9.00 – 1030am Chief Officers Group for Children's Services – this is a multi-agency group of lead officers in education, health and social work. A lot of the meeting was taken up with information giving sessions but I raised a couple of points in the course of the morning. Firstly, a paper was tabled about developing a parental support strategy. There seem to be lots of audits, reviews and strategy meetings but I wasn't able to see a clear rationale underpinning the purpose of parental support. I suppose it's because this is an issue I'm really struggling with myself at the moment – but what do we seek to acheive when we support parents. I know this seems an obvious question – and it should have an obvious answer – but all too often we do things because they seem like a good idea and forget – or at least fail to clarify – the underlying purpose. I recognise that some children have additional support needs which place demands upon parents to the extent that they require support from networks and professionals throughout their childs development and beyond. I also recognise that some parents will require support due to exceptional circumstances, or short-term support in reponse to an unforseen event. However, there are also some parents do not have the skills, family support systems or wherewithall to give their children enough support to make the progress one might normally expect in terms of social, emotional, academic or behavioural development. Now I know this seems pretty stark when you commit this to paper – or virtual paper as it is in this case. However, there are some parents who need guidance, support, engagement and regular monitoring if we are to ensure that their children break free from a cycle of deprivation, academic failure and social exclusion. I'm minded here to refer to Alan Ross's concept of “social police” and obviously in cases of child protection I suppose that this would be the case. But there are many more cases where parents would benefit from early proactive intervention and support to enable their child to have equivalent life chances to other children of the same age in different circumstances. Reading over this piece I'm uncomfortable – why? Well – I don't hear many people talk like this -yet it seems to me that this is the unspoken assumptions which govern our actions yet due to some implicit form of “political correctness” we all nod but never express the point. I might take this off the site in the next few days when I read in the cold light of day.
Lunch meeting with Ian Metcalf – deputy editor, East Lothian Courier. I'd met Ian at last week's Education Committee and had invited him for lunch to explore ways in which we could work together. Ian has an interesting background and has worked on most of Scotland's main newspapers as a crime reporter. I enjoyed listening to him and learned something about the idea of “off the record briefings”. Then we got to talking about this weeks copy of the paper, which I hadn't yet read. Ian showed me the leader which suggested that headteachers often “sweep bullying under the carpet”. I took exception to that phrase as it runs completely counter to my experience of schools. I stressed to Ian that our starting point in schools, even more importantly than teaching and learning, is that children must feel safe and secure. Nothing takes precedence over this I know how important this is for all our headteachers and staff in schools.
I showed Ian our draft anti-bullying policy and went over a few parts. To be fair Ian pushed hard on what schools actually do to stop bullying not what a policy might be. I made it clear that the starting point is an ethos in the school which reinforces that bullying will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Children have to be encouraged to speak up immediately they feel bullied and that the school has to take action immediately. One the problem facing schools is when children – for whatever reason – don't inform anyone. The challenge for us is to create an environment where children are confident that positive action will be taken to stop the bullying. I used a number of examples from my own experience to highlight what schools can do to stop bullying and that this can be exceptionally effective. I also made it clear that schools don't draw a line at the school gates when dealing with bullying and that I had excluded pupils for acts of bullying which had taken place outside schools and outwith the school day. All schools – everywhere – have bullying problems – if one child is being bullied then that is a problem – the important point to make here is that schools never lose sight of the dangers of bullying and are constantly vigilant and aware.
The new policy will be going out to schools, student councils and parents group with a view to consolidating and confriming the good practice that already happens in our schools.
LNCT meeting at 2.00pm. Very positive meeting – I'm looking forwards to working with our union colleagues. I'm a great believer in the importance of employee representation and I hope to build up a similar relationship as the one I enjoyed at Dunbar – which relied upon openess, trust and honesty.
Meeting finished early so I popped over to Kings Meadow Primary for 45 minutes. Quick tour of the school with Donald McGillivary – very impressive place!
4.30pm Gordon Brown's leaving do. Followed by a meeting with a headteacher until 6.20pm A very varied but satisfying day – I'm having a day off tomorrow and am looking forward to the weekend.
Primary/Nursery Headtreachers' Executive Meeting. We are determined to make this a more strategically focussed meeting – previously it was overwhelmed with school specific detail. Patricia MacCall, Headteacher Campie Primary School, has put together an excellent set of proposals to ensure that issues are properly filtered and addressed – mainly using the clusters and Education Officers. In this way we can free up the meeting to address how we can improve the quality of primary/nursery education in East Lothian.
We spent a long time discussing isues relating to the attainment action plan. These included: LEADERSHIP – introducing the 360 degree leadership review; coaching programme for Depute Headteachers; challenging Headteacher isolation by using this website; PT seminars; and sharing good practice in management practice (there is arecognition that we all have something to learn from each other in the way in which we handle the administration tasks which face us on a day-to-day basis and have the potential to detract from our ability to lead) – we will be setting up a session at our next HT meeting to enable us all to share examples of such good practice. TEACHING AND LEARNING – SELS – a demo will be given at the next HT meeting; teacher exchange; PERFORMANCE MONITORING – explaining the scorecard and how we (as a collegiate de[artment) are scrutinised by the council; CURRICULUM FLEXIBILITY – decluuttering the curriculum and primary school timetabling.
The feedback from HTs about this discussion was very positive and hopefully we can sustain this level of professional debate and focus. A number of other issues were addressed during the meeting – most notably the idea of how we improve children's ability to learn – I'm going to meet with Ann McLannachan to explore this area further.
Quick bite of lunch before a three and half hour stint interviewing long leet candidates for the Headteacher's position at Stoneyhill Primary School. This is my first involvement in HT interviews and it's good to be able to learn from Alan Blackie who has so much experience in this area. Interviews are a very stressful for the candidates but there are some key points which people should try to bare in mind when preparing: always answer the question (you'd be surpised by how often people drift into some other area); keep referring to your experience and mention children (once again too many people never mention kids); don't keep rambling (I always try to keep to three ponts at the most – some people can try to include up to ten examples in a single question!); check if the school you are applying for has been inspected (it provides very useful background info' and demonstrates that you can explore an issue in depth); try to speak with some passion about your subject – you are going to have to enthuse staff and pupils – if this doesn't come across in interview it might go against you; talk about teams and others; don't say “I'm a good communicator/motivator/organiser/etc, etc – let your actions make it clear that you have these qualities; avoid the unecessary use of jargon – so many people think they have to press all the buttons in interview by mentioning every buzzword/initiative/theory. There are plenty more but these will do for now.
Managed to get to my desk for the first time today at 4.45pm.
Met Judith Kyle, Depute HT, Dunbar Grammar, at 8.30am to discuss comptency frameworks. Judith spent some time last session shadowing at the Royal Bank of Scotland. She observed some very interesting practice which has potential for our schools. I showed Judith the 360 degree framwork for senior managers and we agreed that many people will find this very useful. I'd like to explore a more rigorous framwork for teachers to use for their Employee Development and Review on a voluntary basis. I will be discussing this further with the staff development group.
Chaired the Additional Support for Learning Implementaion Group at 9.00am. We went through the plan and clarified who was going to do what. We are going to use GANT charts to plan our work for the coming session and try to get detailed figures for eny planned expenditure. Then met Sheila McKendrick and Derek Haywood to learn more about their meeting with staff from Scotish Borders and Midlothian which had looked at ways in which we could share expertise, systems and good practice.
12.30 lunch with Head Boys and Head Girls from our six secondary schools. I was hugely impressed by our young people who seemed to really enjoy the opportunity to meet their peers. We considered how each school used their senior students and a number of points came up which were common practice. There were far more similarities than differences and
I was taken by their common commitment to improve their schools and the opportunities of younger students. We looked at possible actions for the future and agreed that we would like to meet on a regular basis throughout the session. We will try to vist two very different schools with a view to learning about the different challenges and practices in these places. It was suggested that we go to Castlebrae High School In Edinburgh and Lorretto School in Musselburgh. I will try to make contact with both these schools. We also considered an S6 conference but with 500 S6 students it might be difficult to organise – but it is an option. They will all be attending each others Christmas dances – above all else they are keen to promote links betwen their various towns and to challenge the idea of traditional rivalries. It was good to work with young people again!
Policy Procedures and Review Panel at 2.00pm- 4.00pm. We shared the scorecard with the councillors and stressed our commitment to use the process to measure our performance as a department.
Depute Headteachers seminar at 4.30 – 6.10. Another excellent session. We started the meetig by everyone telling us their professional life story – the narrative (see last saturday) was exceptionally powerful. We agreed that we wished to continue with such meetings throughtout the session. The idea of coaching was well received but there were concerns about a talent identification system. Hopefully we can get some volunteers from this group to keep a weblog?
Well, what can I say about the BELMAS conference. In some ways I've enjoyed the event – some good company – one or two challenging points – but I can't help feeling that I'm an interloper on a world to which I don't belong. The academics have steadfastly refused to mix with us mortals and I feel we are only here to give the event some semblance of cross-representation of the various sectors. I think it would be much more honest to “say exactly what it says on the tin” by promoting it as a conference for university academics involved in the research of educational leadership.
Having said all that it would be churdish not to reflect upon the points that have struck me over today. I was taken by the notion promoted by Professor Ken Leithwood who suggested that the socialization of headteachers in their childhood had more impact on their effectiveness, than their subsequent professional training. If that is the case we should be spending much more time identifying the underlying values and personality of aspiring leaders than we do at present.
He also touched upon the idea of mental models, i.e. that teachers carry mental models around in their heads of what a leader looks like and behaves like. If a new leader does not confrom to that model it will take a much longer time for them to persuade their staff that they have the “stuff” of leadership, than someone who immediately conforms to their model. Prospective headteachers should bare this in mind as it is relatively easy to change your outside skin to conform to an expectancy yet remain true to underlying values .
Many of the other today other presentations have been over my head , I did, however, pick up from Simon Clarke's presentation about the power of narrative that it can provide a short cut to professional wisdom by enabling people to learn from the stories of other professionals experience. Looking forwards to getting home.
9.15pm Kentish Hills Conference Centre, Milton Keynes. Arrived via Luton Airport at 3.30pm Managed to get to the final afternoon session. Presentations covered research about the perceptions of school leaders. Some interesting facts – most notably, for me, that people regarded mentoring as being one of the most effective forms of professional development for headship. The second session focussed upon an analysis of a school management team by an external researcher. Once again some cogent observations although I was forced to query the notion that a management team should be open amongst themselves but not with the rest of the staff. In response to my question the speaker used an unfortunate example “if we were going to invade Iraq we wouldn't tell people about it” I responded by pointing out that this was an unfortunate metaphor as it corresponds with the oft heard claim by some Heads “I'm prepared to lose a few battles as long as I win the war”. Such a statement perpetuates the concept of “them” and “us” which must be destriyed if we are to make real progress. to be fair to the speaker he had not intended to give that impression.
John Christie and I met Simon Clarke from University of Western Australia. Simon originally hails from England but has lived and worked in Australia for the last 17 years. Simon's field is effective school leadership and improvement and is speaking tomorrow about leadership in small schools – which will have some relevance for John and I.
I showed Simon some of our weblogs and described our intention to create a martrix of perspectoves\with which to track and reflect upon the change process. Simon suggested that it might be very useful to track some individual issues and write a narrative/story which would prove useful to helping teachers to make sense of their world. I agree with this idea, as the power of the story is not employed enough in explaining our world, whereas we the world of numbers and data is often held up without scrutiny – there is a place for both.
Time for bed.
In at 7.00am as I'm out tomorrow at the BELMAS conference in Milton Keynes. As I've said before I enjoy getting in early and managed to complete a few things which have been hanging over me for a while. Met with Ray Montgomery at 8.45. Ray is Head of Transport for the council and was briefing me about the on going First Bus drivers strike. We have 940 pupils affected by the strike, of whom 200 are contract buses and the rest have bus passes for service buses. Ray explained what the council had been trying to do to bring in other buses but there are none available. I wrote an e mail to Heads explaining the situation. In my experience Headteachers appreciate having being well informed in the event of a parental contact.
9.00am meeting with Pete Gray. Pete's put together this site using
eZ publish content management software. He has now completed the users manual which will help us to involve more people in managing different parts of the site. This shared ownership will prevent one person controlling or blocking the growth of the site and should ensure its sustainablility. We looked at how we can improve the look of the site with photographs and how we can improve its presence on search engines – it will all take time.
10.30am CPD strategy meeting – we looked at how we can develop our continuous professional development programme and training programme. We recognised the need to improve our monitoring and recording systems.
12.30pm Investors In People preparation meeting. We reviewed the results of the staff survey and considered the elements of an action plan to address these issues.
2.00pm McCrone Advisory Group. This is a group which meets to prepare for the LNCT meetng scheduled for next week. I'm fairly inexperienced in these matters and it was good to gain the perspective and advice of my colleagues.
3.00pm Restructuring meeting – met with Derek Haywood, Sheila Ainslie and Sheila McKendrick to brainstorm possible structures for the schools support and challenge element of the department. Very worthwhile discussion and it seems we made significant progress. It's important we engage with childremn's services when we look at any elements which there is a shared focus.
4.30pm Met with Derek Simspon who had represented the department at A Curriculum for Excellence (ACE) seminar in Stirling last week. Derek provided me with a very comprehensive briefing. We are obviousy slightly behind on this one but our plans for our November HT conference should address this deficiency.
Too many meetings today but still felt it had been worthwhile
Met with Liz Morris, EIS District Rep and Alan Blackie to finalise the aganda for the LNCT. LNCT stands for Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers. Its purpose is to enable employers and employees to meet to discuss issues relating to working conditions. Main agenda items will be management time for PTs; Annexe E; Business managers and budget issues. After this a meeting to consider Staff Development and Review (SD & R) interviews with headteachers. There has been a problem with this in the past due the sheer volume of interviews each of the Directorate has to complete – leading to some HTs not be reviewed. We are looking at sharing the review load by involving Education Officers. One of the key criteria for identifying the appropriate reviewer will be the salary scale of the reviewer and the reviewee. Some people feel it is inappropriate for someone on a lower salary scale to reviewing someone on a higher scale. It doesn't bother me but we must be aware of perceptions. As things stand Alan Blackie and myself would do the secondary HTs and four of the biggest primary school HTs; Derek Haywood and Shiela Ainslie would do ten of the medium to large primaries; and the rest of the primary schools would be picked up by the Education Officers.
We considered the competency framework which is being rolled out for all managers in East Lothian Council. The eight competencies use a 360 degree feedback system to gather evidence of competence which is then discussed with the reviewee by the reviewer. I will be putting this on the agenda for our next HT meetings with a view to implementation in January. This system fits perfectly with our commitment to focus upon leadership development, whiilst mirroring the 360 feedback used in Scottish Qualification for Headship.
Had some space in my diary to catch up with some paperwork until 1.00pm when I met Liz Surridge to discuss the probationer programme in East Lothian. It was good to hear that the vast majority of our probationers are making excellent progress – the suppport programme has been even more effective this year.
We also looked at the exc-el website with the intention of making a major source of infromation and support for our probationers. I'm meeting three of our probationers on the 10th October to consider ways we might make better use of the site.
Another hour and half in my office without interuption – what a luxury – almost got to the bottom of the pile.
4.30pm first seminar with our Depute Headteachers. We explored a variety range of issues, including why do we want to be in positions of responsibility in schools; the instruction – automomy continuum; role models and coaching; talent identification; weblogs and most significantly the need for a more rigorous competency model using 360 degree feedback which would enable talent identification to take place on an objective and not “grace and favour” basis – which we had agreed would be the greatest challenge facing us if we tried to implement it in the current system.
The biggest problem with being a Depute is that sense of isolation from others and we agreed that these seminars had the potential to bring people together ona regular basis to share experiences and to develop networks. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to meet colleagues.
Presented the Attainment Action Plan to the Education Committee this morning. I was delighted with the response from councillors. They were particularly taken by the strong upward trend in examination results over the past ten years the fact that we are not resting on our laurels but demonstrating a commitment to improve and accelerate that rate of progress. The key themes of Leadership; Teaching and Learning; Performance Monitoring and Improvement; and Curriculum Flexibility were also well received. The paper was accepted by the committee and it's now up to us all to translate into reality.
Met Marina Taylor after this meeting about a competency model for leadership development which is being implemented across the council. This involves 360 degree feedback and will articulate perfectly with our commitment to develop our leaders. I reviewed the various competencies and they correspond very well to the important elements of what goes to make an outstanding school leader. It was interesting that these points were reflected in the exc-el interviews which took place last session with key staff. I will be discussing this topic in more detail with Headteachers, Deputes and Principal Teachers over the next few weeks.
Then met Eilish Garland to pick up on the Complaints Policy and Anti-bullying policy. Eilish has done an excellent job in pulling together these two important documents and they will provide very coherent and clear guidelines for schools and the authority. I was keen that we include a summary sheet on obligations for schools and the authority. Eilish wanted to soften this by using the word reponsibilities but I think people appreciate clarity about things which they must do as opposed to things which they should prioritise.
From there to a meeting with Principal Teachers at Musselburgh Grammar School. I really enjoyed this meeting which takes place every three or four weeks. I thought the discussion was solution focussed, as opposed to simply raising problems – it wasn't a “greetin' meetin”!
The meeting concentrated on two issues. Firstly, should the school timetable start five weeks before the end of the summer term. There was a feeling that the adminstrative demands on getting classes sorted out in time for the new timetable was very difficult. On the other hand some departments appreciated the early start of the new timetable as it enabled them to complete a full topic of study in the new courses. I repeated one of the concerns which had been raised at Dunbar which was that S2 pupils who had chosen their new subjects in February were difficult to motivate in courses which they new they were not going to continue to study – the early timetable start addresses this issue.
The second issue was the perennial problem of indiscipline in S2. There was an interesting debate about the impact of setting in almost all subjects which had the default effect of creating classes which had a high proportion of pupils with behaviour problems. The group then reflected upon the issue of consistency of expectations by teachers and PTs and SMT in managing pupil behaviour. In my experience this is they key to improving pupil behavour on a whole school basis. Pupils must have consistency in terms of teacher expectations and treament from one classroom to anther and from one department to another. Pupils will inevitably exploit any inconsistencies in approach. This discussion was concluded with a reflection on the role of management and headteachers. I told the story of how the PTs at Dunbar had told me how they wanted me to behave – it had been my job to tackle – unapologetically – any teacher or department who/which was not implementing the agreed procedeures . Too often we – headteachers – issue edicts to all staff but which everyone knows only refers to one or two individuals – we do this because we are sometimes reluctant to tackle an individual head-on – for a variety of often complex reasons. I was used to the notion of headteachers maintaining a high profile and challenging inappropriate pupil behaviour but it came as a revelation to me when PTs demanded that I use my “role” as headteacher to ensure consistency of expectation and teacher behaviour in relation to standards of pupil behaviour. The group intend to discuss this matter further with the SMT. I left them with the question – what is the role of the Head of Education in relation to this area?
I wasn’t able to update my weblog yesterday. I’s;m really finding it a useful and cathartic experience. I sometimes wonder if it is slightly self-indulgent but I don’t suppose anyone is forced to read it, so it’s very much up to the reader to decide if these ramblings are of any use or interest.
I have to admit to being hooked on reading Paul and Ollie's logs. I think it helps me to understand the incredible challenges people face in their day-to-day jobs in schools, which someone in my position could easily become removed from if not careful. I'm delighted to see that Angus MacRury, Headteacher at Innerwick Primary School, has started to keep his own blog. My hope is that we can gradually grow this “community”. There are a number of other people in the pipeline, including PTs, secondary heads, classroom teachers, childcare information officers, probationers and hopefully a couple of students – we do need to address the gender balance! By dipping in and out of people's blogs we can start to build up a picture of the complex nature of the interactions between leaders, teachers, students and parents ( any parents out there who would like to participate?) – which go to making up this thing we call education. I'm speaking at a conference in Milton Keynes next Saturday and I'm going to explore the contibution that such weblogs could make (are making?) to the development of more collegiate development process – thoughts are welcome.
I slept in yesterday and didn't get into work until 8.45am. 9.00am Met Mary Preston, who co-ordinates our EYCAT programme – Early Years and Children's Assessment Team. This programme enables us to assess support needs for pre-school children with additional support needs and plan multi-agency support packages for the child and the family.
10.00 am first meeting ot the Communications Working Party. This group represents staff from across the whole department. Our remit is to look at ways in which we can improve communication within the department with a view to improving our effectiveness and, just as importantly, improve people's morale and sense of belonging. I started off by listing some of the issues which had been raised through my interviews with members of staff. We agreed that there were a number of simple things we could do to make a difference in a very short time. These were: photographs and names of all staff posted on a board in the kitchen; weekly briefing given by myself to all mebers of department on a Friday morning not much more than 5 minutes but would quickly inform everyone of personnel issues and any other areas of which they might need to be made aware; 10 minute formal coffeee break at 10.00 am and 3.00am – this would be held in rotation round each of the four main rooms in the department; social committee – for a Christmas event; the creation of a staffroom; and an explicit statement of our values – I stressed a point I had made at the Primary Headteacher's meeting about the fact that status does not mean anything in our organisation and that everyone deserves exactly the same amount of respect, regardless of position. The only difference between me and someone in an admin' position is that I have a different level of accountability , i.e. the buck stops with me – I should not expect be treated any differently from the person in the admin' position.We would like to set up a small group of people with a view to developing thse values and committing them to paper. Question – should a Headteacher be able to shout at a an admin' support worker down the phone?
Straight from here into finance meeting with team from Finance Department. We agreed to cost the appointment of Finance Officers for primary school clusters. Once we have these figures we can look at where we might find the money. I' starting to get a real handle on the budget, with the help of Derek Haywood. If changes to budgets are to be made we need to give managers and headteachers as much warning as possible in order to enable them to make appropriate plans – there can be no doubt things are only going to get tighter over the next few years. The key to managing this is to be transparent with the figures as possible and explain clearly why certain decisions are being taken.
Departmental Management Team Meeting first thing. Main agenda item was Department restructuring. Some key points were recommended for agreement with unions and other interest groups. 1. We want to retain the positions of Head of Education and Head of Children's Services. 2. We will be recommending that we don't adopt the area split proposed in the initial document.
If this recommendation is ratified it will mean that I will have the option of applying for the post on a permanant basis. As things stand at the moment I would probably apply. Of course, there would be no guarantee that I would get the job. Nevertheless, I intend to continue to take the long-term perspective I have adopted since coming into post, regardless of what might happen in the future – anything less would paralyse the department.
A visitor cancelled a meeting in the middle of the day which left a couple of hours free. I took the opportunity to visit Ronnie Summers at Musselburgh Grammar. It was Ronnie's birthday and the staff had given him a cake and card, whilst his office was festooned with balloons and ribbons. These are powerful indicators of how Ronnie is regarded by his staff. It's never easy replacing a popular headteacher – and Terry Christie was certainly popular with his colleagues and parents. Ronnie has set about building upon that foundation and there were real signs this afternoon that the school is “moving”. We walked round the school and all classes were positively enaged in their work. Teachers were friendly and approachable and I picked up a vibe that people were starting to have more confidence in themselves and the school which had maybe dipped over the PPP building period. Ronnie has a good handle on the issues that need to be addressed in the school and hopefully we can work together to see our “flagship” (the biggest in the fleet) school, helping to enable schools in East Lothian to be at the leading edge of education in Scotland. Ronnie is particularly keen for MGS to be one of the first schools to engage with the SELS software.
Then on to Stoneyhill. What a place! It was built ten years ago and is currently being extended. I was mightily impressed with the design, layout and space available within the school. Again – kids and staff were obviously enjoying themselves in active learning. Ann Malcolm , the acting head was very patient with me – particularly as the HMIe were already in the school for an integrated inspection of the nursery when I arrived – unannounced – in the school. Now that's what I call a stressful day! Glad to hear it had all gone well but I have to admit to not being surprised – even from my very quick first impression of the school.
Back to the office to pick up correspondence and then out to Ross High for a meeting with Helen Alexander (Headteacher) and Ann- Marie Kelly (Depute). The new facility for pupils with severe and complex needs is due to be built in the school grounds but there has a been a problem with the tendering process. The parental steering group had not been fully informed and were – quite rightly – concerned about the situation. After being briefed by Helen and Ann-Marie I met two parent reps and listened to their concerns. In my dealings with parents I have always been governed by one simple rule – tell the truth – even if its not that palatable. Not that anyone here hasn't been telling the truth but an optimism about the start date for the building perhaps built up false hopes which have now been dashed. People can cope much better with problems if they understand the worst case scenario and are confident that plans are in place and that they can make their own decisions based upon that information.
Back home for a meeting with John Chirstie at 8.00pm. John and I are speaking at the BELMAS conference in Milton Keynes next weekend. We sorted out our presentation. I'm thinking of picking up on the controversy from SELMAS – it certainly initiates debate – if nothing else.