“Do not see my disability as a deficit”

I visited Ross High School’s additional support department today. The department provides education for East Lothian children who have a range of severe and complex needs.

The department was recently inspected as part of the school’s HMI inspection and received a very positive report.

The team – so ably led by Fiona Cooper – and supported by head teacher Dorothy Bartholomew, are incredibly committed to providing a worthwhile educational experience for every child and young person.

The school really go the extra mile to include every child who can benefit from mainstream class inclusion – as do all schools in East Lothian.

My visit reminded me of a wonderful encounter I had a few years ago with Norman Kunc. Take a look at

Kunc’s second video is even more powerful

The right to have teaching adapted to your ability

We heard from Valerie Irving, one of our Quality Improvement officers, this afternoon who had visited Oslo, Norway before the summer.

Two of the key principles which guide the education system are:

“The right for every student to have teaching adapted to his/her abilities within the class framework”

“The mode of teaching must not only be adapted to subject and content, but also to age and maturity, the individual learner and the mixed ability of the entire class”

Our own Additional Support for Learning Act suggests a similar entitlement but not in such a specific manner.

Children have a metaphorical “cultural rucksack” in which students place the cultural experiences they are entitled to during their school lives.

Standard for Headship

8.30-10.00 Directorate Meeting: Helen McMillan was at the meeting to discuss Early Years and Childcare, with particular reference to line management issues. The remainder of the meeting was taken up with routine business matters.

10.00 – 10.30 Met Maureen Jobson to reflect upon
The Standard for Headship – this is a useful document and sets out clearly the expectations for school leaders.

11.00-12.00 Met with a member of staff to discuss an issue.

12.00-12.30 Met Valerie Irving to discuss education officer remits – only Ruth Munro to go, then we will discuss the new remits colectively.

1.00-1.40 Maureen Jobson to go over Early Years issues

2.00-3.30 Sport and Education Meeting – this was a challenging meeting – the impact of the decision to break the link between the visiting specialist and the classroom teacher due to budget savings was discussed. It’s an interesting position to be in but I’m determined to continue to provide accurate and honest accounts of budget situations and the challenges they will present to all of us.

4.-00-4.45 Popped round to Meadowpark – our severe and complex unit for primary age children. The staff wanted to express their desire for the facility to remain in Haddington, as opposed to the planned move to tranent which has been on the cards for the last five years. I did not hold out any false hope but I promised to provide answers to all of their queries and suggestions. I was very impressed by the passionate views and obvious commitment to the needs of our children.

Exc-el conference

8.15-9.45 Correspondence and phone calls

10.00-12.00 Education Committee – excellent presentation from Sheila Ainslie on Staged Assessment and Intervention. She really demonstrated a mastery of her brief and was well received by the committee – impressive stuff.

12.30 Met with Valerie Irving to complete a draft letter which HTs can use to send out to parents to explain the implementation of MIDYIS.

1.00-3.00 Met with an HT to cover a range of school-based issues.

3.00-4.00pm wrote up letters following meeting.

4.00-5.30 Exc-el Board Meeting – Ollie Bray, Sheila McKenrick, Robert Whiteside and Ed Offer were in attendance -
Ewan MacIntosh joined us by conference telephone call.

The format of these meetings is a convesration with no aganda but with one topic leading onto another. We covered -
guidelines for student bloggers see example for MLFE; using templates for student bloggers – this was an interesting pont and has potential for adult bloiggers who say, “what do I write about?”; log-ins for comment writers; a contract for users; promoting the site; using an alternative blogger tool but using exc-el as the point of access; and an exc-el conference – perhaps on a Saturday after Easter. The focus of the conference would be on blogging and how we develop a community of learners – it would be open to people outside East Lothian – we're going to set up a wiki to enable the conference to take shape. What fun!!

Induction

9.00-9.30 Met Seonad McGillivary, HT Stoneyhill, and Debbie Beveridge, HT Wallyford. They are in the office all day to participate in our new induction programme for HTs. In addition to meeting me they met, Alan Blackie; Carolyn Walker from Personnel; Derek Haywood; and Carolyn Smith, Finance. I managed to have lunch with them and showed them our plans for development planning and project management tracking – seemed to be well received.

10.00-11.00 Willie White came into the office to brief about a conference about Outdoor Education to be held in Dundee in March. I’ve been asked to give a headteacher’s perspective on outdoor education. I’ve accepted and hope to talk about the importance of such activities and how they should be regarded as core activities in the curriculum as opposed to “extra”

11.00-12.00 completed the development plan guidelines

12.00 -1.00 lunch with Seonad and Debbie

2.00-4.00 Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group – we used the project manager system for the first time. It was very well received and should allow us to ensure our action plan is properly implmented. Our agenda in the future will be to review each of the action points and focus on aresa of difficulty.

4.-5.00 Met with Anthony Gillespie, Finance and Derek Haywood and Alan Borthwick to go over how we intend to fund the additional non-contact time for teachers next session. I was pleased that we seemed to have worked out a way to ensure that funding from the executive will be passed on to schools to ensure that all teachers have 300 minutes non-contact time.

5.00-5.30 Chat with Valerie Irving about the restructuring process and how we intend to allocate duties to our Quality Improvement Officers next session. I hope to job size each of the tasks need to be done in terms of the time likely to be required. Each QIO will have a minimum number of points to reach in terms of their duties – perhaps 50. Some schools might be worth 4 points- others only 1. QIOs will have combination of school duties linked to a cluster and generic duties which will extend across the authority. Schools and generic duties will be tallied up and in this way we should ensure some equity of duties and workload. I reckon people will stay with the same duties for a three year period but a review will take place every year.

One of those days

No, not one of those days, I mean one of those days when everything goes right!

We had an exceptional meeting this morning involving all secondary headteachers, a Depute from their schools and number of education officers to consider curriculum and timetabling issues. We kicked off with a review of some of the mind maps I'd been working on for A Curriculum For Excellence. This provided a context for the rest of the meeting where each school shared their structure of the school day, their curriculum plans and choice sheets. This threw up some really interesting points but more importantly enabled a truly professional and stimulating debate about what it is we are trying to achieve in schools through our curriculum and delivery mechanisms. We then considered the place of pre-voactonal courses in schools and established a small working group who will come up with a rationale for us to take forward. This was followed by a discussion of how we might make use of ICT to deliver some subjects, particularly at advanced higher level – we are going to set up a pilot project which Derek Simpson will lead. Then we looked at the Options and Timetabler software which I used last year at DGS. It looks like most schools are going to invest in this and I'll arrange to take a more formal training session when they all have the software. Finsihed off the morning with a review of the NFER and MIDYIS cogitiv ability tests. There wasn't much between the two but we finally decided to implement the MIDYIS test for all our S2 students. This will really provide some useful data with which to compare schools progress.

Finished meeting at 2.00pm followed by a meeting with Paul Raffaelli about Dunbar's School of Ambition application. Hopefully the school can be successful I have every confidence in Paul to ensure the project has real impact upon the school. After that I took the opportunity to take a wander round the office to speak to a few folk who I hadn't seen since they got back from holiday.

4.00pm First meeting of the exc-el board. This group composed of Jackie McKinnon, HT Aberlady PS, Jim Cram, PT Art and Desin Preston Lodge HIgh School, Alan White, teacher of computing at Musselburgh Grammar, Robert Whiteside, classroom teacher at Haddinton Nursery School, David Gilmour, a newly qualified teacher who is doing supply work and myself met for an hour and half to explore how we might take forwards exc-el. There was no agenda, no minute taker but a real sense of purpose and fun. We were free to think, challenge and create ideas. Out of a wide range of ideas the most powerful was that we will not formally launch the site. I had been considering writing to every teacher but we felt it would be a much more powerful strategy to let it grow by word of mouth and the fact that people will use it because it is useful – not because the Head of Education says it is worthy. We'd like to mirror what google and amazon have done by making it a welcoming experience which meets the needs of its users – we also want to make it fun! We are going to explore using video casts and audio podcasts but this will require more webspace – which should not prove to be a problem. The group will meet again before Christmas but it was a joy to be in the company of such creative and enthusiastic people – if we can just replicate this spirit on exc-el then I think we have a bright future.

Finally chaired Additional Support for Learning Public Meeting at Haddinton Townhouse from 7.00-8.45pm. This was quite well attended and Shiela Ainslie and Liz Herd really demonstrated a mastery of their brief and this was well received by all those present. A good day!!

PS Welcome to Kirsty Parkin

Headhunting

7.30-900 am correspondence and paperwork. 9.30am Out to Ross High School Severe and Complex Needs Unit. Really enjoyed my morning meeting the staff and students. There is no doubt that it takes a special sort of person to work with children such differing needs but the rewards are enormous. I met Alec, Nicola, Sean, Elizabeth, Lewis, Nicole, Rachel and Sam. There was an atmosphere of love, support and productive activity. I had morning break with the students in the canteen and then chatted with some of the staff in the staffroom. Then met with Helen Alexander for an hour to discuss a number of issues relating to the unit and the school.

12.30am Back to the office to meet Gillian Reilly, our Staff development Co-ordinator. Building upon the suggestion by Richard Parker we intend to hold an admin support conference for all school and centre admin support staff. We’d like to hold it in at the racecourse. Once we have a date I’ll write out to schools to set up a small group of representatives to devise the programme.

Secondary Head’s Meeting 2.00pm. Very busy agenda – perhaps too busy – but I’m learning. We made significant progress on a number of issues such as: 360 degree competency review which was generally very well received; coaching system for Deputes; Student Evaluation of Learning; and standardised testing – we will decide on which test we will use next week, after a brief presentation about the two alternatives – NFER and MIDYIS. As one might expect there were a number of operational difficulties such as ICT and PPP which are still causing problems. In future I think we need to focus upon one or tow key strategic issues and gain agreement. However, there is a need to get a few quick fixes in our attainment action plan in order to build a foundation for the future.

I was contacted by recruitment agency about a national job linked to education – flattering to be asked but not of any interest to me. It did set me to thinking about how we recruit for headteacher jobs – perhaps we should be more proactive?

Tuesday 4th October

8.30 am – 10.00 am – Meeting with Derek Haywood and Sheila McKendrick to continue our discussions regarding the restructuring of the Department.

We focused much of our attention on the links between Education and Children’s Services and explored further the notion of and Education Officer attached to each Cluster working closely with Integration Officers and a Cluster Support Team.

Once again I chuntered on about our focus being upon improving pupils life chances and the opportunity for social mobility.

We considered a timeline from 0 to 18 with the Early Years time being a particular focus for tackling social inclusion.

The role of the Integration Team will particularly come in to play through the Staged Assessment and Intervention process thereby linking vulnerable students with appropriate agencies throughout their time in school.

Following this meeting I met with Alan Ross, Raymy Boyle, Clare O’Sullivan and Shaun Rafferty to further explore the restructuring process from a Children’s perceptive.

Once again we spent some time discussing the purpose of an integrated services Department and I suggested that our aim should be “to provide the quality of life chances for all children born in East Lothian”.

We recognised the tension that exists in schools between a drive towards academic attainment and a broader concern for the well-being, welfare and life chances of all students in the school, particularly if some students would be appear to be intent on disrupting the learning of other students.

This will provide a significant challenge for myself in the coming session to promote an approach which is truly inclusive in all our schools. I am heartened by approach I encounter in the vast majority of schools and classrooms in East Lothian where such a philosophy would appear to underpin current practice.

Working lunch with other Chief Officers on Racial Equality this was an interesting discussion and focused upon how East Lothian could improve its standing as a Scottish Local Authority which promotes racial equality. It would appear that one of the most significant problems we face is that people do not regard as having a racial “problem” due to there being small number of people coming from ethnic minorities.

2pm – Meeting with 3-14 Assessment Group. This was a very stimulating meeting with a significant amount of debate and discussion. We agreed that there is a need to stream line and simplify some of our assessment and teaching and learning policies with a view to articulating what the baseline expectation should be in each classroom.

We come up with the following expectations to formative assessment. Teachers should:-
1. Share their intentions with learners.
2. Provide quality feedback to children
3. Summarise the lesson at the end of the teaching period
4. Use appropriate questioning techniques to further childrens’ learning
5. Expect that every child will contribute
6. Provide and reinforce the context for learning.
7. Provide advise about what children can do next to improve
8. Provide regular opportunities for children to give feedback about their learning experiences
9. Be prepared to modify their practice in response to children’s feedback.

I will circulate this to members of the group but would welcome any further suggestions.

We are keen not to let this grow to far but in a sense it should be a basic entitlement to students in any classroom in East Lothian. The rest of the meeting was concerned with standardised testing, 5-14 moderation and involvement with international assessment programmes.

Then met Gillian Hole, and a Child and Family Support Worker on the Integration Team, who will be taking responsibility for the new Children’s Services Section on the website – which out for updates. From there to a meeting with Raymy Boyle in the Railway Inn for a welcome pint!

Senior Students

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?

Head of Education

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.

Primary/Nursery Headteachers’ meeting

Got into work about 7.15am to clear my feet before what I knew was going to be a busy day. I've always enjoyed that time in school before anyonelse is around – I always seem to get through so much more than at the end of the day.

Met Sheila Ainslie and Fiona Brown of Pupil Support about a transportation issue relating to one of our pupils.

Met a parent at 9.00am to discuss a confidential matter relating to their child's needs.

Primary/Nursery Headteacher's Meeting at 10.00am. More or less the same agenda as for the secondary heads the previous week. The attainment action plan was well received and will feature as a major agenda item at the full Heateachers' meeting to be held on the 14th September. I was particluraly pleased that the notion of the comparison of 5-14 attainment results acrooss all our schools was accepted. Steven MacLachlan, the council's emergency planning officer, briefed the meeting about the importance of having contingency plans prepared for a range of emergencies. We hope to build a range of possible responses to emergencies by making the most of the vast combined experience of our headteachers.

Meeting finished at 1.10pm Then met Helen Faulds and Susan McNaught to reflect upon the systems we've put in place to help me manage my admin workload. The system appears to have worked very effectively to date and I thanked them for “keeping me in line”.

Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group meeting at 2.00pm We are charged with ensuring that the Act is properly implemented in the East Lothian. A successful meeting which was highly action focussed. this has the potential of helping to really create an integrated education and children's services department.

4.00 – 6.15pm correspondence and telephone conversations.