Reflections – Day 5

Developing Leadership

During my career a constant has been the need to develop leadership. Many academics and experts have written about leadership. In 2000 Riley in writing about leadership suggested that:

  • There is no one package for school leadership, no one model to be learned and applied regardless of culture or context, though leadership can be developed and nurtured;
  • School leadership is more that the effort of a single individual;
  • School leadership is not static;
  • School leaders do not learn how to do leadership: they are often rule breakers and are willing to change in response to new sets of circumstance.

This view of school leadership is based on the idea of schools constantly changing and that school leaders need to be respond to these changes both from the inner life of the school but also from the view of external influences. In reflection I would say that my own leadership development has been about the ability to recognise that there is constant change and that leaders build the ability and resilience to manage change and cope with the complexities that this brings. Essentials are building teams and developing a shared vision for the school and its community.

During the 1990’s I was fortunate to undertake various roles which allowed me to develop my leadership and to build teams who could work together and to enable them to act to improve the learning and teaching. Effective leaders must have the ability to adjust to particular contexts. During the various roles that I undertook in the 1990’s I was aware of having to assess each new situation and to respond to the needs in each post. This training is something which I think has instilled in me a core value in relation to leadership which I have relied on over the next 20 years.

In August 1989 I took up the new role of Senior Teacher in Ardrishaig Primary School. I was class teacher with responsibility for curriculum development. The new posts were recognised as important to meeting the needs of additional leadership within schools. During this period I undertook a professional qualification in Environmental Studies.  I reviewed and restructured the programme for Environmental Studies which was later shared by HMI as excellent practice.  I was responsible for Probationer teacher support within the school.  I mentored two probationer teachers and supported their developments.  I was responsible for parental involvement across the school and introduced workshops for parents related to home learning support.  This was my first promoted post and in this post I honed my skills to work with and lead colleagues who had been in post longer than I had.  I became the lead learner and this is an attribute which I continue to demonstrate today.

The 5-14 CURRICULUM was introduced in Scottish Schools as I began in Ardrishaig Primary and was an important part of the curriculum development I undertook in the school and I developed a good understanding of the curriculum. The overall aim was to promote teaching that adheres to the five underlying principles of: breadth; balance; coherence; continuity and progression. The 5-14 curriculum was divided into five broad curricular areas. The guidance also recommends the minimum time that should be spent on each of these as follows

  • language (including modern language from no later than P6): 20% 2.
  • mathematics: 15% 3.
  • environmental studies society, science and technology:15% 4.
  • expressive arts (drama, music art and physical education):15% 5.
  • religious and moral education with personal and social education and health education: 15%

To meet the needs of the new 5-14 curriculum 6 posts of 5-14 Area Co-ordinators were created.  I was responsible for development of the new 5-14 curriculum within Mid Argyll and North Kintyre.  I worked collegiately with my other colleagues who were already all very experienced and successful Head Teachers, Neil Brown – Kintyre, Violet Cusworth – Islay and Jura, Carol Evans (Walker) – Oban, Jack Degnan – Mull and Iona and Roddy McDowell – Bute and Cowal, to develop 5-14 curriculum and assessment within Argyll and Bute schools. Our skills and knowledge were shared and we were a really strong team who each brought significant skills.  Development of transition programmes between primary and secondary was a key area of work.  We were responsible for the development of training and delivery of curriculum courses for teachers in regard to 5-14 developments. This was a period of considerable curriculum development both at local and national level.  My skills in curriculum knowledge and ability to motivate and inspire others were key to my success in this post and as strong member of the team. Highlights of working and leading in this team were a key for my developing leadership.  During this time I became pregnant with my first daughter who was born in February 1992 and became affectionately known as my 5-14 baby. I suppose it is no coincidence that she is now a teacher with exceptionally knowledge and understanding of curriculum development. I fully credit that to the many development meetings she attended before she was born.

In June 1992 I returned to Ardrishaig Primary as Acting Head Teacher and accepted a permanent post of Depute HT in Lochgilphead Primary in November 1992. The post of DHT carried responsibility for all classes from P1 to P3.  In April 1993 after the birth of my second daughter I had some decision making to undertake considering what was right for my family and what I could commit to me within a teaching post.  I resigned from the post of DHT and took up a job share class teacher in Inveraray Primary School in August 1993.  This was an ideal way of ensuring I continued with the career I loved but had the time to love, nurture and enjoy two babies under 2 years old. My role as a mother was and still is the most important job I will ever have. I am proud that both Kirsten and Emma have decided that the role of teacher is for them and they are contributing to Scottish Education.

In Inveraray, the job share initially was based in P6/7 where I shared the class with my friend and colleague Annabel Morrison. We worked hard, we were creative and above all we had lots of fun. I then job shared with Sue Armour in P4/5. Sue and I complemented each other really well with our skills. Another strong friendship created through our love of learning and teaching through creativity.  Fantastic team work and amazing team of:

Catherine Sinclair and May Kennedy – Catering Team

Jan Wilkinson – Classroom Assistant

Alan Hendry – Janitor

Karen Stewart – Clerical Assistant

Lynn Kidd, Sue Armour, Joy Stewart, Catriona Harrison and myself – Teachers

Annabel Morrison – Head Teacher

Job sharing required a high degree of communication and highly developed organisational skills.  During this period I also undertook a commission from the Head Teacher to develop a programme for Environmental Studies.  This programme was then adopted by Mid Argyll Schools as good practice.

I was also chairperson of Argyll and Bute Branch of Scottish Playgroup Association this helped to develop my expertise in Early Years and to my long term dedication to ensure all our young people have the best start in life.

In September 1995 I applied for the post of Head Teacher of Minard Primary School. I became a Teaching Head Teacher responsible for leading and managing the school and its place in the community: The post of Head Teacher of Minard Primary required strong leadership and the ability to build a learning community.  Minard Primary had come through a very unsettled period and I ensured the pupils and their parents were given the best opportunities available. I had the most amazing team including Lesley Goodwin and the late Sandra Orr. We were an awesome team. Lesley brought a real liveliness to her teaching and was committed to the expressive arts. Sandra as” school clerk” was a bundle of energy and could wheel and deal for resources for the school. Her famous words of “we are only a wee school” managed to source so many things for the school including a computer and football goals for free. Together we created a vision of “can do” and raised the expectations of all.  The school roll increased and the school became a very well respected educational establishment and developed a good reputation for outstanding achievement.

During my headship I worked with the community to establish an After School Club which was seen as innovative and responding to community needs.  This ensured a strong connection between the community and its young people. My time spent in Minard was a defining period for my growing understanding of place based curriculum and some innovative approaches developed to meet the needs of the young people. I also experienced the unique situation of being a parent and Headteacher in the same school. A very interesting time indeed. I remember clearly one night at our tea table when my elder daughter was telling her dad about the day. She said “Mrs Paterson told us, didn’t she mum” !!!!!!!

Formative years of developing leadership skills and the beginning of a special leadership journey.