A message from out-going SELMAS secretary, Alex Wood

Dear Colleague
I attach a copy of the draft minutes of last week’s committee meeting.
There are several key pieces of information from that meeting which I wish to draw to your attention.
Margaret Alcorn (margaret_alcorn@yahoo.com )and Gillian Hunt (Gillian.Hunt@edinburgh.gov.uk ) have been re-elected as convenor and treasurer respectively.  I have stood down from the secretary’s post.  The new secretary is Bob Cook.  Bob can be contacted onbobcook@blueyonder.co.uk .
I also attach our updated Aims paper.  At the March committee meeting the old Aims paper was amended in various sections.  One of the amendments was to add a sentence into the paragraph describing committee membership.  That sentence reads:
        Membership of the committee is open to anyone who is willing to attend at least half the committee meetings and to assist in the running of SELMAS’s major events.
I want to emphasise that no-one expects any of the committee members, who are all busy, committed professionals, to attend all meetings.  There are usually at least four meetings a year.  In the year that is drawing to a close there were five committee meetings.  Two out of  five is not, I firmly believe, an over onerous commitment to seek.  We had over 35 members on the committee mailing list.  Some had not attended a committee meeting, or indeed a SELMAS event, for two years.  Attendance at this year’s committee meetings were 9, 14, 12, 13, 10.  In the circumstances, the statement which we added to our Aims document sought to do two things:
  • to clarify that membership of the committee represented a commitment to make a practical contribution to the operation of SELMAS
  • to reduce the level of correspondence to colleagues who can no longer participate.
A few colleagues have indicated that they will no longer remain on the committee.  I have also removed from the committee mailing list the names of colleagues who have not attended for two years.  I am circulating these minutes to the remaining 30 members on the committee mailing list.   Let Bob know if you no longer wish to be circulated for committee meetings.
Please also note that Neil Craik-Collins is coordinating the organising committee for the coming year’s Conference.  If you are willing to help with that task please contact Neil: ncraik-collins@ross.elcschool.org.uk
Please note that the next meeting will be at 3.00 pm on Wednesday 2 September in Waverley Court.
Finally, this will be my last communication as Secretary.  It has been a pleasure and an honour to act in that capacity and I have thoroughly enjoyed the professional companionship and intellectual stimulation, which have long been the hallmarks of SELMAS, and the support of SELMAS’s two dedicated officers, convenor Margaret Alcorn, and treasurer Gillian Hunt.  My thanks and best wishes are extended to you all.  I am certain that Bob Cook will do a great job for SELMAS and that SELMAS will remain one of the most important, independent and challenging of educational organisations.
Best wishes.

Educational Colloquium, University of Glasgow

alex woodThe next meeting of the Educational Colloquium will be on Thursday 4th December, 2014, in the CPD Suite, St Andrews Building, Glasgow University, Eldon Street, Glasgow.  Speaker: Alex Wood, Retired Head Teacher of Wester Hailes Education Centre.  Topic:  “Local Authorities & Head Teachers.”  All welcome. Contact the secretary directly for booking information.

SELMAS annual conference 2014: Social Justice: an Impossible Ideal?

The programme for the 2014 SELMAS Conference has now been finalised. It will be held on Thursday 30 October in the Management Centre at Stirling University. Once again we have a superb platform of speakers for what is always one of the most stimulating days on the Scottish educational calendar.

Our theme this year is Social Justice: an Impossible Ideal? By the time of the Conference the Referendum will be passed but, whatever the outcome, Scotland’s future, the future of its educational system and its capacity for social justice will all remain major issues. SELMAS’s conference will address these.

Our three speakers are broadcaster and writer, Lesley Riddoch; Alan Williamson, formerly headteacher at Hawick High School and now at Lasswade High School; and Sheila Laing, headteacher at Prestonpans Nursery School. The programme is below.

We are keeping prices for the conference at the same level as last year, £80 per delegate. We are also offering the same discount as last year: providing the second delegate has never previously attended a SELMAS event, two delegates may attend for £120. To make a provisional booking simply download this BOOKING PRO FORMA conference 2014

and email it to Alex Wood

Snake oil and ladders – reflections on brainstrust 2 by Alex Wood

Our recent brainstrust seminar at City of Glasgow College in June prompted Alex Wood into some thinking about leadership, imrovement, beareacracy and accountability. He shared this article with us which was first publisghed in TESS. Many thanks, Alex ……alex woodThe assumption is often made that good schools always have good leaders and poor leaders always create poor schools. A recent seminar in Glasgow addressed the issue, asking what leadership is and how we can ensure good leadership.
Former headteacher Danny Murphy insisted that leadership had been too readily separated from management, which was viewed as boring and technical. But leadership and management are intimately connected. Sue Beattie, headteacher of Belmont Academy in Ayr, stated that the quality of leadership in Scottish schools could be a lottery, determined by circumstances beyond a leader’s control.
Certainly, there is huge variation in the quality of professional review across the country, with many teachers sceptical about the support they receive. Too often it’s a tick-box procedure, rather than support for reflective practice. Professional Update, the new approach from the General Teaching Council for Scotland, should improve CPD, but the whole process appears to dodge the issue of competence.
Again, there is huge variation in CPD provision between local authorities. Professional development cannot be delivered on the cheap, especially if the goal is effective leadership. Recruitment and selection procedures also vary from authority to authority, from the exceptionally poor to the highly demanding, with pupil involvement and rigorous screening. There is also, however, reluctance among many teachers to apply for leadership posts.
Walter Humes, visiting professor of education at the University of Stirling, suggested at the seminar that much of the agonising about leadership in recent years had been “unproductive and unhelpful”. Mind-numbingly dull academic contributions to debates about leadership, he suggested, had only added to the confusion – as well as leadership gurus’ ability to sell their snake oil without challenge.
So what, then, is good leadership? Professor Humes expressed it as: “Recognised expertise demonstrated by example, rather than exhortation; a clear sense of purpose; fairness in the treatment of staff; support for colleagues in times of difficulty; praise for good performance; a willingness to address hard issues and listen to critics; and openness to new thinking.”
He suggested that the current emphasis on leadership was partly to shift focus away from issues of policy and resource: “By devolving responsibility on to headteachers and schools, and tying them to a tight agenda of ‘improvement’ – defined narrowly in terms of exam passes – the scene is set for attributing blame when things go wrong. But although responsibility is devolved, power remains not on the front line of service provision but in the back rooms of the educational bureaucracies.”
That’s a perspective many teachers, including committed school leaders, would share.
The above article was published in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland on 1 August 2014:http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6438888

Alex Wood

alex woodAlex Wood is Secretary of SELMAS. He is a retired headteacher who worked in both the mainstream secondary and the special sectors, completing his service at Wester Hailes Education Centre where he has a continuing connection as an adult education tutor. He is now an associate with the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration (SCSSA) at Edinburgh University and writes regular columns on education for TESS, SecEd and Holyrood Magazine and writes freelance on education and other issues in The Herald, The Scotsman and elsewhere. Alex’s website is home to many of his publications and he tweets as @AlexWood1711.