Edinburgh University has appointed Dr Rowena Arshad, OBE, as Head of the Moray House School of Education. She is currently Head of the Institute for Education, Community and Society at Moray House, and replaces Cara Aitchison, who spent a relatively brief three years at Edinburgh and has now moved to be Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Mark and St John in Plymouth.
Dr Arshad started her professional life in the private sector in business and banking but pursued a youth and community work course in Reading. She then worked with Scottish Education and Action for Development as an Education and Campaigns Organiser, looking at issues linking Scotland and the developing world before becoming Director of the Multicultural Education Centre in Edinburgh and from there into teacher education.
Her appointment has been warmly welcomed. Her commitment to the social justice agenda, her instinct to build partnerships and to seek consensus and her human qualities have all engendered confidence in her professionalism, both among Moray House staff and in the wider education community.
Judith McClure, former Headteacher at St George’s School and Convener of the Scottish China Education Network, applauded the appointment: “Rowena will be leading an institution which has had a very significant role in the training of teachers and other professionals for over 150 years. Now its research, partnerships and international links are one of the keys to our ambitions for Scottish education. Rowena’s interests in multicultural education at all levels, in equality, social capital, diversity and equity and in change agency, sit so well with our plans for Teaching Scotland’s Future.”
Dr Arshad is clear on the immediate priorities for Moray House. “Within teacher education, we need to ensure our newly validated programmes of the MA Primary Education and the BSc PE are ready for a flying start in August 2014; to work with local authority partners to consolidate partnership arrangements so that our students have a single, coherent experience from university into work and to ensure we continue to provide robust and relevant research data which would inform policy development and practice in school education. We also have a range of knowledge exchange centres and I would wish to see these grow and continue to provide quality courses and service to authorities, schools, parents/carers and pupils.”
Moray House provides a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate teacher training courses and is the UK’s largest provider of initial teacher education in physical education. It is notable that Edinburgh University has now appointed two succeeding Heads of School whose primary professional experience has not been in schools. Given the major issues facing Scottish schools, few would disagree with Dr Arshad’s assertion that we need to emphasise the professionalisation of the teaching profession and agree the forms of strategic leadership the sector requires. The fear, however, is that teacher education has gradually been deprioritised in Moray House in recent years.
Her commitment though to maintaining what is good in Scottish education, which is still viewed as a democratic enterprise, will strike a note with the majority of Scottish teachers. “There is still a strong belief in the importance of public education for all and a confidence in the professionalism of the teaching workforce. A strength in Scottish education is our aspiration for partnership models where excellence is taken forward in discussion with a range of stakeholders from government to communities and in so doing we try to remain focused on inclusion as well as meeting the needs of the 21st-century market.”
That perspective should find a ready echo among teachers, parents and the Scottish Government.
The above article was first piublished in Holyrood Magazine on 8 April 2013: http://www.holyrood.com/2013/04/from-the-chalkface-4/