You're a presenter, trainer and edu-consultant by trade. What is it that you enjoy about this work?
There is a lot that enjoy about my work. When it goes well and one feels people have got something useful from one, that is hugely rewarding. I love working with colleagues, and have been privileged to work with some marvellous people. Tim Brighouse is a hero to me, and an absolute role model, but I have had great times with Hywel Roberts, Debra Kidd, Suzanne Zeedyk, Chris Kilkenny and a host of others. That really helps with my struggle of not being part of a school or leadership team. I also love working on longer term projects, where you really get to see a difference.
What is 'Grand Old Duke of York syndrome', and how can school leaders avoid it?
It is exactly what it purports to be - the sense of marching up to the top of the hill and then marching back down again. In other words, it is the sense that I have that we spend too much time making change and too little making a difference. I have a host of cliches for it. My latest is the idea that we spend too much time painting on wet walls and never getting a true colour. How we avoid that could take us all day, but I could offer a full CPD session on that.
You led Scotland’s Outdoors Education strategy. If you could give any advice to schools for embedding outdoor learning into the curriculum, what would it be?
The advice would be "do it". There is a huge amount of good practical advice out there, from colleagues like Juliet Robertson and organisations like Learning through Landscapes. The website that we built on the basis of the report is also very good. I would encourage colleagues to think in terms of the immediate environment as well as the outing. If in doubt, get help. Make sure that you have covered all the basis in terms of consents. Do a risk assessment, but don't be intimidated by it. Start from the perspective of common sense and stick with it.
You're part of Independent Thinking, and are one of The 33 - a group consisting of their top associates. What does ITL bring to the education sector?
I think that ITL is unique in the mix that it has between wonderful practitioners and experienced leaders. As an organisation it respects practice and understands that, as Debra Kidd says, it will be pedagogical activism in the form of butterfly wing of change. Others do that, but few are as close to the classroom as some of the ITL 33. I love the blend that ITL can get between different experiences and perspectives. We can put on a great day which will challenge thinking, offer practical advice and tools, support leadership and show you a good time along the way.
If you had to choose one quality that is most important for the modern school leader, what would it be?
If I have to pick one, it would be the ability to evoke hope. That allows me to recognise that hope has to be rooted in a commitment to the young people to whom that leader is responsible. It also allows me to insist that hope is more than illusion, and has to be based on strategies and actions.
What are you looking to achieve over the next year?
In no particular order: Survival, consistency in prostate size (it's an age thing), continuing employment, being part of a change for the better in education which will actually make a difference for young people, social justice, and, of course, world peace. I may be in the gutter, but I am looking at the stars.
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