Recognising Professionalism 1: The Building Trade

Like every other an educational professional I am interested in the contribution that schools make to our society, culture and economy. The Scottish educational tradition has long recognised that preparation for life as a worker is part of the wider learning for life. It is only very rarely that you hear anyone in Scotland argue that training for work is all that schools should be concerned with. We are all poorer if schools do not also emphasise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, as well as give young people the wider knowledge and skills not only to understand but also to contribute to the development of our society and culture

The professionals of the building trade often get a bad name; characterised as being unreliable, late, overpriced and producing poor quality work. Whilst this might be the case sometimes, my experience has been quite different. Maybe it’s because my father was a joiner that I really appreciate the care, attention, commitment to quality and the professional pride that is the embodiment of the best of the building trade. We are surrounded by examples of excellence in our built environment but too often focus on the disasters.

We recently had some work done on our house and I am delighted with the result. Watching the various tradesmen come and go made me think about schooling, quality and professionalism. It also reminded me of conversation I had a few months ago with Eric Summers headteacher of Webster’s High in Kirriemuir. Eric and I discussed the risk taking, negotiation skills, communications, planning and co-ordination, problem solving, resilience and creativity that we had both witnessed in those who had worked on our houses. We also wondered how these qualities had been developed and the role of the school curriculum in fostering them.

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