The shortening of the school day for our children is not a solution I ever imagined I would be considering as a leader. However, it is clear to me that the current situation is not an acceptable way to educate our children either and it is far from sustainable. Think about the: lack of supply teachers; lack of permanent staff in some areas; school leaders spending increasingly large amounts of time as supply teachers – sometimes with multiple classes; taking high numbers of children in assemblies to provide teachers with non-class contact time. Meanwhile, the day job still requires to be completed. Despite the fact that leaders are bearing the brunt of many cuts already, we are also seeing increased workload demands in other areas (for instance a rise in administration from GIRFEC – see magazine for information about a consultation on draft statutory guidance).

Taking a cold look at the inevitability of large budget cuts which are yet to come, quite surprisingly, reducing the pupil week in line with teacher contact time seems like a way forward which will have least effect on our children’s learning. There will be many teachers and leaders who are reeling at the thought of this, however anyone who has kept a track on the scale of budget savings that councils are having to find will know we have reached a point where councils have to look at previously unknown territory.

I would much rather we didn’t have to consider these cuts and that Local Authorities could simply increase funding – but that isn’t going to happen. Having accepted that there may have to be some very big changes to the way we can deliver education we need to consider how we might create opportunity from this crisis point. Perhaps we can come up with innovative solutions if professionals can work together and look to work with other groups.

“Don`t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can`t cross a chasm in two small steps.”

― David Lloyd George

We do not have any immediate solutions to the problems faced. However, we are reassured by the increase in initial teacher training numbers and hope this may support the situation for those schools in the long term. However, it is clear that the strength of leadership at all levels will be ever more important. We need to find time to think strategically and keep our vision and goals in sight. As leaders, we all need to learn and to improve; it is the essence of the Scottish Government’s Ambition for life-long learning.

Some may say the arrival of SCEL (Scottish College of Educational Leadership) has come at the most challenging of times. It is hard to disagree, however I cannot think of a better time to engage with an institution which will support us in this job, encourage our research, learning, pedagogy and practice and thereby ensure we achieve the best for the children in our schools.

 Take a moment to consider the aspirations of SCEL:

  • Develop, articulate and implement a vision for educational leadership in Scotland that is learner-focused and futures-oriented.
  • Provide coherence for the range of leadership development opportunities available in Scotland.
  • Offer/facilitate innovative and cutting edge leadership development opportunities that are research-led, practice-focused and bench marked internationally.
  • Embed ‘leadership networks’ across the sectors and systems so that leaders at all levels are connected to and within professional leadership communities in education and the public sector.

These are important. Within the context we are now experiencing, a workforce able to embrace all of these aspirations will contribute to a leadership with the necessary strength and clarity of purpose to create the vision we must hold on to for our young people.

Gillian Hamilton and her small but growing team have wasted no time in developing all of these aspirations into practical and measurable actions.

The final weekend for the first cohort of SCEL fellows has passed and shortly they will graduate, a moment of pride not only for the individuals their families and colleagues, but for Scotland. This will be the beginning of the journey where we have cohorts of leaders who have expertise based in research which will help and support system leadership and which will have an impact on learning. Later this year their work will be available for us to access for our own learning, and we very much hope that the Fellows who have a strong link to our association will provide our TTT events and conferences with a rich variety of support, conversation and debate.

The new cohort will shortly be selected and they will champion the professionalism of leaders in Scotland and drive policy making and system change. A key feature is that practitioner enquiry should become accepted on a par with academic research.

SCEL is also finalising the new National Headship Programme which will give those, whose next post within 2-3 years will be that of Head teacher, an Introduction to Headship followed by an Extended Induction once in a headship and will finally lead to a Specialist Qualification for Headship at Masters level. The aim of this Programme is that, while it will become mandatory, its reputation as a world class qualification will ensure a desire by all leaders to participate. I am heartened by this ambition and also having listened to Gillian describe her vision for the programme feel that the approach and design should not jeopardise the numbers of aspiring heads, which currently is a further threat in this context of austerity.

SCEL has recently appointed a Development Officer who will be leading the scoping of the Framework for Educational Leadership. There is also work underway to develop an Endorsement Process for providers who want their programme to sit within the Framework. There are some key features which have been clearly addressed and as quality must remain synonymous with SCEL, providers will have to ensure they deliver to a high standard consistently and to have their course endorsement updated each 3 years. Listening to the focus on maintaining standards and high quality providers was both reassuring and also exciting.

There are many opportunities to be involved with SCEL (see www.scelscotland.org.uk). For example, you could be interested in doing some consultancy work with SCEL or become involved in Regional Networks.

It is clear that SCEL is here to make an impact on learning and we are part of the solution. I look forward to seeing more developments and meeting our new Fellows. We very much hope we can support the work of SCEL within AHDS, giving them opportunities to work with us and to challenge our thinking and practice.

As we are in both challenging and changing times, it will be easy to lose track of your commitment to children’s learning, but you must not. Join in, get involved and shape the future, protect the education of future generations by developing expertise and speaking up with reason and research as your basis. Don’t keep taking on more and more – easy to say I know – but prioritise, you know the school and the community you serve, stick with what they need you to do.

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once, but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”

And finally, mid-term approaches as I write this and I am looking forward to time with my husband, children and of course my gorgeous grandchildren – James, Archie and wee Jessica. I hope that you enjoyed some time off during mid-term and have reminded yourself of the strengths and positive qualities you and your family and friends know you have. To do that you need to have time with them. Have fun it’s free!!!

Ann McIntosh,

AHDS President