor of education at Strathclyde University, told the conference that current concern about leadership may be overplayed. There were certainly tensions between leadership and the new model of collaborative working that was gaining ground.
Leadership came in many forms. "Some people are great leaders but they take you in the wrong direction and you do not want to follow them. Others are quiet and unassuming but they get the job done," Professor Boyd said. "We need to look at the context within which you expect people to take a leadership role."
The starting point for any school was its value system, or what it believes it is about. Young people had to experience a democratic school. "It's not about the date of the next disco or litter in the back playground but the big issues that affect them and their life chances," Professor Boyd recently talked to pupils in a west of Scotland secondary about the school's mission statement that "all children in this school are valued equally". They did not believe it. "They were able to give me a clear and consistent picture about what kind of pupil you had to be if you wanted to be valued," he said.