In it for the long term…..


This week I have been into school and tidied my office. (Trigger counteraction for those in England; we are back on the 15th August and have been off for nearly 5 weeks. Don’t feel guilty!)

It was quite a monumental task as the 4 very large wall shelves behind my desk contained the legacy of my predecessor, who left 3 years ago, and that of the post-holder previous to him, the head teacher of the special school which was amalgamated into our campus 10 years ago.

I should have tackled it all when I first arrived 3 years ago but I had a sense of guilt about getting rid of things that I had not created.

Plus, as a hoarder, I was convinced that it might all prove useful ‘someday’.

Then I went out on secondment after just a year in post at school so left the office again for 16 months.

But now that I am back, I decided to bite the bullet.

I have thrown out masses. Lots of it simply outdated; circulars, briefings, initiatives. Copies of things that can be found online in an updated version. Things that are no longer legislatively compliant.

In looking through it all, though, I was struck by a few things.

We move on so quickly in education. Initiatives come and go in a matter of a few years and the long term view is too often lost in the face of the ‘quick fix’.

Example: “Let’s do inclusion and close special schools!”

But then, just a few years later:

“Let’s re-open special schools!”

Of course we need to reflect and let go of outmoded practices if they prove not to work. For an excellent piece on this, look no further than this:

But we also need to remember the long term view and avoid the knee-jerk.

I hope that we in Scotland will do this in the light of the recent ruling in the Supreme Court that very specific aspects of Getting It Right For Every Child needing looking at again. The knee-jerkers are saying that it is the end of GIRFEC and the Named Person. But it must not be. The best argument I have seen as to why not is here:

My questions to anyone who suggests otherwise are:

“Why would we not want someone in school (and in secondary in particular, where a child may have 15 plus teachers) to know a child well and look out for him/her?”


“So, if we are no longer going to commit to Getting It Right For Every Child, are we tacitly implying that we can Get It Wrong For Every Child?”

This week I also completed the first draft of my ‘Into Headship’ final assignment and reflected on the reading I have done as part of that. Certainly the key message from the guys who know is that we have to have a long term view.

These quotes from the work of Dimmock and Walker and Davies are particularly pertinent:

“Consequently, the leadership and management of school improvement needs to be holistic, but it must also be consistent and intentional”. (Dimmock and Walker 2004 p 43)

“…major change in schools often takes five to ten years to embed.” (Dimmock and Walker 2004, p 41)

“It is important that any strategic or operational decisions are set in a futures context. The school needs to scan its long-term environment to identify the developing ideas and trends that will form the strategic agenda in the future. Schools need to understand the world in which their pupils will seek employment and live and begin to formulate approaches that will enable them to succeed in the world in 15-20 years’ time. Fifteen years is only the length of one child’s educational journey.” (Davies 1998, p 467)

Finally, Priestley and Miller (2012) made me reflect on the need to consider the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ of policy implementation and to “acknowledge the importance of attending to the transactions between different actors, and between actors and their contexts” (p 100). I was interested to read their account of the Highland model of improvement that looked beyond the mere introduction of pedagogic techniques and sought instead to examine the “broader purposes of education”.

Let’s not knee jerk and be too short term. Of course the everyday crises matter, but as leaders, we need to have our eye on the bigger picture.



Davies, B. (1998) Strategic planning in schools: an oxymoron? School Leadership & Management 18.4 (1998): 461-473.

Dimmock, C. and Walker, A.(2004) A new approach to strategic leadership: learning‐centredness, connectivity and cultural context in school design, School Leadership & Management, 24:1, 39-56, DOI: 10.1080/1363243042000172813

Priestley, M and Miller, K. (2012) Educational change in Scotland: policy, context and biography, The Curriculum Journal, 23:1, 99-116, DOI: 10.1080/09585176.2012.650490


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