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Defying destiny

Defying destiny

Education Scotland is still relatively young. Formed three years ago, the new body reflected the changing dynamic of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and incorporated Learning and Teaching Scotland, the organisation that had focused on the curriculum, to create a new body with a more strategic role towards long-term improvement.

Also relatively young, the man tasked with that strategy when it comes to schools, Graeme Logan, has enjoyed a personal journey which, remarkably, mirrors the evolution of his organisation. Starting out as a primary teacher, Logan became a headteacher in 2004, just as the Curriculum for Excellence emerged. “It was a really exciting time,” he says, because of the autonomy to develop the curriculum at school level within a national framework.
He became interested in the way the inspection regime was evolving to take on a more supportive and coaching role, and decided to become an inspector. 
“I remember on one of my first inspections when I was in a lesson and it was quite a tricky lesson and the teacher was struggling a bit so I was going round helping the kids, you know, helping her out, and I said to her at the end, ‘how do you think it went?’ She said she was really shocked at what I was doing. ‘You were actually helping out the kids, not sitting in a corner with a clipboard,’ and I found that quite shocking in a way, that there was still that perception. It was a change in culture.”
Logan was seconded to a small team, led by former chief inspector Professor Graham Donaldson, to write the seminal report, Teaching Scotland’s Future, which evaluated teacher education in Scotland and made 50 recommendations, all of which were accepted. “We had to grapple with so many big challenging ideas, and we had the whole nature of the teaching profession and its future in our hands, so it was a huge responsibility,” he remembers.
The team looked at international examples for reference, but recognised the value in a uniquely Scottish approach, looking at the experiences of children as well as the outcomes. Working with Donaldson was clearly a big influence on Logan. “Working alongside him was just a fabulous learning experience for me, in terms of how we were weighing up all the evidence, trying to develop that really clear vision for the professionalism of teachers in Scotland, and the huge amount of admiration for what we were doing in Scotland. We place so much trust in teachers and their judgement and autonomy, and then really heavily invest in supporting that through our approaches. So that model is something I’m really keen to continue.”
In his current role as School Years Strategic Director, he is well placed to do exactly that. For Logan, it is about the “dynamic fusion of staff” at Education Scotland working together to share findings. The organisation, he says, has come of age with “a very clear vision and sense of purpose” agreed with all partners. 
The commitment to focus on children’s experiences is paying off, Logan insists. “Last year, across our school inspection programme, 91 per cent of schools had a key strength in children’s motivation and ambition. So we’re seeing a transformation in learning experiences. What we now hope to see is the same transformation in the outcomes,” he says.
Inequity remains a persistent challenge, however. “Graham Donaldson describes it as helping to defy destiny for a lot of kids, because we know it’s almost set at a young age. Some children, at a young age, their courses can be set based on their socio-economic circumstances, and it almost becomes destiny for them. We’ve got to intervene and change that.”
If the new curriculum focuses on the age 3-18 journey, teachers can become the narrators of those tailored pathways, according to Logan. “I’ve been speaking to a lot of headteachers to say the leader of the school is also the narrator of the school. What is the story of the curriculum in each individual school? What’s unique about it? Because schools in Scotland have now all made major curriculum design decisions, so we want to support them to tell that story, and for headteachers to see themselves as the narrator of that story.”
Does he miss being that narrator?
“It’s great fun working with children and young people. It’s a very dynamic environment to be in. In our post, you’re a few steps removed from that, so you can impact in other ways, probably in a wider scale, but I really do miss that sense of community. Primary schools in particular are really at the heart of communities. Sometimes I’m in schools on visits and things and I think I’d just like to stay. Yeah, I think it’s really important to hold onto that.”  

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