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?