I spent a very pleasant evening last night at the St George’s Centre for the annual SELMAS dinner. The theme of the evening was Donaldson and Me and a succession of impressive speakers shared their personal responses to the Teaching Scotland’s Future review.
The themes picked up by the various speakers didn’t hugely surprise: Linda McTavish, Pincipal of Anniesland College was enthused by the prominence of partnership working in the review and talked about how this was a functional necessity in her setting – without their partnerships with business, industry, schools etc the college really couldn’t operate. This addressed the issue of providing a bit of the “how” that discussion at my table identified as missing from the report – sharing the Anniesland experience in partnership building and working might be a useful thing to do.
Jaqueline Scott, HT at Trinity Prmary School Edinburgh mentioned improving quality and entry selection as priorities, and also called for greater flexibility with time commitments for probationers, suggesting greater flexibility with time management and allocations for probationers. She suggested longer continuous stretches in class, then concentrated, focussed periods out of class to really reflect, share, consolidate and build on their experience. The weekly 0.7/0.3 split is sometimes seen as rigid and disruptive, and it stands to reason that a more flexible system would be more user friendly. This is something I hope we can discuss further at the Probationer Support event we’re organising next week at SMC.
Gillian Hamilton was on her usual top form talking about her favourite subject – leadership; and asking what difference Donaldson will make to this theme. Looking to the future, the role of HTs will no doubt change, as it already has since Gillian was in the role and not necessarily in a positive way, with more attention to risk assessment, budgeting, behaviour and grievances tending to sometimes eclipse the HTs role as lead learning in a school. The virtual college, as suggested by Donaldson via the national CPD team, will provide a focus for CPD and connecting school leaders and should also help shape and support the various leadership roles a forward-thinking profession for the future might require.
The most contentious discussion of the evening came during the panel discussion at the end when Cara Aitchison Head of School at Moray House, Edniburgh saw Donaldson’s recommendations as an invitation to the TEIs in Scotland to diversify and offer specialisms, but suggested that the “traditional” model of teacher education ( research and university based) is best suited to an institution like Edinburgh, and more “vocational” approaches might be better if left to ” institutions in the west.” Not surprisingly, there was quite a reaction to this (at my table, anyway – we were in Edinburgh, at St George’s School for Girls, remember!). Firstly, this is patronising in the extreme; secondly, there are more places to consider than those on the east-west dichotomy; thirdly, some of those places might also consider themselves strong in research; forthly there is a suggestion here that post Donaldson, status quo rules in Edinburgh, and everyone else can think about the different routes into teaching as mooted by Donaldson. Interesting! For some reason, this made me think of what Stephen Heppell has said several times about teacher education institutions – if they can’t make schools spectacularly good, what are they doing training teachers? It makes sense – TEIs should be modelling the best in education and for a profession fit for our times, is that best done through lectures, essays and seminars?
Other memorable moments: HT from Govan said his best teacher was his granny because
- she knew him
- she loved him
- she knew how to get the best out of him. Simple, really.
And another HT from Edinburgh expressed some concern at the homogeneity of students coming into the profession; regretting the demise of the outlyers, the mavericks, the independent thinkers (and operators) who took risks, often defied authority and still commanded respect, made big impressions and got the best out of young people. Are we creating a profession of robots?
Sadly the discussion was just beginning to get interesting when the evening was brought to a close. SELMAS is a loosely constituted, open organisation which provides a forum for leadership – I hope we continue the conversations.