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NEWS FOCUS SecEd: On Your Side

The profession has to be consulted

A WEEK, so they say, is a long time in politics. It is not normally a long


time in education, especially if you’re talking half-term week, which has a habit of flying past in the blink of an eye. However, this half-term seems to have lasted a lifetime with the amount that has happened as the new government cranks up to full gear. Before half-term we reported on the first swathe of

Henshaw Editor SecEd

budget cuts, gleaned reaction on the demise of Becta, the schools technology agency, and speculated about the future of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), which had seemed to have escaped with a mere £8 million off their budget. However, hours after SecEd hit the staffroom, the

QCDA was axed and our newsdesk was frantically uploading breaking news stories to our website. Our SecEd Twitter feed went crazy as the blogosphere reacted. And it happened again when this week the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) became the next victim and we once again broke the news online. It is important to point out that both the latest cullings

require Parliamentary approval and new legislation to be implemented, something which our very busy education minister, Michael Gove, is to push for in the autumn. Commentators have questioned the transparency of a

situation where Mr Gove is announcing that these two large organisations will close when he has not yet tested Parliament for its support. He is obviously confident of his Lib Dem-Conservative majority. Another concern about a lack of consultation was also

raised over his academy plans. As we know, Mr Gove has written to all of our “outstanding” schools inviting them to apply for academy status and promising a fast-track by September. The application form on the Department for Education website is bizarre in its simplicity. It has just 11 fields including the question “Are you an outstanding school? Yes/No”. But it is this simplicity that has concerned me. Where is

the consultation with the wider school community? Where is the information for heads and governing bodies on the wider implications of academy status? One head contacted me to ask advice last week. They

were interested in the additional money and independence from their “stifling” local authority, but had no idea of the additional cost pressures that they, as an academy, would be left on their own to cope with. Not least when it comes to school transport, one of the services provided by local authorities which could be hit by a £311 million cut in funding. Will academies have to pay their own transport bills? Indeed, 14 to 19 funding is only guaranteed for the next academic year. What happens after this? Will the extra monies for academies be cut in time, or swallowed up by the extra burdens on expenditure? These questions have to be asked. I am worried that

many heads, and more than 1,000 have expressed an interest, will apply to have their schools fast-tracked because of the promise of more money and autonomy, without completely understanding the implications. The point in all of this is consultation. Whether it be

academies or the wider cuts, any change to the profession needs to be put in front of that profession and the communities it serves. And in order for a judgement to be made, we need to know what the implications are. What will replace the GTCE disciplinary role? How will the curriculum be developed and prescribed without QCDA? What will the greater curriculum freedoms for schools look like and how will this affect Ofsted inspections? I don’t see answers to these questions. All I see is a

Department swinging the Sword of Damocles – which I grant you needs to be swung – without explaining the detail of what it will mean for schools. I know this information will come – but we need it now.

• Pete Henshaw is publisher and editor of SecEd. Email, visit and follow us at SecEd also produces Delivering Diplomas magazine. Visit www.

SecEd A great strength

NORMAN DRUMMOND has been appointed visiting professor in educational leadership at Edinburgh University. His inaugural professorial

lecture challenged countless orthodoxies: “It is the belief that everyone matters, the unconditional positive regard for each and every pupil or member of staff and of the local community that marks out the truly gifted headteacher – and it is the sense of the classroom as a theatre, full of possibilities wherein whatever subject is being taught, the ‘educational moment’ can take place.” Back in 1997, Prof Drummond

founded Columba 1400, to train leaders. Its Leadership Centre at Staffin on Skye focuses on young people from “tough realities” who have experienced significant personal and social challenges. Columba 1400 taps into their

potential, to better realise their capacity and contribute to their wider communities. Columba’s most recent venture has been in South African township and rural schools. Prof Drummond is a rigorous

critic of consumerism and of the poverty it generates. He has berated an age in which hotels and casinos are the architectural monuments but where one Scottish home in three experiences poverty and one school child in nine will run away from home. He said: “At a time when it is

said that for 20 per cent of our young people, 80 per cent of the curriculum flies over their shoulders, do we not need to realise with piercing honesty and acceptance that our education and life systems are largely about knowledge and learning? If we

The appointment of Norman Drummond as visiting professor in educational leadership at Edinburgh University is a commitment to

creative leadership and independent thinking. Scottish head Alex Wood discusses

are to address the socio-economic problems of our society with ever- increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, then we need to speak and relate to each other heart-to-heart as opposed to head-to-head.” Prof Drummond encapsulates

paradox. There is a solidly establishment side to him: law at Cambridge, divinity at Edinburgh, service as an army chaplain, the chaplaincy at Fettes College and 11 years as head at Loretto. Columba 1400 has brought

him back to education but with a range of schools which contrast with Fettes and Loretto. As a young minister he served in Glasgow’s Easterhouse and Edinburgh’s West Pilton, peripheral housing estates where human potential was frequently wasted. Judith McClure, convenor of

SELMAS (Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society), warmly welcomed the appointment. She said: “Mike Russell (cabinet

secretary for education) emphasised his interest in greater diversity in Scottish education. There is a need for a broad consensus, he said, rooted in that achieved by the National Debate and the agreement over the purposes of education which followed. He had seen on


The teaching of religious education (RE) is no better than “satisfactory” in many schools because of inadequate support and training for teachers, according to an Ofsted survey. The inspectorate says that

because the curriculum for RE is determined locally, there is wide variability in the quantity and quality of support provided to schools by local authorities and relevant advisory councils. The number of secondary

schools where RE teaching was rated “inadequate” was up since 2007, Ofsted said. The survey also claims that many schools do not pay sufficient attention to the core beliefs of Christianity. Despite the criticism, the

inspectorate found that pupils usually saw the value of RE in terms of how it contributed to their understanding of

and respect for religious and cultural diversity, and they often commented on how it helped them to understand others and contributed to a more harmonious society. Examination entries in

religious studies at GCSE and A level have continued to rise each year since 2006, the report said, with results in GCSE improving while those for A levels remained consistent. The report recommends

that schools should ensure RE promotes pupils’ spiritual development more effectively by allowing for more genuine investigation into, and reflection on, the implications of religion and belief for their personal lives. To compile the survey,

inspectors visited 89 secondary schools, excluding faith schools, across England between April 2006 and March 2009.

Forty were rated “good” or “outstanding”, while 14 were judged “inadequate”.

The report: “More work needs to be done to clarify the place and use of concepts in RE and to define progression in pupils’ learning more effectively. This report includes a consideration of the way in which a stronger role for enquiry in the teaching of RE could help address some of these issues. A major success of RE is the way that it supports the promotion of community cohesion. In many schools RE plays a major role in helping pupils understand diversity and develop respect for the beliefs and cultures of others. Inspectors found a number of outstanding examples of good practice. There is scope to develop this contribution further by extending the use of local religious

and belief communities in RE and ensuring that the changing nature of religion and belief in the contemporary world is reflected more strongly in the RE curriculum.”

Christine Gilbert, Ofsted chief inspector: “All young people should have the opportunity to learn about religion, as well as learning from religion. This requires good teaching based on strong subject knowledge and clarity about the purposes of religious education. This report highlights two

things – first the need for better support and training for teachers, and second, the need for a reconsideration of the local arrangements for the oversight of RE, so schools can have a clear framework to use which helps them secure better student achievement in the subject.”

his visit to Sweden that the key to improving performance must lie in the whole educational culture and in leadership at all levels. “In appointing Norman

Drummond as visiting professor of educational leadership, the University of Edinburgh has also underlined the need for creative leadership, for independent thinking, and for commitment to all our young people. “The title of Professor

Drummond’s inaugural lecture, Wisdom and Magic: Leadership in education and life, demonstrates the originality of his approach and the unique contribution he will make to new ways of thinking.” He does not shirk controversy

either: “At a time when the rather depressing emphasis throughout education has been on ‘valuing targets’, Columba 1400 seeks to encourage heads, staff and pupils to ‘target values’.” The prioritisation of values and

the challenge to those obsessed with targets, pits him against many in the educational establishment. Scottish education is at a crossroads. Curriculum for Excellence is modernising the curriculum. The pace of introduction has, however, aroused teacher union ire and industrial action is threatened.

Don Ledingham, the dynamic

director of education in East Lothian, is proposing that local authorities hand over schools to community management. Prof Drummond’s appointment

comes therefore at a time of change and uncertainty in Scotland’s schools. Uncertainty is dominant in

wider educational circles. Mr Russell has lauded Finland’s high status teaching profession. Graham Donaldson, former chief inspector, and visiting professor of education at Glasgow University, is heading a review of Scottish teacher training. Education departments in

Scottish universities, traditionally fairly conservative institutions keen to avoid controversy, face rationalisation. Prof Drummond represents something different, more outgoing and open to change, but also a bridge between those who would protect the distinct education faculties and those who seek change. Speaking recently to Australian

management graduates, Prof Drummond advised that: “We all possess gravitas, poise and presence, but we must occasionally stand away from the crowd to pause and reflect. We must have the courage to be honest, and ‘put things on the table of life’.” He may have scant time to

pause and reflect, but the things Norman Drummond will put on the table will be a great strength in the testing times which face Scottish education.


• Alex Wood is headteacher at Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh.

Creative leadership: Students at Columba 1400 on Skye, which was founded by Professor Norman Drummond to inspire young people from tough backgrounds. It is this ethos that has made his appointment welcome


SecEd • June 10 2010

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