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Leading on the Edge – Increasing capacity and minimising bureaucracy

Sometimes, and particularly at this time of year, we can feel like we are living on the edge as well as leading on the edge. The summer term whizzes past in a flurry of events, reports, staffing decisions, requisitions, transitions, class organisation and meetings about next session with staff and parents. Each year seems to be faster than the last and always seems to have another priority or two added in for good measure. All the while, resources are diminishing and it is hard to see how we can increase capacity amongst our staff and in our schools in such a climate. However, before we throw the towel in, let’s remember that we do a great job and that our schools are flourishing and dealing well with developing learning and teaching and meeting our learners’ needs on a daily basis.

The title of this President’s Perspective is particularly pertinent following two very successful one day conferences on ‘Leading Planning, Assessment & Moderation’. These have been well attended and well received events and have highlighted an appetite for professional development in these key areas of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, as well as a strong will and desire from our profession, particularly our members, to make it work. The quality of professional dialogue was high and there were open and transparent debates around the issues and barriers and some solutions as to how we might increase capacity amongst the profession.

However, we can’t do this in isolation and need to foster partnership working and engage in networks across schools, clusters, associated school groups and authorities. If we don’t then waiting around the corner is an increasing industry of re-inventing the wheel and systems being put in place to fill a perceived gap in the gathering of assessment information. We can’t afford to simply lead on the edge, we need support and strong networks to deliver all that is required and to ensure that all staff are coming with us along the way.

Clear messages were emphasised in relation to partnership working and building capacity within and across the profession. With ever reducing capacity at the centre and fewer opportunities for large scale professional development events, the only solution is to support development work and increased understanding from within. There are commercial providers and IT systems just waiting to sell their latest answer to Curriculum for Excellence to practitioners and we need to be mindful that the answers lie with the profession.

These conferences have been a real attempt on all parts to strengthen the partnership working between ourselves and Education Scotland, ADES and the Scottish Government. Colleagues from local authorities, Scottish Government and Education Scotland have worked alongside AHDS develop the key themes and deliver thought provoking presentations and workshop activities. Colleagues from these partners along with volunteers from our own membership facilitated workshops leading to high quality professional discussions.

If you haven’t yet attended one of these events, we are planning at least one more in Dunblane in September (see page X) and there may be further opportunities in the future. At a recent ADES conference, Graham Donaldson made the point that ‘improvement is not optional’ and the ‘quality of leadership is crucial to the success and impact of such improvement’. There is much to be proud of in our sectors in terms of the progress already made but let’s make no bones about it, there is still a long road to be travelled and we are all at various points on that road.

Professional Development at the heart

In addition, the need for high quality professional learning opportunities for our Head Teachers, Depute Head Teachers and Principal Teachers is vitally important. The ‘Leading Edge’ conference (see page Y) touched on many themes relevant for aspiring leaders, not least the stress on the need for career long professional learning. We are in exciting times within the profession at present. The GTCS has launched the new suite of professional standards which highlight the importance of high quality leadership for the development of our education system. Alongside the new standards are the developments regarding the implementation of the National Partnership Group recommendations following the Donaldson Review. Professional learning is a key priority within the improvements put forward and the proposal of a Scottish College for Educational Leadership is being developed at present. There have been a number of scoping conversations about the college and the key principles and purposes of such an establishment. Early indications have been reassuring in terms of meeting the needs of the profession in relation to leadership development and sustaining leadership capacity.

AHDS continues to aim to provide quality professional development opportunities for members. There has been another round of TTT sessions in relation to Competency and Coaching, as well as highlighting Professional Update (which is on track for full roll out from August 2014). High quality Professional Review and Development is the cornerstone of Professional Update and this is important for leaders as well as classroom practitioners.

 Keeping the faith

Many of us will have heard the issues around workload and may have had difficult negotiations and discussions recently around working time agreements. The climate is still very uncertain with negotiations ongoing regarding pensions and pay scales, as well as terms and conditions. EIS made a case in the media just last week about unmanageable workload in relation to Curriculum for Excellence and, no surprises, school leaders are often deemed to be the root of the problem. As an Association, we totally acknowledge that we are not there yet and we need support and more importantly time to consolidate and embed. A constant plea to our partners, particularly at the Leading PAM Conferences, was don’t just keep producing materials and changing goalposts, but give us the chance to get under the skin of these matters and really develop and challenge our thinking. We agree that EIS has highlighted the perception out there and the issue that we all know – that there is still considerable work to be done in primary, early years and ASN establishments. However, we must be proud of the progress we have made and reinforce that this is due to time being appropriately allocated for development activities and a shared partnership approach to the agenda. We must reinforce the need for effective communication and leadership across our sectors as I believe, with strong and focused leadership, we will succeed.

As an Association, we have also tried to look at the workload issues for our members and this has in turn created a mammoth and unenviable task and workload for Greg and Gillian! Many thanks to the members who completed a Workload Diary in the month of March. Our aim is to get a bank of information to analyse and use in a number of ways including next steps for action should the need arise in relation to pensions. The results are already proving very interesting, if a touch difficult to draw any clear conclusions from at present. Suffice to say, workload is extremely varied and the exercise has demonstrated a wide diversity for our members in the roles of the job. One thing is for certain, our workload is considerable and a work to rule would be extremely hard to determine. More will be shared in the future and we wish Greg and Gillian well in the task of pulling this information together.

Come wind, rain or shine – relax and enjoy!!

Regardless of the weather, and given the long winter and continuing spring conditions, even in May, who knows what summer will look like, we need to take a step back over the holiday period and re-charge our batteries. This next school session will again hold many challenges, changes and negotiations for us all. There will be members moving onto new phases in their lives (retirement for want of a better word!) and we wish you well in all the new opportunities you will have to enjoy. There will be new people in post and it is important that we support our new and aspiring leaders. If you know of one, encourage them to join and be part of an organisation that is listening to your needs and striving to address them to the best of our ability.

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful team we have at AHDS and to all on National Executive, National Council and the Area Officers for your tremendous support and commitment over the year. My particular thanks to Greg and Gillian, who work tirelessly and often quietly behind the scenes to deliver a high quality service. With people of their calibre in post, we have a highly respected and valued Association. I wish you all a relaxing and enjoyable summer holiday and look forward to seeing you at the future Leading PAM event or at our Annual Conference in November.

Pam Nesbitt

AHDS President

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