Leaders and followers

17th September 2004 at 01:00
The growing emphasis on the leadership of Scotland's schools and education authorities has taken a remarkable time to reach the top of the agenda. No doubt this is partly due to the fact that scrutiny of school performance is a relatively recent development, so the contribution of leadership to what schools did and what they were capable of could not in the past be fully assessed.

The SELMAS conference (page four) was therefore a timely event - if only as an illustration of the fact that developing leadership capacity is not just about laying on courses and seminars or exhortations in the manner of George III's mother, who might have said: "George, be a leader." As Walter Humes put it so succinctly, leadership requires professional commitment and professional courage developed over time, not just grand vision statements.

It was particularly timely also because the Education Minister stayed to listen. He will now be aware that perceptions among those who have to lead these developments are far from rosy: a profession that is felt to be disempowered and dependent is not going to fill the ranks of leaders with the quality that is required. It is also one thing to contemplate giving more power to headteachers, but are headteachers or national policy-makers comfortable with extending autonomy to the class teacher?

As Pamela Munn said at the conference, this is really about power - real leadership means dispersing it.

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