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Norman Drummond has been appointed visiting professor in educational leadership at Edinburgh University. 

His inaugural professorial lecture challenged countless orthodoxies: “It is the belief that everyone matters, the unconditional positive regard for each and every pupil or member of staff and of the local community that marks out the truly gifted Head Teacher – and it is the sense of the classroom as a theatre, full of possibilities wherein whatever subject is being taught the ‘educational moment’ can take place.”
In 1997 Norman Drummond founded Columba 1400, to train leaders.  Its Leadership Centre at Staffin on Skye focuses on young people from ‘tough realities’ who have experienced significant personal and social challenges.  Columba 1400 taps into their potential, to better realise their capacity and contribute to their wider communities.  That record gained Columba the Bank of Scotland/Sunday Times Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.  Columba’s most recent venture has been in South African township and rural schools.
He is a rigorous critic of consumerism and of the poverty it generates.  He has berated an age in which hotels and casinos are the architectural monuments but where one Scottish home in three experiences poverty and one school child in nine will run away from home.  “At a time when it is said that for 20% of our young people, 80% of the curriculum flies over their shoulders do we not need to realise with piercing honesty and acceptance that our education and life systems are largely about knowledge and learning and that if we are to address the socio-economic problems of our society with ever increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, then we need to speak and relate to each other heart to heart as opposed to head to head?”
Norman Drummond encapsulates paradox.  There is a solidly establishment side to him: law at Cambridge, divinity at Edinburgh, service as an army chaplain, the chaplaincy at Fettes College and eleven years as headmaster at Loretto.  Columba 1400 has brought him back to education but with a range of schools which contrast with Fettes and Loretto.  As a young minister he served inGlasgow’s Easterhouse andEdinburgh’sWest Pilton, peripheral housing estates where human potential was frequently wasted.
Judith McClure, Convenor of SELMAS (Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society), warmly welcomed the appointment.  “Mike Russell emphasised his interest in greater diversity in Scottish education. There is a need for a broad consensus, he said, rooted in that achieved by the National Debate and the agreement over the purposes of education which followed. He had seen on his visit toSwedenthat the key to improving performance must lie in the whole educational culture and in leadership at all levels. In appointing Norman Drummond as Visiting Professor of Educational Leadership, theUniversityofEdinburghhas also underlined the need for creative leadership, for independent thinking, and for commitment to all our young people. The title of Professor Drummond’s inaugural lecture, ‘Wisdom and Magic: Leadership in education and life’, demonstrates the originality of his approach and the unique contribution he will make to new ways of thinking.”
He does not shirk controversy.   “At a time when the rather depressing emphasis throughout education has been on ‘valuing targets’, Columba 1400 seeks to encourage Heads, Staff and Pupils to ‘target values’.”  The prioritisation of values and the challenge to those obsessed with targets, pits him against many in the educational establishment.
Scottish education is at a cross-roads.  Curriculum for Excellence is modernising the curriculum.  The pace of introduction has however aroused teacher union ire and industrial action is threatened.  Don Ledingham, the dynamic Director of Education inEast Lothianis proposing that local authorities hand over schools to community management.  Drummond’s appointment comes therefore at a time of change and uncertainty in Scottish schools.
Uncertainty is dominant in wider educational circles than schools.  Mike Russell, the Cabinet Secretary, has laudedFinland’s high status teaching profession.   Graham Donaldson, former Chief HMI, and visiting professor of education atGlasgowUniversity, is heading a review of Scottish teacher training.  Education departments in Scottish Universities, fairly conservative institutions keen to avoid controversy, face rationalisation.  Drummond represents something different, more outgoing and open to change, but also a bridge between those who would protect the distinct Education Faculties and those who seek change.
Speaking to Australian Management Graduates, Drummond advised that, “We all possess gravitas, poise and presence, but we must occasionally stand away from the crowd to pause and reflect. We must have the courage to be honest, and ‘put things on the table of life’.”
He may have scant time to pause and reflect but the things Norman Drummond will put on the table will be a great strength in the testing times which face Scottish education.
The above article was first published in SecEd on 10 June 2010:;type_uid=18;section=Breaking%20news

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