Letter from Lahore - Watch, listen and learn as teachers become masters

10th May 2013 at 01:00

Dear Graham,

I am in Islamabad at the moment, attending a meeting of The City School's academic advisory board. It is an interesting board: our director of education, three regionally based deputy directors, our head of inspection, head of professional development, head of curriculum and four external consultants.

Last night, we were driven to a high-class restaurant to have dinner. There was Rose, the director of education, and Shireen, one of the deputy directors. I first met them more than 15 years ago when they were young and aspiring headteachers. Their organisation had then just implemented a policy whereby as much professional development for teachers as as possible should lead to master's degree modules. Now there is an interesting idea, Graham.

So Rose and Shireen set down that path, doing some very school- and classroom-focused work, supplemented with an academic backdrop delivered by the University of Strathclyde. Some of their colleagues were happy to sign off with a few modules, some stopping with a certificate or a diploma award. But Rose and Shireen went for the full bhuna, so to speak, and became MSc graduates of Strathclyde.

Over 10 years, about 30 or 40 acquired master's degrees (roughly similar, scaled up, to 500 in Scotland); and some 100 acquired a postgraduate diploma.

Now did it make a difference? They are leaders who focus on learning and teaching. They have a high commitment to staff development. In 2010, we ran a leadership course for 10 days. Out of four trainers, two of us were external, one was a deputy director and one was Rose. I have seen Scottish directors of educational services giving keynotes, even workshops, at teacher development courses, but not that.

The downside (from The City School's perspective) is enhanced geographical and job mobility. Just as some Scottish MEds have ended up using their degree to become professors or directors of educational services in England, so this school has experienced the same.

There is, of course, the issue of funding: the school pays fees and expenses upfront, then recovers them from the employee over a period of years - the converse of the model used with aspiring chartered teachers. Interesting and complex issues for you and Petra!

I asked Rose to write a few words about all of this. Here is what she wrote: "Ever since that first day (when I stepped into the training venue so full of myself and thinking, 'What can they teach me more?'), I am humbled with all the learning that has come my way into being an adaptive leader.And I am still young, Iain - at least very young to learning."

And that, after some 17 letters to various unfortunate recipients, seems a good note on which to sign off.

Yours, Iain

Iain Smith, is an education consultant, currently working for The City School (TCS) in Pakistan.

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