Maggie Tierney, the Deputy Director (Support for Learning), Scottish government Learning Directorate

This interview was first published in the April 2010 issue of Enquire within

What does the role of Deputy Director involve?

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My role involves supporting Ministers to deliver the 15 national outcomes set out in the Scottish government’s National Performance Framework.

In leading the Support for Learning Division within the Learning Directorate, my job is to support Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and other government priorities which improve outcomes for children and young people. My division’s specific focus is around additional support for learning, ensuring that inclusion remains at the very centre of CfE.

I also help to develop joined-up working within the Scottish government and with public agencies and organisations, including Enquire, to make sure that we are all doing the best job possible — and for me, this means doing so in light of Ministerial policy priorities and objectives, and in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), local government and other partners.

What do you think are the main challenges of the job?

The principal challenge of the job is leading change during these interesting times. There are high public expectations for service provision against a context of reduced available public spending and forthcoming UK and Scottish elections. These factors present policy development and policy implementation challenges for my division and our partners. We need to ensure we grow in capability and leadership; that we become more strategic and also more efficient; that we manage risk and also foster innovation.

It’s liberating and inspirational to work in this way, and I am so pleased to be working with dedicated exciting and skilled colleagues both in and out of government.

In what ways does your work make a direct difference to the lives of young people, and their families?

The policies we develop around support for learning — promoting positive behaviour in schools, making sure there is nutritious food in schools, fostering an ethos and culture of respect for others in and beyond the classroom and playground, and making sure that all children can access learning that’s right for them — influence the lives of young people. Policies by themselves are not enough of course. It is parents, carers, teachers, support staff, volunteers and friends of children and young people who play the biggest part in directly making a difference on a daily basis.

What’s involved in a typical day in your job (if such a thing exists)?

There’s no such thing.I enjoy fantastic variety in developing programmes of work with policy colleagues and external partners on a range of issues. We advise Ministers frequently or accompany them on a visit or at an event.

I enjoy finding myself in all sorts of settings, doing all kinds of work, and meeting every kind of person. The variety and challenge of the job is truly exceptional.

What led you to your current role?

I arrived though a roundabout route, like many of my colleagues. I joined the Scottish government 10 years ago, having worked first in Dublin and Norway, in a number of different sectors.

I have worked across a range of areas in the Scottish government — previous posts included leading the team addressing workforce planning for social work and social care staff and then the team progressing child protection policy. Most recently I moved to the Learning Directorate as Deputy Director with responsibility for Support for Learning Division.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Beyond doubt, it is the privilege of working on this vitally important area of social policy development, working collaboratively to develop a better future for the children and young people of Scotland.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your job?

To reflect on why we are doing something, and to always remember the most important element of any policy we develop — the children it will directly affect.

In my work I strive to remain open to new ways of thinking and working, to make sure that we deliver properly for our children — every different last one of them.

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