Reflections – Day 8

Importance of Collaboration and team work

I joined the Central Team in 2006 when it was transitioning from being the Education Service Unit (EDSU).  I began working with Elaine Magor, Tricia Boyd, John MacPhee, Fiona Johnston, Lesley Allan and Rosemary Ward as the Early Years/Primary and Gaelic team. We reported directly to Carol Evans (Walker) as our Head of Education. This was a real time of development and a time to meet the changing demands of quality assurance, pedagogical improvement and introduction of Curriculum for Excellence. The Secondary team under the leadership of Ronnie Gould, Head of Education comprised of David Bain, Mathew Boyle, Kathryn Wilke and Fiona Campbell. We were quite a team and Chris Shirley had the responsibility for licking us all into shape.

One of the major early developments was the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).  We took the road show of CfE out across Argyll and Bute and travelled by car, ferry and plane. These were really interesting and exciting times. Leading up full in-service days across the 3-18 learning environments and looking at CfE. I learned so much about team working and that we had so much to offer each other. The collaboration that we demonstrated ensured that Argyll and Bute was in many ways ahead of the pack and in fact leading on many aspects of CfE including Interdisciplinary Learning. No mean feat for an authority which has similar sized coastline as France.

During the last 10 years I have held a variety of posts within the team from Quality Improvement Officer, Quality Improvement Manager, Education Manager to Head of Service and Chief Education Officer. During the time within the central team I have learned so much from collaborating with colleagues both at the centre and across the council. Within my current role I am delighted to lead the following teams of Digital Technologies, Community Learning and Development, Early Years, Inclusion and Equalities and Education Psychological Service. Collaborating with the mangers for each area has been rewarding and real privilege. At the heart of these areas has been the ability to collaborate with wider teams across various agencies. One of the most successful collaborations has been with Tricia Renfrew, Acting Head of Children Services. Tricia has been open to a collaborative approach to provision of Children Services and together we have achieved much.  I have had the opportunity to serve both locally and nationally on committees and boards to influence many of the key initiatives for our children and young people.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives were introduced to Scottish Education in 2018. Argyll and Bute is part of Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives were set up with the aim to enhance collaboration and to improve the teaching and learning for all young people across Scotland. The Northern Alliance is a regional improvement collaborative made up of eight local authorities as follows:

Aberdeen City


Argyll and Bute




Western Isles


As Chief Education Officer I play a key role in the Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative (NARIC) which covers the biggest rural area in Scotland.

I have spent my career within education in the context of a rural authority and as such have a very strong understanding and knowledge of the role of the rural school. I have been a lifelong rural resident, a pupil in a rural school, a class teacher, principal teacher and head teacher of very remote schools, a parent in a rural school, and currently Chief Education Officer in a rural local authority.

Rural Scotland accounts for 98% of the land mass of Scotland and 17% of the population are resident there. Rural schools have a complicated relationship between their communities and the national policy agenda for Education. The nature of small rural schools being embedded within their local communities brings expectations and demands.  Education policy-makers and practitioners must understand their place in a much larger and interconnected manner in relation to social, economic and environmental influences. The importance of place and space in the delivery of rural education is an important factor on the achievements of the young people involved.

I am aware of the wealth of experience I have within rural education and in 2015 I began my journey into examining rural education through an academic lens. I studied rural education at masters level and shared this research with colleagues in the Northern Alliance and presented on the importance of rural education at the Scottish Parliament in February 2019. My colleague Louise Connor and I were delighted to fly the flag for Argyll and Bute.

The literature review I carried out in the spring of 2019 with regard to rural education in Scotland yielded very little current Scottish research within the period from 2007 to 2019 and has led me on to my next academic journey an Educational Doctorate (part time) at Strathclyde University.  I am committed to ensuring that the role of rural education should be fully understood and am enjoying the collaboration on this work both nationally and internationally.

My journey has always been collaborative and working with others. The team supporting me has always been important. I cannot finish my ramblings and memories without thanking two very special people. Susan Tyre is an amazing colleague who is School Support Manager within the Education Service. She is the most amazing support and ensures our schools have the support that they need from chopping down trees, to nesting seagulls to the guidance and PPE needed to ensure the safe opening of the schools. Susan faces each request with her sunny, can do attitude and has the children and young people at the heart of all she does. Susan has always been there to support me in all sorts of ways. The other important colleague and friend is Maggie Jeffrey. Maggie is my PA and has worked with me for a very long time. She is my right hand woman and has kept me in the right place, with the right papers and managed my diary to ensure that we get the absolute best we can get out of each day. It is vital to ensure that you never get so swamped with meetings that you are so busy that you cannot actually achieve anything.

On my last working day on Friday 18th December I was so delighted to have a socially distancing lunch with both these ladies and will be a special memory for ever engraved on my mind.

In wandering through my memories over the past weeks I have omitted to mention one very special team. Team Paterson. My husband, my two daughters and my son in law have all been there for me over the years. They have laughed with me, celebrated with me, cried with me, picked me up and most of all shown love, respect, pride and care in everything I have done. Without their encouragement I would never have been able to take on many of the roles that I have and also not had the success that I have enjoyed. The really epitomise the skills associated with being a team. They have always been there helping and encouraging me to fly.

I wish Team Argyll and Bute Education Service the very best in the coming years and months, we are all faced with real challenges, but knowing the people of Argyll and Bute as I do, there will be a positive approach and there will be light at the end of this particular dark road.