ADES Association of Directors of
Education in Scotland

March / April 2019


March and April have been particularly busy months for ADES. The period saw the introduction of a Peer Activity in three local authorities. This was a pilot activity designed to offer support and challenge opportunities using the knowledge and skills of key staff. The initiative came about as a direct result of the ongoing work in the area of ‘Systems Leadership’ with an emphasis on the role of ADES as an enabler. The approach was outlined at the recent Directors’ Forum and will be the subject of further discussion at the May forum. The initiative was part funded through a grant from Education Scotland and the success was in no small part down to the team of Directors and Chief Education Officers who gave their time to take part in the work. The first three pilot councils were Aberdeen City, Moray and Stirling. The approach used in each cases was slightly different and was designed to reflect the needs and interests of the three authorities. The next stage is to engage with more authorities and this includes work with East Lothian, North Lanarkshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.


The first three cohorts of the Systems Leadership courses are complete and a further four cohorts are being planned. The initial course is being evaluated and reviewed by the SCEL team with a view to building on the original design to reflect feedback from the first three cohorts. Information on future courses will be shared with ADES members and will be booked through the Education Scotland (SCEL). The following information is contained within the SCEL website:

'Leading Systems Change' has been designed collaboratively by the Scottish College for Educational Leadership, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and the Staff College Scotland. This programme supports the delivery of excellence and equity through a whole-systems approach to integrated leadership. It reflects the rapidly changing local government and public sector landscape in times of ambiguity and change.

Who is it for?

The programme is intended for those who:

  • are in senior leadership roles in Scottish Education including service directors, service managers, those likely to have key roles in the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives and their equivalents across local authorities and national organisations
  • are committed to deepening their learning about leadership and making behavioural changes that impact positively on the system and
  • are committed to sharing their learning from the programme with colleagues and others.

Programme participants will be highly committed, with the ability to dedicate the time to complete the programme in full, and will require sponsorship from their Director, who is likely to be their line manager or another appropriate senior colleague.Those who feel they meet the criteria will be required to commit the time to complete the programme in full including participation at all residential events and learning group activity.


What is involved?

Leading Systems Change is a national programme for senior leaders in education and allied services, rooted in systems leadership and the principles of GIRFEC. The programme provides an opportunity for small groups of senior leaders to apply alternative approaches to leadership to real, systemic education challenges that they are currently facing. Informed by the latest research and practice into systems leadership in public services, the programme provides an opportunity for participants to use their peers on the programme to determine and work on a specific systems leadership challenge.

How is the programme structured?

The programme is structured around three separate two-day core residential events and learning is supported initially through engagement in a bespoke 360 instrument examining the characteristics of system leadership.

At the first residential event, participants will set their individual learning objectives based on the results of the 360 instrument and bring an initial ‘leadership challenge’ which will be discussed and challenged through the formation of thematic house groups.Learning co-ordinators will work with participants to define and refine their leadership challenge and to provide support throughout the duration of the programme.

At the end of the programme there will be a final event which will focus on the leadership challenges and futures thinking.


Michael Wood
Michael Wood is the General Secretary of ADES. He took up post in May 2017 and actively supports all aspects of our work. During his career he has worked successfully at every level within the education system, from school to international level. His previous roles include: HT, HMIe, DofE and Executive Director of Children and Families Service (both Dundee). Michael has worked closely on varied projects with the University of Dundee, ADES and the Scottish Government, Education Scotland, COSLA, SCEL and the Robert Owen Institute for Research. In 2017 he set up an Educational Consultancy and was also appointed the post of Honorary Professor by the University of Dundee.