Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

International seminar

Salah Hasan Mahmoud Al-Jaf did not mean to visit Bristol Temple Meads during his visit to the UK in June. But his generosity led to a classic British mix up.

Salah, the assistant director general from the Ministry of Education in Iraq, was in Bath with 27 other participants to attend a seminar 'Leadership in School Education: Developing school leaders in a national context', organised by The British Council and SHA.

He was a long way from home, as were those from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Chile, Croatia, Estonia, India, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.

Led by a team of SHA tutors coordinated by Harvey Black, this very diverse group became a community for a week.

The British Council spelled it out in its welcome to participants: "Recent global events have highlighted the crucial role of education in enabling communities and governments to understand one another."

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the problems elucidated were those we face in England - from sustaining quality of learning across schools to matching the demands of government with those of individual children.

Clearly the event will continue to have an impact. There is now a school leadership project defining and promulgating best practice across Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen and Kuwait that will run to March 2008.

Is there a place for global leadership of schools? Is there good practice that is generic across cultures? Many at the event thought so.

How long will it be before there is an internationally recognised award that a school leader in India or Brazil could undertake, contextualised for each country but with a common skills core?

And what about Salah from Iraq, who did not mean to visit Bristol Temple Meads? Well, he had such a wonderful time that he didn't want to say goodbye. He came to help put cases on the train, insisting on taking them into the carriage.

A railway employee blew his whistle before Salah could disembark and the train exited westwards, to much mirth all round.

But sometimes the unexpected journeys and contacts lead to more than you can imagine. In the best possible way, that was true of Bath 2005.

By Richard Fawcett, SHA consultant

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