Donald Henderson

8.45am meeting with Sheila McKendrick, Derek Haywood and Sheila Ainslie to further develop our cluster-based ideas for the restructuring of services. I hope to finish the paper this week. I had a useful chat with Alan Ross later in the morning about the same issue and I don't think we are a million miles away from each other on this one. I'd left my glasses at home and my wife, Gill, who was coming up to Edinburgh anyway dropped into the office. I showed her round and we managed a quick cup of coffee together. I think it's important for family to have some idea of where you work as so much of your time is spent there and at least now Gill can visualise where I am. John Muir House is an attractive environment and we are lucky to have such a pleasant place in which to work – it's certainly not the case in all council offices.

Visited Tom Brock, Chief Executive Officer at the
Scottish Seabird Centre at 11.00am. I'm to be the council's representative on the Board. The centre really is one of East Lothian's crown jewels and it would be a tragedy if it ever folded. I'm keen to explore ways we can establish a closer link with the centre and our schools. It would seem to me that there is some potential in the eco-school initiative linked to John Muir and an environmental focus in East Lothian. It set me to thinking about what would be the three key characteristics of East Lothian education, in the same way as we might ask a school to identify its characteristics. How about as a first step “connected to our environment” – other suggestions welcome.

Back to the office for a meeting with Donald Henderson, who is Head of Teaching Resources at the Scottish Executive. Donald and his team meet each educatyion department on an annual basis to reflect upon issues arinsing and the impact of executive strategies and policies. We had an interesting chat about the focus upon the lowest attaining 20% of students and what the executive reckoned was the underlying purpose of this focus. I don't think Donald and I disagreed on the purpose but we maybe used different language. I look forward to discussing this point further with Donald at a more suitable time.

I talked through our attainment action plan and they seemed interested in our on-going work in relation to 360 degree evaluation; talent identification; leadership coaching; student evaluation of learning and the exc-el initiative. As I've stated earlier in my weblog it is our hope that we can underatke some research to explore possible relationships between high student evaluation scores and high levels of attainment.

Finished the day with a useful meeting with Ruth Munro to explore the new six point HMIe evaluation scales and what it means for inspections. Home for 6.30pm. As usual about 60-90 minutes work to be completed at the kitchen table. I usually sit down about 9.15 having had a meal with the family, watched some telly and over the past few weeks taken some exercise in our garage where we have a running and rowing machine. I have to admit to being really out of condition but I'm enjoying getting back into some regular exercise.

Time for bed.


Friday 28th October

8.15am-9.30am Education Officers' Meeting. Wide range of issues arising. We discussed the role of education officers in validating school's self-evaluation. For this validation to be reliable Education Officers need to be “built into” the school.

9.30am Meeting with a Headteacher.

10.00am – 12.00 Termly meeting with District HMIe Grant Mathieson. Alan Blackie and I went over the following: school inspection reports; curriculum for excellence – talked through our recent exercise; Schools of Ambition; PPP; Progress with Attainment Action Plan/Service Improvement Plan; and Exc-el. It transpired that Grant has been reading my weblog – Hello there Grant – Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

12.00 – 1.00pm Communications Group Meeting – this is a group of department staff who are working together to consider how we can continue to improve communication within the department. We all felt the new weekly briefing sessions were worthwhile, as was the whiteboard in the kitchen which is allowing information to be passed on effectively. We are going to explore if we could use the photos taken for our identity badges could be used on an internal network to enable people to know who everyone else is in the department. We are going to have a social event in the new year – no time to organise this before Christmas.

Out to North Berwick Nursery for 1.30 to take an engine room on a communication issue. It worked very well and we resolved a potential problem. Everybody involved was open and solution focused.

Rushed back to the office for a meeting scheduled for 3.30 but the person didn't turn up. Managed to get some work done at my desk and few phonecalls before leaving office at 5.00.


Thursday 27th October

87 probationers attended the two sessions at the Quayside Centre in Musselburgh.

The programme was:

A lesson observed: we looked an anonymous lesson evaluation and considered how the teacher could improve their teaching
A quiz!: testing some of their thinking about the teaching process
Pupil motivation – shared some ideas about how we go about motivating pupils
Who are you? –
teaching characteristics profile
Check one of this week’s lessons – used this
sheet to review one of their lessons from this week
Curriculum for Excellence – undertook this
Exc-el – discussion of exc-el and promotion of weblogging
Next steps – planning for the future

The feedback sheets were very generous. I really enjoyed getting the chance to teach again and I was very impressed by our people. I look forward to meeting them all out in their schools and again when we follow up this ession in May 2006.

Wednesday 26th October

Worked at home unitl 10.30am completing the fromat for our Standards and Quality Report. The out to Whitecraigs Primary for 11.00am. New carpets in all classrooms, two interactve whiteboeards and real sense of purpose! Back to the office to meet a teacher.

Sport and Education Advisory Group Meeting at 2.00pm. The new secondary school sport and education co-ordinators are now all in post and I'm confident they will make a real impact. Beth McLeod and Eammon John have done a great job getting this initiative in place in such a short time.

Met Anne McLanachan after the meeting to explore how we might capitalise most effectively on the
Learning Team project. This way of developing the teaching process fits perfectly with the stated intention in the exc-el

Met Margaret O'Connor and Lesley Smith at 4.00pm to explore how we might better link up education and arts and cultural development in East Lothian. There is a new post on offer – which we would have to part fund – to support such a link. We are considering setting up an Arts and Culture Education Advisory group much the same as for sport and education. the new person would support the group – if we can find the money.

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

Sport and Education

Popped into Ross High School at 8.00am to check on Helen Alexander's room which had been flooded out before the holidays. With all the rain over the weekend I thought things might have been just as bad again. Fortunately there was repeat of flooding in her office – although there were problems elsewhere in the school.

8.30am Directorate Meeting. As usual a fairly full agenda. Good discussion about the restructuring of the department, particlarly with reference to cluster working which will help me with the paper I'm writing.

Straight out of there into meeting with Marina Naylor re' the 360 degree feedback system for headteachers. We are going to intoduce the system for all HTs prior to Christmas whch will enable a much more focused form of Employee and Development and review meeting to take place in the new year.

Then cleared a backlog over 100 e mails due to my days off last week. Met Mike Whiton – Drugs Education worker – to discuss communication issues in the department. This is my last such interview since taking up post.

Met with reps from EIS and SSTA at 1.30pm – 3.30pm to discuss management structures in secondary schools. We will be gathering some information about what is happening in schools and associated rationales prior to our next meeting.

After this I thought I had a few hours clear until hometime but an appointment had been made for me at the end of last week. As things turned out the meeting with Eamonn John and Beth Stewart proved very worthwhile. The new secondary school sports co-ordinators are going to make a significant impact upon the authority and we spent some time preparing for the Sport in Education Meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Left office at 6.00pm I've got a fair bit to prepare tonight for tomorrow's curriculum/timetabling meeting.

Curriculum for Excellence – selecting priorities

In the next couple of weeks I intend to try out the attached exercise with all 42 East Lothian Headteachers at our conference schdeuled for 8th November and with all our 87 probationary teachers this Thursday.

If you wish to participate – or try out the draft exercise please open the
attached file, follow the instructions and return it to me. Comments and suggestions about the exercise would be welcome.

In order to complete the exercise you should also have open this
Powerpoint Presentation.


I've been on holiday since Wednesday. It's funny how I'm becoming adjusted to breaking away from the school holidays. Since leaving school (as a teenager) I've always had academic holidays. This job is the first I've had which has a stipulated number of days – 27 plus 12 public. The funny thing is I don't seem to be missing them despite only having had two weeks in the summer.

I've certainly enjoyed the last few days at home – even managed a couple of days at St Andrews. It doesn't take too long to recharge the batteries. I look forward to having the flexibility to take a day here-and-there for an extended weekend.

Curriculum for Excellence – background

I’ve been doing some research about the “Curriculum for Excellence”

and what it might mean for us in East Lothian.

This weblog entry is simply a summary of some of the background infromation to enable readers understand my subsequent exploration of the area.

A Curriculum for Excellence

'A Curriculum for Excellence' provides explicit statements of the aims of education in Scotland, concepts which have long been implicit. In summary, the purposes of education are to enable all young people to become:

• successful learners
• confident individuals
• responsible citizens
• effective contributors.

The development of these capacities, attributes and capabilities lies at the heart of work on curriculum renewal.
'A Curriculum for Excellence' also established clear principles for curriculum design to provide a framework within which improvements can and should be made. The principles identified – challenges and enjoyment, breadth, progression, depth, personalisation and choice, coherence and relevance – will have different emphases at different stages and as each young person learns and develops.

The Purposes of the curriculum from 3-18

To enable all young people to become:
successful learners with
• enthusiasm and motivation for learning
• determination to reach high standards of achievement
• openess to new thinking and ideas
and able to
• use literacy, communication and numeracy skills
• use technology for learning
• think creatively and independently
• learn independently and as part of a group
• make reasoned evaluations
• link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations.

confident individuals with
• self respect
• a sense of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing
• secure values and beliefs
• ambition
and able to
• relate to others and manage themselves
• pursue a healthy and active lifestyle
• be self aware
• develop and communicate their own beliefs and view of the world
• live as independently as they can
• assess risk and take informed decisions
• achieve success in different areas of activity.

responsible citizens with
• respect for others
• commitment to participate responsibly in political, economic, social and cultural life
and able to
• develop knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland's place in it
• understand different beliefs and cultures
• make informed choices and decisions
• evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues
• develop informed, ethical views of complex issues.

effective contributors with
• an enterprising attitude
• resilience
• self-reliance
and able to
• communicate in different ways and in different settings
• work in partnership and in teams
• take the initiative and lead
• apply critical thinking in new contexts
• create and develop
• solve problems.

The Curriculum Review Group
proposed that it provides a template for a phased process of reform, the details of which are set out more fully in our response.

The outcomes we seek to achieve through this programme of reform will be:
• for the first time ever, a single curriculum 3-18, supported by a simple and effective structure of assessment and qualifications: this will allow the right pace and challenge for young people, particularly at critical points like the move from nursery to primary and from primary to secondary
• greater choice and opportunity, earlier, for young people, to help them realise their individual talents and to help close the opportunity gap by better engaging those who currently switch off from formal education too young
• more skills-for-work options for young people, robustly assessed and helping them to progress into further qualifications or work
• more space in the curriculum for work in depth, and to ensure that young people develop the literacy, numeracy and other essential skills and knowledge they will need for life and work
• young people achieving the broad outcomes that we look for from school education, both through subject teaching and more cross-subject activity
• more space for sport, music, dance, drama, art, learning about health, sustainable development and enterprise, and other activities that broaden the life experiences – and life chances – of young people

A Curriculum for Excellence gives us the opportunity to address important curricular issues which we know need to be tackled. We will therefore set in motion a programme of detailed, linked work to:

• have significantly decluttered the curriculum, particularly in key areas of primary, to free up more time for young people to achieve and to allow teachers the freedom to exercise judgement on appropriate learning for young people, by 2007
• have restructured the curriculum in key areas of early secondary, to provide for depth as well as breadth in learning, and to ensure that pupils can see that they are working towards clear outcomes, by 2007
• have introduced new skills-for-work courses for 14 to 16 year olds to broaden the range of educational experience for young people and ensure that they get appropriate recognition for achievements in developing work-related and other skills, by 2007
• have agreed by 2006 the future structure of assessment and qualifications to support learning up to age 16, including simplifying the connections between assessment 5-14, Standard Grade and the National Qualifications, for implementation thereafter
• have reformed the way we record the achievement of young people, to ensure that they can take on to the next stage of their lives a broad and rigorous record – not just of their academic work, but also of their vocational learning and their achievements beyond the traditional school curriculum, by 2007

The Scottish Executive are encouraging authorities and schools to think creatively about the curriculum on offer to children to achieve these purposes.

They have developed a starter kit which schools can use to consider how they approach the challenge.

I’ve copied it here:

Before considering future curricular developments, schools and other educational establishments will want to examine the extent to which present practices and policies match the values, purposes and principles of ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’.


“Wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity: the words which are inscribed on the mace in the Scottish Parliament have helped to define values for our democracy.”

Which values are important in your school or establishment?

Are these values mentioned explicitly in your aims, policies or other documents? If not, what scope is there for determining or re-affirming shared values?

In what ways are the values of your school or establishment demonstrated in practice?

Purposes of the Curriculum from 3-18

“Our aspiration for all children and for every young person is that they should be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and at work.”

Successful Learners

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Use literacy, communication and numeracy skills?
• Use technology for learning?
• Think creatively and independently?
• Learn independently and as part of a group?
• Make reasoned evaluations?
• Link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations?

Confident Individuals

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Relate to others and manage themselves?
• Pursue a healthy and active lifestyle?
• Be self aware?
• Develop and communicate their own beliefs and view of the world?
• Live as independently as they can?
• Assess risk and take informed decisions?
• Achieve success in different areas of activity?

Responsible Citizens

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Develop knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland’s place in it?
• Understand different beliefs and cultures
• Make informed choices and decisions
• Evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues
• Develop informed, ethical views of complex issues

Effective Contributors

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Communicate in different ways and in different settings?
• Work in partnership and teams?
• Take the initiative and lead
• Apply critical thinking in new contexts
• Create and develop
• Solve problems

Useful sources of information and evidence to help you answer these questions can be student feedback; pupil profiles; parents and their representative bodies; current school development plan; Standard and Quality reports; school data such as examination results and destination statistics; HMIE reports; education authority reviews; community partners; records of events such as shows, activities and celebrations.

In what ways do the following support the purposes in your school or establishment?

• The environment for learning?
• The choice of learning and teaching approaches
• The ways in which learning is organised?

Principles for Curriculum Design 3-18

“Although all should apply at any one stage, the principles will have different emphases as a young person learns and develops.”

Where does each of the following principles apply in the curriculum (including all planned experiences) currently offered at each stage in your school or establishment?

• Challenges and enjoyment
• Breadth
• Progression
• Depth
• Personalisation and choice
• Coherence
• Relevance

Are any of the above principles missing at any stage? In which ways could gaps be addressed?

Do any of these principles pose particular challenges for your school or establishment? How could these be addressed?

Flexibility in the Curriculum

Schools and other educational establishments have been able to employ a degree of flexibility in curricular innovation since 2001. The criteria for any innovation are:

• There should be clearly identified educational gain for pupils based on clear rationale and objectives and consistent with the national priorities
• There should be full consultation with stakeholders (including parents, teachers and pupils) and consensus before proposals are introduced; and
• Rigorous quality assurance arrangements should be in place to monitor and evaluate the proposals and their implementation against the objectives and the results of these evaluations should be made available to the key stakeholders; and
• There should be well-planned implementation using development plans and action plans
Circular 3/2001 SEED

If you have used these criteria to introduce more flexibility in your school or establishment, to what extent do the developments:
a) match each of the purposes?
b) align with the principles for curriculum design?

What changes, if any, would be required in the light of the values, purpose and principles of A Curriculum for Excellence?

Standards and Quality Report

The schools are on their October break. I’m working on two major tasks this week. Firstly our department’s Standards and Quality report and secondly, some research and reflection on ‘Curriculum for Excellence’

I’m taking a similar approach towards the department’s S&Q report as I did with a school’s. When I was at Dunbar I pulled apart “How Good is Our School”, identified all the statements which related to very good practice and then compared the school against that standard using all the evidence available. It soon became apparent that there was a need to improve our data collection procedures at school and this led to many of the self-evaluation tools which we successfully developed.

As far as a department’s S&Q report goes they often simply report on outcomes of the service improvement plan, national priorities or other specific actions being undertaken by the authority. This differs from an authority’s inspection as the HMIe go into things in much greater depth. One of the problems we face is that the authority inspection process is about to change. However, I believe it is appropriate for us to measure ourselves against the existing standard and use some of the data gathered in that exercise to judge our practice against the new standard when that is published.

I’ve taken a number of recent authority HMIe inspection reports, most notably East Renfrewshire and Aberdeenshire and looked at their reports pulling out the key factors which HMIe reported upon. From that analysis I’ve identified a series of questions which we might consider and ask a variety of stakeholders to answer. For example, four of the performance indicators are consultation, communication, deployment of and effectiveness of centrally deployed staff, and resource management. The questions which we might ask are as follows:


Does the depertment regularly seek out the views of stakeholders including staff in establishments, school boards, pupils’ forum, staff and trade unions?
Does the department use a variety of consultation methods including meetings and questionnaires?
Do officers analyse responses to consultation exercises and keep elected members fully informed of the outcomes?
Do stakeholders see that appropriate action is taken in response to consultation exercises?
Does the department ensure that teachers are fully informed and involved in consultation exercises?
Do schools boards and parents’ representatives feel that they have a chance to influence the aims and plans for education?
Do all staff feel that they are well involved in the decision making process?


Are the Director and Head of Education seen to be readily accessible and responsive to queries?
Do all staff below Head of Education respond speedily to complaints or queries?
Does the department use a range of appropriate methods to communicate with staff and parents?
Does the department make effective use of information and communications technology to communicate with staff?
Is the department’s Standards and Quality Report informative and well-presented?
Are all schools’ Standard and Quality Reports easily available to parent?
Are all schools’ Standard and Quality Reports of a consistent quality and easily understood?


Is the deployment and effectiveness of centrally employed staff good?
Do education officers have frequent and rigorous contacts with schools?
Do education officers “know the schools” they are associated with?
Do Headteachers understand the roles of education officers?
Do education officers have a good understanding of their respective areas of responsibility?
Do education officers operate consistently?
Are education officers able to appropriately support and challenge schools where there is obvious underperformance?
Does the pupil support section operate effectively?
Are newly qualified teachers well supported?
Is Continuous Professional Development effectively co-ordinated?


Does the department regularly undertake a Best Value review with a view to improving the service or to make savings to the authority?
Does the department make changes to practice as a consequence of these reviews?
What is the condition of East Lothian schools?
How well are East Lothian schools equipped and provided with facilities well suited to education?
How comprehensive is the Council’s asset management strategy?
Has the Council implemented its asset management strategy?
How effective are schools links with property services?
How well does the department carry out its responsibilities in relation to health and safety?
How well has the department implemented the Teachers’ Agreement?
Does the department ensure that there are sufficient core levels of staffing?
Do support staff feel valued by the department?
Do schools feel that ICT is fully supported by the Council’s corporate ICT department?

The other areas are: Vision, values and aims; Effectiveness of leadership and management; Policy development; Service Planning; Financial management; Measuring, monitoring and evaluating performance; and Continuous improvement in performance.

I would suggest that we use the new HMIe six point scale, i.e. Unsatisfactory 1; Fair 2; Adequate 3; Good 4; Very Good 5; Excellent 6, and ask respondents to give their response to each question using the scale.

I’d like to set up a draft questionnaire using SELS. In this way we could e-mail all our Headteachers and other major stakeholders, such as a sample of parents and students, provide them with a user name and password and ask them to complete the online questionnaire. The software would automatically process the data and present in a manner which would enable analysis. All this could be completed by the end of next week – a task that would normally take between 5-6 weeks and a huge number of admin hours if was a normal paper based questionnaire.

If you are interested in helping us out with this possible survey please get in touch and I will include you in the exercise.

This exercise would prove useful on three counts: 1. provide very robust data upon which we could base our Standards and Quality report and identify points for action; 2. enable us to trial the SELS software and allow Headteachers and others to experience it for themselves; and 3. demonstrate to Headteachers and others that the department is prepared to take a lead in rigorous self-evaluation.

Exc-el: a community grid?

Last week I was searching for a metaphor for a model to describe how exc-el works.

“Sustainability of initiatives is always a difficult thing to manage. Usually an initiative survives as long as funding is available, the key person is in post, or enthusiasm is maintained. We are seeking to create something which is much more organic and can constantly be reinventing itself as time goes by.”

I tried using the idea of “cells” – “a group of people who are linked by a common purpose but who are not dependent upon a hierarchical top-down system of organisation. Instead we create small groups of people, or cells – or better still they create themselves – using the website to publicise their work and to build and share their practice”

However, when I tried this on a couple of people during the week it wasn’t that they were offended by the idea of “cells” – they appreciated what I was driving at – but both said “so they work in isolation”. Unwittingly, I’d used a metaphor which recreated exactly what we are trying to avoid. Of course, “cells” don’t talk to each other – for fear of detection – so what would be the point of creating a community of learners where particular groups did not communicate with other groups. In a way it would only serve to reinforce the idea of schools working in isolation.

So here goes with metaphor number two –

Scientists have discovered that rather than trying to make huge super computers to solve mathematical problems they are better served by making use of the spare computer power on people’s PCs.

Grid Computing: The Basics
Grid computing joins together many individual computers, creating a large system with massive computational power that far surpasses the power of a handful of supercomputers. Because the work is split into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, research time is reduced from years to months.

For example:

“The proposed World Community Grid was developed with the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and Oxford University to allow scientific researchers to tap the power of idle PCs to solve problems that usually require the use of supercomputers.

IBM is hoping that the scheme will help crack the genetic structure of diseases like Aids and cancer, as well as modelling and forecasting natural disasters.

This set me to thinking about the spare – or I’d prefer to descibe it as untapped – capacity (knowledge) which exists in our schools. Could Exc-el act as a community grid to enable people to make small and manageable contributions? Could we build upon these contributions incrementally? Does this metaphor have potential?