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Off with their heads

Last week's piece describing the "tradition" developed by West Lothian councillors of appointing headteachers to their education directorate raises questions, not least for those people in Scotland currently employed in local authorities as development and improvement staff.

Those of us in AEDIPS (Association of Educational Development and Improvement Professionals in Scotland) would like to emphasise that people who work in the traditionally much-maligned central services of local authorities have responded to the needs of sometimes radically-changed education departments by steadily upskilling, so that they - rather than headteachers - may be the best job candidates.

Development and improvement staff go by a variety of titles, but have in common the requirement to demonstrate a range of high-order skills and knowledge:

* they must show an understanding of and be able to transmit information about a range of activities and links that go far beyond those of a traditional local authority education department

* they must demonstrate the ability to work with and develop systems and organisations in an age of multi-function departments, children's services, learning partnerships, and so on

* they must sustain partnerships and co-operation with external agencies

* they must develop their own skills and those of others, in effect managing personnel in a setting in which they can persuade but not require co-operation

* they must offer leadership to school managers in building capacity in the education system

* they must develop evaluative skills in themselves and colleagues

* they must maintain a broad knowledge of the curriculum and of curriculum change

* they must promote learning and raised attainment in schools.

AEDIPS is in discussions with a range of bodies - Learning and Teaching Scotland, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, Paisley University - and we hope a process will emerge that will formally recognise the professionalism of development and improvement staff and help ensure that these professionals are not overlooked in the promotion stakes.

Jean Nisbet

President

Association of Educational Development and Improvement Officers in Scotland

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