Full HTs Meeting

Full day meeting for Primary and Nursery Headteachers. As I’ve set out elsewhere in this weblog it is my intention to establish a culture amongst East Lothian schools which is characterised by a shared purpose, belonging, openess and mutual trust. This is the culture I’ve always set out to create whenever I've had the opportunity to take the leader’s role. It was relatively easy as a PT – achieveable as a Headteacher, but I’m not sure if it’s possible to do at an authority level. However, we are going to have fun trying. What are the obstacles?

  1. A “them” and “us” mentality between schools and the centre.
  2. Poor communication.
  3. Directorate giving orders without any clear rationale or sense of purpose.
  4. Headteachers running their schools as personal fiefdoms with no respect shown to colleagues in other schools or anyone else outwith their own sphere of interest, i.e. seeing themselves and their schools as operating autonomously and not belonging to a wider community of professionals.
  5. Pressure of work which prevents anyone from lifting their nose from the grindstone.
  6. A focus upon the negative.

I'm sure there will be others and I'd welcome observations, such as “idealistic Heads of Education” but this list will suffice in the meantime.

Anyway the feedback from my colleagues was very positive and the early signs are encouraging. What are the challenges? Sustainability – can we keep this going?- particularly in times of stress – or will we retrench into “them” and “us”. Can I/we deliver?- people hear so many promises throughout their careers from leaders who come in say they'll do this and that and never see it through. It's vital that everything doesn't depend upon one person, i.e. me. We must distribute leadership; we must establish long-term strategic plans which are not dependent upon particular personnel; and we must link change to long-term budgetary planning.

We sat , 45 of us, in a circle. This was both symbolic and practical. It prevents a front and back from setting up; it engages with all the group; it enables people to make a contribution; it enables everyone to listen to contributions; and it allows leadership of the group to move around, as opposed to being located at the front.

The morning was given over to an description of, and discussion about our attainment action plan. Some excellent points were raised and we also made significant progress in a number of areas which we can now take forward as agreed action. We also shared the department's budget and discussed the communication paper – both of which were well received. There is a concern that primary schools have been/are discriminated against in comparison with secondary schools. I'd like to open up this debate by looking at the facts and engaging primary and nursery Heads in discussion with their secondary colleagues. If we don't tackle this perception head-on (if you'll excuse the pun) and either demonstrate that it's incorrect, or that is does exist and that we need to put a plan together to rectify the situation, we will only make peripheral progress in seeing ourselves as belonging to a unified whole. All groups must be prepared to put aside their traditional interests and look at it from an objective standpoint – told you I was an idealist!! – but what fun we'll have.

The afternoon considered emergency scenarios and what we would do in such situations. This proved very interesting and should help s put together very useful emergency plans.

Back to the office at 4.00 for e-mails and correspondence. I had a chat with Alan Ross, Head of Children's Services. I was still chuntering on about what we should be trying to do with integrated community schools. I value Alan's prespective – he has exceptional experience at the “hard” end of children's social work – where children's lives are at risk. Educationalists sometimes have the luxury of being idealistic and adopting a higher moral group perspective. A child social worker has incredibly difficult decisions to make about whether to remove a child from a family or not. I can chat all I like about whether or not we should be trying to give all children the same opportunties and support – Alan cuts to the heart of the issue and asks “Can I stop this child from being “broken” any further”. The problem is that when a child is “broken” can anyone – including education “fix” them? I'll look forward to more in-depth discussion about this with Alan and other colleagues over the next few weeks, especially as we look at how we might better integrate education and children's services.


8.30am meeting with Julia Robertson and Gordon Brown re' Determined To Succeed. There can be no doubt that Gordon will be difficult to replace when he goes to join SEED on secondment. Nevertheless we spent a great deal of time clarifying budget postisons but – perhaps more importantly – identified a strategy for ensuring schools take on board their obligations in relation to DTS. At least one school will be inspected this session and Headteachers must be made aware that they will be held accountable if the DTS agenda is no properly covered in the school. I'm going to wrting a letter in the next couple of weeks which will hopefully set out clearly the obligations of the schools and the authority. Julia has a a good handle on the DTS strategy and provides excellent support for schools.

Met Karen Robertson at 10.00. Karen leaves on Friday for her maternity leave but wanted to update me on a few issues re' ICT. Things look OK except for an unaccounted for deficit in our ICT budget. I need to clear this up with Finance or it will blow a big hole in our plans for the coming session and perhaps beyond.

Quick telephone chat with Willie Galbraith, HT Preston Lodge, re' a software tracking system. We have agreed that couple of senior staff will investigate the matter with a member of IT. My over-riding concern is that we attempt to get some consistency across our schools to enable the sharing of data and expertise.

Worked on mail and preparation for tomorrow's HT meeting. Met Pauline Sales at 2.30 to discuss the scorecard for the department. Agreed a number of questions for inclusion in the SELS questionnaires to be reported om the scorecard , e.g. I enjoy being at school; I'm treated fairly by my teachers; and My school deals effectively with bullies. The questions (10 in all) emanate from the HMIe questionnaires which are used in inspection so there will be no problem about implementing them in schools.

Out to Wallyford at 4.00 to meet Debbie Beveridge the new Headteacher. We talked about value systems as leaders and reconnised that we shared many ideas and practices. I further developed the idea of leadership as effective parenthood – I'll try it out tomorrow with the Heads. Debbie will prove to be an excellent appointment and I was taken by how open the children seemed to be who were staying behind after school to participate in athletics. Met a number of members of staff and was taken by their commitment to the school.


In early to make up for not being in on Friday. However, the fact that I can access my e mail at home had enabled me to respond to all my emails last night. There was still plenty to clear.

Meeting of Management Team at 8.30am. Alan Blackie has been on holiday for the past two weeks so we had a fair bit to catch up with. Fortunately there hadn't been to many problems over this period.

10.00 Met with Patricia MacCall, Secretary of the Primary Nursery Headteachers' executuve. Patrica had a response to the communications paper which we talked through. It's obvious that there is still a great deal of sensitivity relating to the fact that primary schools have not been given business managers. Rightly or wrongly there is an impression that secondary schools have been advantaged in this matter. I don't intend to get into an argument about whether the perception is right or wrong but to focus upon the need of schools if it will benefit the teaching and learning process. As I mentioned on Thursday I'd like to explore what would rectify the matter; cost it and try to put into place a strategic plan which would enable us to move towards that position over a three year period. I did warn Patrica that in the event of there being no new money that we would have to consider finding the resources from within our own budget which might necessitate some form of cut elsewhere.

12.00 Out to Longniddry Primary to have chat with Ann McLanachan. The school had its familiar buzz of energy and activity. Ann is doing some very interesting work with her team in relation to Learning Teams which we will be posting under the Research heading on this website. 1.00 Then on to Aberlady Primary school to meet Jackie MacKinnon. The school has been very sympathetically extended over the last few years and Jackie took me round to meet the staff. A very purposeful environment with a strong fucus on rasing attainment.

2.00 Back to the office for the JCG Joint Consultative Group – which meets every few months to enable the unions and department to share information. I shared our budget statement and described the attainment action plan. Other items included Additional Support for Learning; links with colleges; long term absence.

4.00 Spent the rest of the day trying to clear my desk. Patricia had commented this morning how I appear to have a paperless office – that wasn't the case this afternoon!


SELMAS conference at Stirling Management centre, SELMAS stands for Scottish Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society. The theme of the conference was “Opportunities and Challenges for Educational Leadership at a Time of Change”

A variety of speakers including Peter Peacock, Minister of Education and Young People, Professor Brian Boyd, University of Strathclyde and Professor John MacBeath, University of Cambridge.

It was an interesting day with each speaker making a number of important and thought provoking points.

I was asked to join the Leader’s Panel at the end of the day with the role to reflect on issues arising from the conference which seemed most pertinent to my own leadership role.

I picked up on a comment from Brian Boyd about the tension between leadership and collegiality. John MacBeath had expended upon this theme by reflecting upon the spectrum represented by command and consensus. This has been an area I have recently been struggling with see

I linked their comments with the idea of another possible continuum from instruction to autonomy. I repeated my concern that a leader’s over-reliance on instruction created an over-dependent culture and a limit to growth caused by the speed at which the leader could move. I mentioned the option of a fine line in terms of the leader’s judgement regarding where they should operate on that continuum. The example I used was the effect of autonomy which results in poor or negative experiences for children. The leader in these cases must be driven by a moral imperative and intervene in the situation – this is not an option – for all that it might run counter to the idea of autonomous professionals.

I then extended this into the area of distributed leadership which had been a recurring theme throughout the day by suggesting that we should try to create a community of learners. Perhaps it was a leap too far in a three minute presentation but I then linked it to the concept of social capital and the fact that people in successful organisations should be bound together by some social ties in a shared enterprise, to the metaphor of the family model for successful leadership. For me leadership is similar to effective parenthood

A “good” parent provides unconditional support – I didn’t use the word love but perhaps I should have – gives guidance, provides parameters and establishes expectations and shared values. I finished with a poem which I felt encapsulated this idea:

Take your child by the hand

And hold the future there

Keep him upright if you can

Release him if you dare

This seemed to go down OK and I sat down reasonably pleased with my performance. However, at the end of all the presentations there were questions from the floor. The first question picked up on my presentation and made a comment upon the need for schools to act as parents. This hadn’t been the thrust of my chat, as I had really been using the family metaphor to make the link between leaders and teachers, but I felt I should respond when asked to by the chair of the panel.

I started off by mentioning my experience as a Headteacher of a new community school for the past five years. I then stated that one of our members of staff had tried to encapsulate what a NewCommunitySchool was by suggesting that we should be trying to give vulnerable children the same opportunities and support as “middle class” children. I did qualify my use of the term as one of using it in context.

However, David Cameron, my predecessor as Head of Education at East Lothian took great exception to me and the subsequent speaker making mention of “middle class” as if anything less than “middle class” was inferior and sub-standard. David, quite rightly, pointed out that many “middle class” families are dysfunctional and that high expectations and principled values are not the preserve of the “middle class”.

David’s feelings were obviously echoed by the majority of people in the hall and I realised I had offended many people by using such an emotive term. I apologised if I had caused any offence and qualified myself by talking about my own father, who’s father had been a blacksmith – where education had been valued, as it has traditionally been in many such Scottish families as a means of “bettering” oneself – my father had gone onto become a very successful and outstanding family GP.

At the end of the event I have rarely felt anymore like a social leper. I had obviously offended a large number of people with my comments. Fortunately I had arranged to go for a pint with David Cameron at the end of the day to meet Jim McAlpine his new Head of Education.

As I sit here writing up my web log I am forced to reflect upon the day. Do I regret my comments? Well I think the term “Class” is an emotive term and I don’t think I should have used it. But when I think of the comments made by Peter Peacock earlier in the day I start to wonder. Peter had been making great stress on the fact that there was a very strong correlation between socio-economic deprivation and low academic attainment and subsequent social exclusion. He mentioned that the executive has plans to focus attention on such areas with additional funds to support schools in such areas. Was Peter Peacock saying anything different from me? Well – yes he was because he didn’t use the term “class”. But if we replace the word “class” by socio-economic groupings were we saying anything different?

When I first started out my career I did voluntary work in a secure list D school. I loved working with these youngsters and it broke my heart when I visited their homes on accompanied visits, that they did not enjoy the same support and opportunities as the majority of other children in Scotland, in fact quite the opposite – As a 22 yr old I remember thinking that the only way we can intervene – if I can use that word – was for education to take a more active role in their upbringing. Since that time I’ve come to realise that schools need support from other professionals to support families but I don’t think I would really go against my initial point that we MUST – at least try – to give vulnerable children the same opportunities and support as those in more supportive environments – whilst recognising that supportive environments are not the sole preserve of the “middle classes.” However, schools cannot replace families we can only support them and provide a scaffolding to enable vulnerable children to enhance their life chances.

This has been an important day for me. It’s not often one can say that!


Met with Donald McGillvary and David Scott of the Assocation of Headteachers Scotland (Primary Heads Union) at 8.30am. This is a monthly meeting to discuss issues which impinge upon their membership. Annex E funding is still a hot issue with Primary schools who feel very hard done by due to the fact that they do not have Business Managers. I'm keen to explore this issue. Even if it means that the money has to be found from existing budgets. Obviously of this is the case something else will have to do without. It puts me in mind of the metaphor of the lady in bed with a small duvet. A leg might be sticking out and so she pulls the duvet to cover her leg, only to leave another part of her body exposed. Perhaps we need a bigger blanket?

Other issues included, personal learning planning, IT support and communication.

Straight from that meeting into the Education IT Group. I chair the group so it didn't help when I had to ask what it's purpose was. After some very helpful chat we established that it should in fact be the Education IT Management Group – with responsiibility for making strategic decisions relating to Education ICT in East Lothian. This will group will have executive powers and will drive forwards the ICT policy. Very useful discussion about the possible replacement for Phoenix – we have two alternatives – CEEMIS and Phoenix E1 . A small sub-group will put together a tender document, chaired by Pauline Sales.

Raised the issue about standardising software for particular subject areas – particularly in light of the recent CDT debate. The subject group have a crucial role to play here and we toyed with the notion of core and extension software for subjects. Still a big issue about budgets. Looks like there is an overspend from last yaer which we can't work out. Hopefully with the help of the Finance Department we can gain a clearer picture of where we stand for this session. Also discussed the prudential borrowing scheme. This would allow schools to effectively borrow from the council for large expediture e.g. a computer suite and then to pay this back over a fixed term. It's a good idea in priniciple but I'm a bit worried about schools becoming burdened with debt. However, it would allow schools to properly plan for the refreshment of equipment.

From there to scoreboard meeting. We have now finalised our key performance indicators, such as % gaining 5+ credits in S4. We then had to work out targets for the year and critical value – i.e. a figure which wuold indicate unsatisfactory progress, in the example given it might be a target ot 40% and a critical value of 30%. Every council department has to produce a scorecard which is scutinised by a panel of councillors.

Met with Derek Haywood after this to clear up a few issues such as, letter to Phillip Ryecroft, Head of Schools, Scottish Executive about the money which should be coming to authorities; Personnel issues; Budget issues; and one two other bits and pieces. Derek is great to work with and is definitely a fixer with an incredible knowledge of the system. How do we ensure the skill base is not lost when he retires- if he has his way – in two years time? .

Then a good hour taken up writing a draft reply to a Headteacher about a concern they have about an instruction I had to issue. This is the challenge – compromise and let schools do their own thing ,or try to implement some consistency and fairness across all schools but encounter resentment and frustration amongst those who are not used to conforming. It is my sincere hope that people come to understand my commitment to improving our service and that I'm not interested in “telling people what to do” for its own sake. I don't think I'm on a power kick but there again, as one teacher I used to work with once said, “Have you ever seen Don Ledingham and Saddam Hussein in the same room together?”

Finished off e-mails and correspondence and reports until 6.30pm. I'm speaking at a conference in Stirling tomorrow. Is anybody out there??


Visited Innnerwick Primary School. Another drop-in visit but Angus MacRury was able to show me round the school and chat to me about a number of issues. It's been a while since I had visited the school and I could not believe the transformation. The classrooms were bright and welcoming. The dining room was inviting. The playground and outdoor area had been totally revamped. The average class size is 13 pupils to one teacher. I don't think local people realise how much the school has to offer. I can't understand why anyone would choose to send their child to another school – which they do – whilst living in the catchment area. Angus has ambitious plans to improve attainment and I was confident that the progress will be maintained over the coming session and beyond.

Back to the office for a meeting with Valerie Irving about 3-14 assessment. We considered a circular on the topic from the Executive. The main challenge facing authorities is to provide robust mechanisms for ensuring the reliability of 5-14 attainment. We considered a three-pronged strategy: standardised testing for every P7 pupil on the three year cycle; local moderation dependent upon sharing information and assessment criteria; and, authority moderation using a sample approach similar to SQA. We are going to use a short-life working group approach to finalise our policy.

Out to St Gabriels' Primary School in Prestonpans. Met Catherine Jack and her staff. Again!! – an outstanding atmosphere – productive, welcoming, friendly and purposeful. Catherine has worked wonders with the contractors working on extending the school – we talked about the advantages a woman has over a man in getting builders to do additional work – it had someting to do with eyelashes!!

Then onto Preston Lodge High School Art Department. I had the privilege to sit in on an advanced higher class where students had been asked to prepare a box containing artefacts which represented them as individuals. What a wonderful experience – the hairs on my neck were standing on end as the students revealed themselves through the objects which represented them – ranging from the tissue hummingbird, which represented the student's tendency to flit from one interest to another – to a box made our of bark containg a home made book.. Amazing and thanks to all of them for sharing someting of themselves with a stranger. Must mention Jim Cram, PT Art and Design. What a teacher! – not many people understand the value of silence but Jim provides space for students to express their thoughts and feelings – wonderful!!

The students then showed me their on-going work on PLTV. This is an exciting initiative and I was impressed by the various productions from “Last Minute” and “Yerma”. I left them with the challenge of how should we as an authority take forwards their ideas on a broader front.

Back to office for Jim Elder's leaving do. Jim, our ICT development officer, is moving to Apple comuters and has really left the authority in a strong position to take forwards ICT in a constructive manner – we wish him all the best.


9.00am Pre-agenda meeting for Council Committee for Education was cancelled. This enabled me to complete the paper I had been working on since yesterday relating to communication between nursery/primary headteachers and directorate. I've chosen the term directorate because people in schools often refer to communication with the council. I know it's only semantics but such terminology reinforces the erroneous notion that schools are not part of the council. Bounced it off a few headteachers and received a positive response. It will be a major item for discussion at next week's full HT meeting.

10.30 met with Karen Robertson to discuss her ideas about the future of ICT in East Lothian. Karen had written a very good paper on the matter but I wanted to challenge her on a number of points – most particularly on how ICT might relate to the proposed Attainment Action Plan. Karen was more than a match for me and demonstrated an excellent grasp of the issues and the needs of teachers and the authority.

11.00 meeting with Marion Wood, Chis Clarke and Sean Rafferty of Children's Services. This was another learning session for me and we covered a lot of ground in an hour and half. Most significantly we discussed how you manage a budegt over which you have no control over the demand in relation to resources available. For example if 10 young people suddenly needed to secure accommodation it would cost £500 per week for every child. This an extreme example but it gives an indication of the problem. Pupil Support face a similar situation with children who have additional learning needs which cannot be met in mainstream schooling. We discussed how we could look at better integrating our services for vulnerable children – particularly in relation to transport. I'm going to have a go at writing a paper on this topic.

Out for a quick visit to Law primary School. Neil Barnes gave me a tour of the school and I met a few staff. Couldn't help but be impressed with the atmosphere in the school. I had a chat with Neil about the advantages of large primary schools. I've never throught abut it before as I think I've always verged towards seeing the benefits of small schools but there are opportunities that a large school can offer children which a small school would struggle to match.

Then on to North Berwick Nursery for a chat with Sue Leach. Very interesting meeting where we discussed the role of the leader in schools. Sue is an inspirational teacher and is highly regarded by parents in North Berwick.

Popped into North Berwick High School on my way back. Quick chat with Colin Sutherland – he has agreed to help us out in developing our attainment evaluation strategy – we will be visiting another authrority in the next few weeks.

Back to the office for a meeting with Ian Reid – our School Travel Co-ordinator. Ian is having some problems convincing schools to particpate. I pointed out it does not really feature on the Service Improvement Plan so it will be very much up to schools if they wish to engage with the programme. We will consider putting it onto the updated SIP which comes out in December. It seems a very sensible initiative in that it links with Healthy living, Eco-Schools and Health and Safety.

E mail and correspondence until 6.15.


9.00am meeting with the Nursery/Primary Headteachers' Executive. We are looking at ways in which we can improve communication between schools and the directorate. A very useful meeting where we agreed that Executive Meetings need to more strategically focussed, perhaps using the Attainment Action Plan as a framework for standing items. In the past meetings have been taken up with school specific issues which prevent strategic discussion from taking place. We are going to explore how we might make better use of our Education Officers as a first line level of communication. EOs will present issues at the Friday morning meetings and actions allocated and recorded for tracking and monitoring. We hope that this mechanism will ensure that schools receive a response as opposed to concerns disappearing into the “ether” as it can sometimes be perceived. I'm writing a summary paper which will build upon this discussion and the Exec's previous proposals and be an agenda item at next weeks HT meeting.

11.30 meeting with Janis Craig, Headteacher at Knox Academy, Haddington. Over the last ten years Knox Academy has demonstated the greatest improvement in examination results of all our secondary schools. I am interested to find out what strategies Janis and her team have implemented to achieve this success. It is my hope that by focussing upon such examples of success that we can provide proven models of school improvement which can be shared with other school leaders in East Lothian. There is undoubtedly a very powerful work ethic in the school and expectation of success which permeates staff and students alike.

We discussed a range if school specific issues and the Attainement Action Plan which dovetails neatly with the school's Development Plan, particularly their focus on curriculum development. I'm going to meet with a group of Principal Teachers from the school in the next few weeks.

2.00pm meeting with Eilish Garland. Eilish has been helping the authority to shape its complaints policy and procedures. We have been having some problems deciding if the process should be called “Resolving Concerns” or “Resolving Complaints” We are going to propose that we go for the latter as “it does exactly what it says on the tin”. Headteachers were having some difficulty with the question about whether a concern was a complaint and whether or not this should be recorded. By distinguishing between a complaint and a query or a request for advice we hope to clarify the matter. We need to persuade everybody that we must take complaints seriously – not to blame schools which receive a large number – but to provide hard evidence that we are committed to providing a listening, responsive and accessible public service. Wrote e-mail to be circulated to HTs. Bounced it off Willie Galbraith first.

Met Alison Thomson, Admin Support for Ed Psychs at 3.30pm. Interesting to hear from Alison that she thought communication in the deparyment was improving.

Interviewed a candidate for the vacant ICT officer at 4.00pm with Derek Haywood. E Mails and correspondence until 6.20pm Got a phone call on my mobile on the way home about an urgent parental concern which had arisen after their child had got home. Phoned the headteacher at home – the matter had been dealt with by the guidance staff and Heateacher with parents coming into school tomorrow. Who says teachers only work 9-5?

The Shed

Met with Education Officers at 8.30am. We have clarified the role of this meeting and the more formal School Liaison Group which will take on more of a strategic function. The Education Officers are critical to the development of education in the authority. If there is a problem it's that they are spread too thinly across the schools.

It is obvious that there is so much good practice in our schools but that we don't seem to have been able to ensure that this good practice permeates every school. It's the role of the Head Of Education to make sure that the educational experience of a child in any of our schools is equal to the experience of child in our best schools. Equally it is vital that all our members of staff receive the same opportunities and standard of leadership wherever they work. It''s easy to state both of these points and I don't think many people would disagree with with either – however, the challenge facing all of us is how do we work together to raise standards to match our best schools. Can we tolerate anything less than first class?

10.00am Met with Norma McPherson, PT Maths Development Officer, and Mary Howie, Literacy Development Officer. We had a wide ranging discussion about our core areas of the curriculum. I showed them the results spreadsheet for 5-14. We agreed that at the moment the figures presented are very unreliable. This point had been agreed by Primary Headteachers on Wednesday. This is a great cause for concern. The moderation work being undertaken in the authority should help but it only goes so far. We agreed that we needed some form of external moderation simular to the SQA moderation of centres. For example we could select a random sample of schools each year who would put forwards a sample of students work to be assessed by the moderation group. Rather than the students being tested it would be the school's ability to assess correctly which would be being evaluated. This was a very interesting idea and is worth putting to the Heateachers for consideration.

We also considered the debate regarding Standard Grade or Intermediate courses. We realised that many schools are struggling with this question. Should the authority establish a policy? It might help some schools. Perhaps we should bite the bullet and go for Intermediate courses and drop SG? The writing does seem to be on the wall and at least we could plan for changing resources in a sensible manner and also ensure that we can share practice and materials across all our schools in a focussed manner.

The last area we covered was the variation in time allocate to Maths and English in schools – we will carry out an audit and report back to schools with a view to establishing a minimum figure.

11.30 Out to The Shed our Pre-vocational Centre with Gordon Brown. Gordon is leaving us at the end of this month to take up a secondment with the Scottish Executive on Determined to Succeed. He and Jennifer Tulloch have done a tremendous job building up a series of pre-vocational courses which can be accessed by S3 and S4 students. I was very impressed. Hopefully when we set up our timetabling group we can look at how we build these courses in to the curriculum in a more structured fashion. Jennifer is going to set up section on this website to publicise the work of The Shed.

Took the chance to pop into the ELIS – East Lothian Inclusion Service – students who are at risk of permanent exclsuion are allowed to continue their education here with a view to helping them get back into school and to manage their behaviour. I'll visit again soon to see it the children. Then a short vist to Pathway – this house caters for 6 children who are in care. Very comfortable and homely atmosphere.

Back to the office for the luxury of three hours uninterupted work (almost).

Tranent Schools

Into work at 7.30am. Bit of backlog of work needing completed. Good news when my 9.00am appointment was cancelled. 10.00am met with Zoe Thomson of Personnel who took me through a number of on-going personnel matters. I’m starting to realise why it’s important that we have clear and well structured personnel policies. All too often problems arise when people have made the rules up for themselves and got into difficulties when things haven’t turned out as expected. I’m also more conscious of the need for people have equality of opportunity across the authority – and that it’s my job to ensure that this is upheld.

11.00am meeting with our scorecard group. We have almost completed this task and will be able to table a spreadsheet at our next meeting of the key indicators which the council should use to measure the progress of the department, ranging from % of students gaining 5+ Standard Grade Credits to the % of students who are satisfied with their education. I think that by the time we’ve completed this scorecard that we’ll have a very useful tool.

Met Liz Morris at 12.00, Liz is the EIS District rep. We had useful meeting sharing our thoughts about education and our respective roles. I look forward to working with Liz in the coming year , although we both recognised that there will be times that we will have to agree to differ.

I had a quick meeting with Maureen Jobson at 1.40 to update me on a few issues. Out to Ross High school for the School of Ambition briefing. Unfortunately the meeting time had been changed and the school office had tried to get me before I left. I took the opportunity to visit Tranent Primary School, Tranent Nursery School and Tranent Infant School. Incredibly impressed with all three schools. In the Primary school I met Fiona Waddell, Headteacher, and a number of staff and their classes. A very vibrant atmosphere and stimulating learning environment. Then met Susan Smith at the Nursery. Susan wasn’t there at first but Heather showed me round. I was struck by their attention to detail and how they had managed to create a school which was much like a welcoming home than an institution. Visited the Homestart canter – very interesting and I will return for a more of a briefing on this important facility which brings together families who need a little bit of extra support and local volunteers. Finally, visited the Infant School where Jane Hannah took time out of a meeting to show me round the school. Even with the kids having left for the day I could see that this environment matched the other two schools – the community of Tranent is lucky to have three schools of such a high quality.

The fact that the three schools are due for closure and amalgamation into two new schools is even greater testimony to the professionalism of the staff and the Headteachers. Unfortunately the building work is to be delayed due to a problem with the tendering process. I’ll be attending a new school board meeting on the 13th September to discuss this issue with parents.

Back to RossHigh school at 4.00 to speak to Graham Parris, a PE teacher. Very impressed with his commitment to his professional development and reinforced my commitment to develop a system for identifying and nurturing our leadership talent.

Got back to the office at 5.00pm and tried to pick up on correspondence – failed miserably and filled my bag!! It’s been a really enjoyable day.