Who leads our schools?

23rd September 2005 at 01:00


Head of teachers' division

Scottish Executive Education


The Ambitious, Excellent Schools document takes the view that Scottish education starts from a position of success. That's looking at hard international comparisons where we are among the world's best equipped and best delivering education systems. That doesn't mean we can be complacent.

The 20 per cent lowest attaining, for instance, that tail is more stubbornly unmoving compared to the international competitors who do better than us educationally.

Secondly, we can't be complacent because the world is changing and we're changing as a country.The teaching profession is changing because of its demographics. You've got new teachers moving in to cut class- contact time and reduce class sizes. The profession itself is actually no longer ageing - it has stopped at an average age of 43 or 44, but that includes a significant number of people who are in their fifties and late forties.

Those bits of demographics mean that, come 2010 or 2012, half of the profession will not have been in Scottish schools teaching when the McCrone agreement was signed in 2001, so there will have been a huge change of staff over a relatively short period of time.

That gives us opportunities, but it also means that if we don't take them or if we do the wrong things, we will have stoked up some unhealthy aspects in Scottish schools for a complete generation.

This document is a challenge for us to get better still. And one of the starting points is a body independent from the Executive called HMIE. They go into schools and education authorities and look at how schools are performing. If we're to be the best we can in education, and if we're to be the best we can as a country, we need the best education system possible.

Merely being very good is not enough.

There needs to be a greater challenge in there. HMIE are working to stretch their present four-point scale to a six-point scale, including a standard of excellence which will be possible for the school to achieve as whole as an institution. All of this is then posited on the fact that leadership matters. Leadership in teaching in schools should not be all hierarchical.

You get all sorts of leaderships, from individuals, from pupil groups, teachers in classrooms and, in addition, the hierarchical aspect of leadership ending with the headteacher.

We think we have the opportunity to be able to change the culture in which our education system operates. That has to come from the leadership at all levels, understanding the role that they have to play. We need to be clear as to what we mean by leadership within schools so we have what is a consultation and discussion paper to allow us to set a standard for people to test and judge themselves against.

It is not just a matter of setting the language of expectation and having the right appointment procedures. These will be tough and challenging roles. People can be in a role for 20 to 30 years and, conceivably, in primary schools longer than that - it would be naive to think that after 30 years somebody needs no professional development and support.

We're looking at the success of the induction scheme, and we have learned some extremely valuable lessons about the benefits we can get from putting public investment in at the right times. The continuation of that is: how do you keep people at the top end of their performance and motivational range? There are other influential people around that we're engaging with, such as Columba 1400, who can help individuals see where they are at and where they want the next stage of their leadership to go.

We ought to view all of this as starting from a position of strength, but we believe that there will be a shift and the concept of leadership has to be central to what is happening within education. We need challenges as to what the best is, how the Executive's role is best played, what we should be doing and what we should not be doing, where we should step back and let local authorities in and schools and the profession do its business when we simply get in the way.


Rory Mackenzie

Balerno High, Edinburgh

There's one thing that worried me a wee bit about the emphasis HMIE place on leadership. I think sometimes staff feel a little miffed when they read a report that emphasises leadership and much less is said about the rest of the people who are working in the school. I think leadership is important at all levels, but sometimes the impression from HMIE is that, if you get the right leader, it will all work. Well, that's not true. You need to select the right person. You need to have leadership at all sorts of levels, and I sometimes worry about the over-emphasis on one heroic person hauling 65 teachers plus support staff on. You may have a great leader at the top of the school, but without leaders throughout the school, it's not going to go anywhere.


Ailsa Stratton

English, Boroughmuir High


I've been through two inspections. During the first, I was just out of my probation and I relished the experience. But for the second, the rest of the staff went, 'Oooh it's a threat'. I think they often regard HMIEs as too much like one-way traffic. Top down. 'They're coming in. They're telling me, 'That's good', 'That's not so good', 'You need to get better at that'.

We've got our initial teacher education, our schools, our HMIE, but it needs to be a circular process, and, at the moment, I think teacher training, school and the link between school and HMIE is not going in quite the same direction. But if we want to explain to HMIE the kind of schools we're after, we need that conversation and dialogue with them as well.

To be fair to them, in the new set-up, they do offer that opportunity, but it's a brief four-and-a-half days of 'Wham bam thank you ma'am'. At the end of the second day, the inspectors who have a specific remit sit down with the appropriate department. I was at our English department session and there was meant to be a free-flowing exchange about the inspection of other issues, but it was very frustrating. Teachers want to say 'Don't just grade me. Tell me how we could change'. But at the moment they are not so sure about doing that.


Roy Jobson

President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland

Rory and Ailsa were saying how relationships are very important. The inspector is very important, but so is creativity and the ability to get on with doing your job. Sometimes we've got things out of balance.

It is the same with some of the measurements we do and some of the things we measure. We should look at that nationally. If you look at global threats for a country of our size, our capacity compared to places like China and India, what's our best hope? It is intellectual property and creativity. If we continue to take a mechanical view of the process, then I'm not sure we'll create winners with the self-esteem and the confidence or will to take us forward, economically or socially.

Part of the debate about Ambitious, Excellent Schools is to look at the balance of activity that we've got. This year, we've been inspected, we've had a follow-up inspection from HMIE, we have a best-value inspection by Audit Scotland, we will be in the queue for the inspection of children's services and that's without all the smaller inspections about, say, community education. And on and on it could go. On and on it could go. On the odd day we actually did some real work!


Stephen McCafferty

Human resources director

Standard Life

I think you've been attacking that point correctly when you say teachers and pupils need to work beside each other and actually start to develop leadership at all levels. You can already see that starting to emerge. It springs out of an atmosphere of trust. I'm sitting outside the education system, but you can see that needs support from the Executive and HMIE, and so there is trust between the schools and headteachers and between teachers and pupils. There is a risk if you over-codify and over-structure and over-measure the whole time that the message that sends is: 'We don't trust you.'


Pamela Munn

Dean of Education

Edinburgh University

Ivery much agree with the remarks that Stephen has just made. We know that what drives an education system is its accountability. People talk about: how do you get change? It's quite easy. People conform to targets or find ingenious ways round them, If you ask teachers how to change their practice, you tell them what is going to happen in the exam and they teach to the exam. So, a real challenge for us is to get intelligent accountability systems. That's a huge task.

There's a second thing I wanted to raise. I noticed in the papers supporting today's seminar a question about how teachers differ. Teachers think of themselves as leaders. I think we ought to be really conscious about that. What I see happening in other systems is that the notion of a teacher-leader is to detach teachers from the realities of pedagogy and to see teachers as managers. I think there's research evidence about this in England, that learning is starting to be broken down into specific tasks that the teacher manages. And that's not my own conception of what teaching is about. I would guess it's not the conception of most of the people round the table.


Lindsey Robertson

Castleview primary

Craigmillar, Edinburgh

The thing that's created the most debate since we've been back to school is the poster for the Curriculum for Excellence. I put it up in the staffroom and we were talking about it at the in-service day. Our staff, who work in very difficult circumstances, were saying, 'We can do that. We are doing that, but how are they going to measure us against that? Where's our starting point?'

They were really filled with hope when they saw that. It was quite an inspirational thing for them, but my worry is: how are we going to measure that? I previously worked in a school in a really affluent area. I hadn't had an inspection there since 1988, but we were prepared for the HMIE and weren't terribly worried about it, because we knew we could match what they were looking for.

Our worry, in my present school, is how are we ever going to get up there with the national targets. I don't think we are, if we're being brutally honest. We're going to do our very best to raise attainment, but if we could have measures Curriculum for Excellence, I think you could come into Castleview and you would see fantastic things going on - much better than some of the things that were happening in the more affluent places. It's not a level playing field. I think sometimes that coming in and measuring actually has a negative effect on what's a really positive learning environment.


Robert Brown, Deputy Education Minister

I took up my post a couple of months ago, but I had the opportunity over the past couple of years as convenor of the Parliament's education committee to go and visit quite a lot of schools and talk to people on the front line. There's an issue about the relationship between inspection of what goes on in the school and what the results of it are. My impression of HMIE is that there seems to be a very good inspection overall and we were trying a progressive approach towards things, but no doubt the experience will vary.

The question is really what brings out success? I can smell it as soon as I go through the school door. We were visiting a couple of schools in equivalent socio-economic contexts. It was all to do with our investigation into work place, school-college links and motivation. The first school had a teacher who was specifically devoted to that issue in what he did with some of the turned-off kids. He was clearly a committed person, and the thing had a smell of success about it.

In the second school, it was the 57th task of the deputy headteacher or something, and it appeared to be an element of not being very interested in the internet or things of that kind. It had a different feel altogether.

I remember going to Greggs, the bakers, where a number of teachers in education inter-related with their managers. You could see, when they first went in they thought: 'What do these people have to tell us about education?' Then, as it began to develop that theme of what we all do in management, we all have this sort of approach and all that, you could see how that works in our schools because there a parallel comes in. It was a very helpful experience for many.


Gavin Devereux

Our objective, as I see it, is to raise the confidence and self-esteem of the future generation, through raising morale in the school as a whole and having some way of identifying how well we're doing that. And I think systems can be developed that can easily measure a young person's growth in self-awareness, self-esteem, confidence and can-do attitude over a period of time. If we were able to implement this sort of system earlier rather than later, then we could identify where we're doing well and where we still have opportunities to develop.


Carol Craig

Chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being

The difficulty I have is I don't know where to begin. I haven't been a teacher, but I have worked for about 10 or 15 years as a trainer on a lot of in-service days, so I've spent a lot of time talking to people in education. This document (Ambitious, Excellent Schools) was very much centred on either teaching in the future in the kind of skills that we want teachers to have. But the difficulty I see for probationers is that, particularly secondary probationers, they do not feel that they are able to be creative and change things because they are having to fit into a fairly traditional educational system. A lot of them said: 'I came into education because I want to do it. I've set out the standard, but I'm working with people who aren't like that, and they're basically saying 'Do it our way, because we're getting good results'.'

They don't want to become a traditional teacher and yet they feel that forces in the system are such that that's what's going to happen. The issue is particularly difficult for probationers in schools where they get good exam results. They (the school establishment) say 'Don't rock the boat.

We're doing alright here. You just fit in.' Whereas in the schools where there are more challenges, they were keen for the idea zone. Probationers will come in and new ideas were backed. I think they're a useful window into the culture in education, particularly with the mature students who got experience of working elsewhere.

Another thing: Scotland is a very collectivist culture. We care passionately about one another and what other people think. And that has a huge bearing on the work that we do. Some people were saying that we can spend a huge amount of money on training, personal development etc. And while people loved it, when we went back to their organisation, they were waiting for other people to make it alright for them to move.

If you want to make a difference, you have to do things with a really big group of staff and maybe move in a small way - rather than take individuals and move them a big way because it doesn't tend to stick. So I think we've got to be looking for big solutions, full school to change the culture a small amount because I think that ultimately will have more impact. It is not that I think leadership's not important, I think it's too hard for leaders at the moment to make a difference.


Stephen McCafferty

One of the things that struck me when we began was that we're starting from a position of strengths. What I heard became very negative about inspection and other bodies. I thought, it feels as if there's a huge pressure on me (the teacher) to tick all the boxes, complete all these assessments and I'm not sure that I'm doing the right thing. And where's the positive aspect to that?

So the ability to speed up people, to give their best in a way which suits particular outcomes - is important. It's the role of the manager to create the environment where people feel engaged in their work. Well, I can't do that if I've got an audit coming every month, I can't do that if I've got risk-management telling me I can't do something, if I've got compliance telling me to regulate this etc.

I liked the point somebody made about 'We've got a five-point scale and we want it to be a six-point scale where good is not good enough'. As a country, if what we're saying is, 'We're pretty good here, but we're really not good enough because these other countries are going to take it away from us' then how do we become much better? And if I were coming into education, that's where my aim would be. So how do you instil that kind of vision? Of course there has to be regulation. Of course there has to be standards , but focus your task - that's an enabler to other things.


Roy Jobson

I said to my family 'Just think of the next exam'. It's a kind of ticket that you've got to get to the next stage and actually, in the end, it doesn't mean a significant amount in terms of what you achieve in life.

It's just this hurdle you've got to get over. Robert mentioned the point about Gregg's management. My youngest was a manager in Greggs. Her degree was in business studies and French so she did the third year of her business studies in France. When she applied for jobs it was Greggs that she went to. What they wanted to know was: how did she survive in France? Which life skills did she learn?

And what were the things that enabled her to cope with other people? And that's what got her the job. Not necessarily because she had a degree, because all the rest of the candidates had a degree.

We quite rightly get extremely concerned about so-called standards in schools and the way teachers will or will not inspire and bring about achievement. And yet a lot of the research demonstrates that many of, if not most of the issues that effect educational achievement happen out of the school.

And in policy terms, both for politicians and civil servants, that's what we get our heads around because in some cases we are setting our colleagues an impossible task.

Overall, if you look at our outcomes and the OECD tables (Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Decelopment), Scotland is doing well. Where's our biggest problem? In the gap. In the long tail of under-achievement.

We've got to address that. It can't all be down to the schools.


Nicola Richards Chief executive of Columba 1400

Ithink your point about guiding strengths is very interesting for us at Columba. We do some work with corporates as well as schools, and just the difference that you often see between the corporate participants that come and the participants that have come from public service - it's almost like people have been crushed, you know. The time it takes just to get those individuals to a place where they actually feel they're doing a good job here, that they're contributing something really spectacular and can be proud of is enormous. We often have such negative views about corporate culture, but it was really striking to see that kind of contrast between the two cultures - it's just such a shame.

We're doing a lot of work with the people who are coming out of local authority care. These kids are totally disengaged, but yet the leadership capacity that they have, their skills, their innate understanding from the tough experiences they've been through is incredible. If you could just turn that round and channel it in a way that's positive for their morale rather than something that takes them into a negative spiral. The potential is limitless, but we waste it. We waste it for society and I think that's a tragedy.


Rory Mackenzie

Iwant to come back to something Carol said that I think is crucial and a big problem in education. Brian Boyd spoke to our staff on the first day back about Curriculum for Excellence and we were inspired by what he was saying. But he was also saying: 'Just watch what happens to it.' Let's just see what happens, if a dead hand from somewhere is going to come and stop it. The teachers who are coming in want to do quite radical things, but it's how you get away from the situation where exam results are seen as really, really important. I think the question I always ask is: 'How do you actually get the kids to do well?' I mean, is it teaching the exams? Because I think that maybe if you're an inspirational teacher like my English teacher, she didn't teach to the exam - she was just a brilliant teacher and we passed exams, THE CONSULTANT

Carol Craig

One thing fundamental to Scottish culture that is different from other cultures is this fear of getting it wrong. It's absolutely huge, and it's endemic in Scotland. So I think that very often people who run organisations believe that there's much more in the way of allowed freedom and flexibility and so on than people actually perceive. I spoke to someone last week from Health who had just moved up from England, and she said that was the thing that she couldn't get a hold on. She thought there was a big difference between Scotland and England. People keep coming to her saying: 'What would you do? Give us the detailed instructions.' Whereas, if we did that in England, people would object. These people are wanting the 'i's dotted the 't's crossed. They want it word for word.

The problem with the present system is that it reinforces that because it's so much inspection and exams, and that overrides anything else. You can say what you like, but you're getting it wrong. A lot of that does come from parents. We want our children to do well, yet we have a system that restricts them.

Maybe one wee window of opportunity here is around the well-being agenda.

saying: why are we pursuing wealth, big jobs or whatever when in fact the evidence is that it doesn't make you happy, that we might be better off with another job and earn less money. These might be the issues that actually start to take off in education, because people will maybe realise that what we want for your children is for them to be happy and fulfilled, not necessarily high-flying and successful. The emphasis has to be on creativity, on self-awareness and self-expression because they're inevitably going to be more important.


Ailsa Stratton

I actually went and spoke to some of the pupils at school yesterday to see what their views on leadership were. Did they feel that the ethos in the school actually encouraged leadership within themselves? They said the main thing for them was to be given freedom to find their own boundaries and challenges. Yes, they needed teamwork, but the best way for them to progress was to work with a teacher who respected them and spoke to them on their level without being too chummy. If you got a teacher who was desperate to be your friend, there was no motivation there.

And it was the balance between getting the teacher who said: 'Right, okay, let's stop the chat and get on with it because I know that you can do this.' And it was that positive reinforcement that mattered. But I don't see us very often transferring that reinforcement to how they work within our routines at schools.

Too often we don't share our best resource, which is our own selves. We share it with the pupils but we don't share it with each other. Teaching is an immensely vulnerable activity. It's a personal choice, and every time you stand up there in front of that classroom, you're putting yourself on the line. And so, when probationers come in to secondary and they think, 'Right I'm putting myself on the line here. I've made this choice and I'm not being allowed the freedom of expression in this way', that's when we have a problem. We need to transfer the positive relationships we have with our pupils to working with each other so that that vulnerability is shared and we'll support each other.


Pamela Munn

My question is: 'What do children go to school for? What's the purpose?' The document that went round about the confident learners, and so on, is an attempt to spell out what the purposes are. And that's been generally well accepted, and the emphasis now is on how does what we do in school relate to these purposes.

This is a bigger story. The document itself came out of something called the national debate in education where there was concern expressed about the nature of the curriculum. A lot of young people contributed to that debate in different ways, so there was pupil input. But that, and the aim of the curriculum, says that people can reach these purposes in different ways. The challenge for us is to go back to intelligent accountability systems. How much diversity can you allow and still be sure you're moving the whole system forward. How can we be sure we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of that we already do well? I keep coming back to this because it is very important.

Second, we've got to be very careful about how we sell the notion of excellent schools given the remarks that Carol made about the collectivist culture in Scotland. Do schools want to be seen as excellent? I don't know, because what follows from that is a terrific amount of pressure to keep excellent. Other schools will pile in, saying: 'How do we become excellent?'

There's a big issue about how we sell the notion of excellence in a collectivist culture, where we want everybody to be excellent. We could do it in a way that is entirely counter-productive at schools.

Accountability is moving away from a department's management issues, towards the nature of our assessment system down to assessment. What is it that we're assessing and is what we're assessing what we really want to be assessing? What we are getting, I think, even at university level, is a very highly instrumental view of learning. What I have do is this, because it will contribute towards my exam result, not because it's what I am really interested in. It's not what excites me. It's not what really I enjoy. I have to do the lesson vocabulary because it will get me to my Standard grade or Higher or whatever - not because I'm really fired up.

And the more that we try and relate what goes on in schools to real life, the more we're going to be motivating children to see connections between why they go to school and what happens for the rest of their lives.


John Laughton

The first thing I would say is that every pupil's different, so there is no pupil agenda. There's no one-size-fits-all, and that's the case for teachers and parents as well. Parents have other kind of agendas. Teachers have agendas. Different schools have different agendas.

We're very good at finding indirectly the views of pupils without actually speaking to pupils. If you speak to them, you find that they have clear views about the whole idea of leadership. I think pupils have a fear of incoming leaders in driving their schools forward if it's anything to do with the schools I've been a pupil at.

One thing I look at is student councils. It's becoming more across the board now. For example, within Edinburgh it's something that's getting pushed up the agenda. And there's a lot in the idea of teaching students how to be brave and confident. And teachers are doing all that and sometimes the teachers aren't like that themselves, so we're saying: 'Well, how do we teach these teachers?', but we're also at the same time saying these teachers will teach all the kids something that the teachers haven't acquired themselves yet, which is interesting. I think if we can get this sort of peer leaderships I think that's a very key role as well.

What is success would be my next question? Being a lawyer or politician or a doctor - is that success? If someone wants to be a youth worker, or I want to be a community worker - I don't know how many people would say that is acceptable?


Louise Trotter

Afew words I picked up were excellence and exam results, good learning, and then I heard something about fear. I was just thinking it all through and someone said something about working through the year, but it all comes to a head with the exam results. All hope and everything else: why does the end need to be exam results?

I remember when I was at primary school, my teacher told us to embrace the tests rather than fear them, be glad that tests are there, so that you can learn something from them. I've just been through Standard grade and it felt like hell. Where did this fear come from? Why is there fear of a test? I'm not blaming the HMIE but when they come into schools, teachers are very kind of, 'Ooh there's an inspector right' so, we'll walk through the corridor and we'll teach very properly'. That's where I think the fear comes from, and I think that's what needs to be addressed or something like that, the fear of tests rather than embrace it.

A student who worked through the whole year is top of the class then comes to the exams and just totally breaks down in front of the paper. Everything just starts to go wrong, and they just can't do it, and they end up with what they think is really a bad grade at the end. I just think that something surely can be done about that.


Robert Brown

Some Careers Scotland research indicates that young people who have got goals in life, and I don't necessarily mean that they want to be a doctor or ballboy or whatever, but tenable goals for where they're going in the future, the kind of direction they're going in, achieve better and attain better than others who don't have that sort of sense of direction now. One of the first things I did as Deputy Minister was going to the third world youth congress, which was just recently held in Scotland. It brought 600 young people from 122 countries from across the world to Scotland to engage with each other for a week's programme of community activities and various things of that kind. Very, very inspirational for those who took part in it. I guess not unlike Columba 1400 in some ways.

But there must be issues out of it. For example, where do these motivated young people come from? I mean sometimes from very difficult countries with backgrounds which make our problems seem relatively minor by comparison.

Tet there were some extremely inspirational young people there, to hear from some of the African countries, you know, who overcome all sorts of obstacles in their pas. To be successful, there must be another dimension to this as well - it's not income. What can we learn from other countries about some of these aspects as well? I think there's a lot going on there, and the whole issue of motivating young people, learning from these people who came to the youth congress I think is part of that process.


Rory Mackenzie

Two quick points connected with what was just said just now. I think it is really important how you select the people who are running the schools. I worry a wee bit about the Scottish Qualification for Headship, it's heavy going, and too academic - it really is. We've got to watch the person that people are leading in schools at departmental level or any other level, because you don't want to send in the academics. The people skill in running a school is emotional intelligence. There's a diminishing number of people willing to put themselves in the job that I or Lindsey have, for a variety of reasons. That's quite a worrying thing, so getting them applying for the jobs and then selecting the right people is a very important issue that we've not quite cracked yet, I don't think.


John Laughton

Iapproached my school when a couple of teachers' posts were up to ask for pupils to take part. Oh no, no, did they have an attitude about that! In an interview, the kind of person that I am. I kept arguing about it, and then it ended up with the door closed, so the message was that schools are not democratic bodies. I think it's fear of young people. But I guess my idea is having young people involved in each appointment in some way at various stages, but at a more sort of consistent level.


Carol Craig

Idetect huge changes in people's attitudes. There is much, much more willingness to engage with this agenda (of confidence and optimism) to see that a lot of it's about attitude. I feel there'd be much more of an openness. And I think that's hugely optimistic because I just get the feeling there's a vague wind of change. The role that the centre can play is seeing the changes in Scotland are not just education changes. It's about sport, it's about health, it's about a whole range of things. The idea is to have a wee shift in our attitudes, to be more focused on what's right, on the strengths, to be less fearful of failure.


Lindsey Robertson

I was recently interviewed by Ewan (Ewan Aitken, education spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities who chaired this Education Conversation) for my present post. This is my third headship and it was interesting the way that the recruitment and selection process has evolved over the time that I've been headteacher.

I think that at the last interview I was asked many more questions about myself and about what my values in education were. I think that actually made my interview much more difficult to gauge whether I'd been successful or not because there is no right answer to what your values are in education. And I remember reading it thinking: 'I hope I've got that bit right.'

That has become something that I've been able to use to recruit staff at the school. I've been asking them, you know: 'What research did you do before you applied for the job?' and people just said: 'Well I need to get a permanent job.'

I wanted to recruit people who really wanted to be there, who were really committed to it, and wanted to be engaged in what we were trying to do and I think that I got a lot from the interview process that I'd gone through as a headteacher. I think that we've got to learn from these things and we've got to make sure that we're choosing the right people for our organisations.

Interestingly enough, when I was appointed to the post, there was a lot of talk from other colleagues in the city. Some were saying: 'That was fantastic, you're going to be working in a tough place with the experience that you have.' Other people have been saying 'That's a very bad career move.'

Now, after my Columba 1400 experience, I saw it was more about me, about what I wanted to do rather than whether it was a good career move. But I know for some people the career path is very much that you go to the bigger school, the prize if you like. Some people don't see the move I made is actually one of the biggest prizes I've ever actually been given.


Donald Henderson

This has been very helpful. I think the theme running through everything that we've been talking about is that there is no right easy or simple answer to anything that we're talking about. This is complex, it's profound and it's fundamental.

Within that, we talked a lot about exam results and attainment - attainment results generally, but focusing in on exam results and it's probably inevitable that people do fix on them, There aren't all that many measures, yet I want us just to compare how people are managing.

I'm looking for the very different community circumstances and personal circumstances that there are in our country. Still, attainment results is one of the areas that we can compare. And I think the danger is not that we fix on them - I think that's right - but that people become transfixed by them. That's when you get it wrong. I'm delighted to say that the Executive hasn't got it wrong on league tables because we're don't publish them But let's not be frightened of making comparisons or of testing ourselves.

I like the phrase about embracing the test that the primary school teacher said. There are I think a number of things in Scottish education that are pushing us in the right direction - not just leadership issues.

But the really important aspect of assessment is for people to check as they're going on, where have we got to, so that if there are difficulties in certain areas of learning, there's an opportunity for people in teaching to go back and learn. We need to have the confidence to be able to do that.

I've been picking up on procedures that mean that even if schools cannot ultimately be democratic places, that doesn't mean that anybody should be excluded and there are actually lots of ways of getting pupil voices out and engaged, even in areas where people are applying for jobs and coming along to see what kind of school communities exists. Even if young people are not involved at the final interview for teaching appointments, there are lots of imaginative ways to involve them in an environment where risk taking is allowed and encouraged.

Thank you

The TESS would like to thank all the participants in our first round-table discussion

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