What we need from a leader

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
The first in The TES Scotland's series of seminars on educational issues of the moment, to mark our 40th anniversary, revealed a synergy of sorts between the public and private sectors - at least as represented by the dean of education at Moray House and the director of human resources at Standard Life (page six). Both urged caution in approaching the notion of leadership in schools. It is an ongoing preoccupation, of course, for perfectly understandable reasons. A change at the top can turn around a school's fortunes very quickly - but, as the seminar participants noted, there are other factors if lasting change is to be effected and effective.

Like many debates in education, issues become polarised and leadership is no exception. The Scottish Executive and HMIE are accused of placing undue emphasis on it but, starting from a point where little was done to improve school leadership in the past, increased attention will inevitably seem somewhat obsessive, as Rory Mackenzie noted at the seminar.

The discussions found common ground that the key relationship in a school is between learner and teacher, which is hardly a revolutionary conclusion.

But this suggests that excellence in teaching is as critical as excellence in leadership. In turn, it underlines the importance of what one headteacher described recently as "challenging the critical mass" of teachers where there were negative attitudes. That does require leadership, but it also requires teachers to raise their game. The best approach, as Carol Craig suggested, is to take a large group of staff through small changes rather than expect one or two individuals to push through wholesale reform. That's leadership.

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