Dick Lynas, formerly head teacher of Taylor High in New Stevenston, remembers the day that a student teacher asked him what it was that head teachers did to raise pupil attainment.
After all, with the exception of small primary schools, it seemed to the student that head teachers spent most of their time in their offices rather than in classrooms.
With the news that the Scottish Government is set to devolve increased powers to head teachers in an effort to meet the challenge of improving standards of attainment for all, while narrowing the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils, it occurred to Dick that there might be many more people wondering what head teachers could do to make a difference.
Calling upon his decades of experience, Dick has set out his personal views on the nature and importance of school leadership in a new book, Head Teacher: Leader of Leaders.
The views are based upon his 15 years of preparing for headship, 15 years of serving headship and a further 20 years of coaching and mentoring aspiring school leaders at all levels.
There is a particular focus on the role of the head teacher in promoting improved pupil learning by means of continually growing and, at the same time, distributing leadership capacity at every level in schools.
Dick, who was in charge at Taylor High from 1982-87, said: “It is the job of classroom teachers to teach pupils and the quality of pupil learning that goes on in any individual classroom will always depend above all on the quality of teaching that goes on in that classroom.
“So one job of a head teacher is to provide the professional support and the resources that teachers need to carry out their duties effectively.
“But it is also down to the head teacher to ensure that the teaching that goes on in the best of classrooms goes on in every classroom.
“Securing such a consistency of quality requires an overall culture of collaboration in schools, and such collaboration goes beyond teachers sharing their expertise.”
For Dick, raising pupil attainment is rather like constructing a three-legged stool.
He explained: “Each leg – the parent leg, the pupil leg and the teacher leg – contributes to the stability of the stool or, in this case, the consistency of pupil learning.
“Whatever the resources and funding that may be available, pupil attainment outcomes are principally a consequence of the combined efforts of teachers, parents and pupils themselves – they are all leaders in their own right.
“So it is essential for teachers, parents and pupils to have a shared unity of purpose and a shared strategy within their individual schools if they want results to improve.
“And the single most important person when it comes to encouraging such a unity of purpose in any school, so far as I’m is concerned, is the head teacher.”
But none of us is as good as all of us, as Dick reminds his readers.
He added: “Sharing leadership powers is much more effective than hoarding them and I pay my respects to a range of the parents, pupils and colleagues from Taylor High who inspired me to persevere with his belief.”
His easy, anecdotal style means that his book may be of interest not only to those who aspire to headship but also to those who, as parents, pupils, teachers (or student teachers) wonder sometimes what it is that head teachers do!
Dick said: “I am in no doubt heads, in their turn, would benefit from sharing their expertise with other heads and that all heads are in need of the support of local and national agencies if they are to have any hope of meeting the challenges that they face.”
Head Teacher: Leader of Leaders is published by New Generation Publishing and is available from www.amazon.co.uk costing £7.99.