Attainment analysis

8.15-9.30am Weekly Education Officers Meeting. Each person reports on issues that have arisen in schools over the past week. It proves to be a very useful forum to share information and to pick up on concerns.

Colin Sutherland (HT North Berwick HS) arrived at 9.30am to help us develop our attainement evaluation procedures. I'm keen that we develop a process which reinforces the idea of collective responsibility as opposed to reinforcing the idea of compeition between schools – is this too idealistic?

Before we got going we took 5 minutes out to allow me to give the second weekly departmental briefing – these seem to be well received and the fact that the idea arose from our communication group ensured that there was a good attendance.

Back to our attainment evaluation meeting for the rest of the morning. We explored the idea of looking at authority attainment from a subject perspective. For example, we looked at Higher English results from all of our six departments. Using the % of S4 roll who achieved a Higher we were able to create a spreadsheet which showed the decile for that department; the % As, A-Bs, A-Cs; progression value; and relative value. This analysis threw up some very interesting and unexpected results. At first glance this approach might appear to be reinforcing the idea of a league table mentality which forces departments to compete against each other. However, we intend to use this data to reinforce the connections between schools by sharing ideas, good practice and materials on a subject by subject basis.

We are considering bringing subject PTs or reps together to present the data and to look at ways in which we can learn from each other with exc-el being a possible vehicle. Pauline Sales is going to work on producing the data over the next couple of weeks and will presnt the data in the three year average which gets rid of the variation which occurs fomr a year to year basis. Having Colin at the meeting with Sheila McKendrick, Ruth Munro and Pauline Sales was a very effective strategy as Colin has exceptional ability and experience in this area.

I took Colin out to lunch to thank him for his contribution. Back to office for report from Adam Whyte regarding the Investors in People Award. Adam informed us that we haven't quite achieved the revised standard which is much more difficult to achieve than the previous stndard. However, he had some very positive words to say about our department and has recommended that we complete a few action points and will return within three months by which time we should have reached the standard. I have to admit to being slightly unsure of IIP (as someone once described it to me “Investors in Paper”). However, having seen the process close up I think it is an accurate measure of how effective an organisation is in looking after the welfare and development of its members – I'd recommend it to anyone who might be thinking about applying.

Then on to meeting with Callum Stewart (DHT Preston Lodge) and Derek Simpson (DHT Dunbar Grammar). They have been looking at a pupil tracking and monitoring software system known as “On the Button” There have been a few concerns about the system from a technical point of view but these concerns have now been resolved. They are going to make a presentation to HTs and others on the 10th November although PL are going to make a start straight away.

Meeting finished at 3.45pm and then had the luxury of a couple of hours at my desk – I almost enjoyed the experience. Met my brother for a pint on the ay home – looking forward to the weekend.

PS – welcome to Richard Wilson

Thursday 13th October

9.00 – 11.30am Departmental Management Team Meeting. A significant part of this meeting was taken with discussion of the restructuring of the department. Things are gradually beginning to take shape. I’ve been charged with writing up the cluster purpose paper; the integration team link to cluster; and the education structure.

12.00-1.20pm Meeting with Provost Pat O’Brien and Councillors Peter Ford, Willie Innes and Margaret Libberton. These councillors represent the areas comprising the Preston Lodge cluster. I found the meeting to be very worthwhile as we discussed a range of issues most of which pertained to the attainment action plan. They were very supportive of the idea of looking at attainment from a cluster perspective and liked the notion of collective responsibility. Amongst other things we reflected upon: budgets; teaching and learning; standardised testing; school linkage with East Lothian Council; 5-14 attainment; and leadership. From this meeting I’m going to offer to meet with the councillors representing each of our clusters on an annual basis.

1.30pm Back to the office for meeting with Liz Morriss, EIS District Representative. Range of issues which I’ll follow up and get back to Liz.

2.00pm Met Eilish Garland to finalise complaints policy ready for final publication and circulation.

3.00-4.30pm Finance Meeting – this is proving to be a very valuable monthly meeting with our three finance officers. We explored a range of matters – I’m keen to find ways in which we can reinstate the funding for childcare strategy which was removed at our last meeting; fund finance officers for primaries; and cover a projected overspend in our predictable needs budget. I’ll be taking up these matters with Alan Blackie.

4.30pm – 5.45pm Fifth Deputes’ seminar. Smallest group so far but no less worthwhile – from a rough guess I’d reckon we have over 85% of deputes attending the sessions which is remarkable given they are voluntary and after school. I received an E mail from one of the depute’s after the event. She – quite rightly – challenged me for giving the impression that the only good depute is one who is seeking to become a Headteacher. Undoubtedly I had been exploring why people didn’t want to become HTs and also looked at ways in which we could help people to become HTs However, it had not been my intention to characterise anyone who wished to remain a DHT as someone who was not fulfilling a very worthwhile role in education – I must be more careful!!

Investors in people

Straight out to North Berwick Nursery for a meeting with Sue Leach and Donald McGillivary. we were looking at a range of topics and I've agreed to go back and speak to all staff on the 28th Oct. Stopped off at Athelstaneford Primary School on the way back. Quick tour of the school with Ronnie Grieve. I could see how the school had received a series of outstanding inspection reports. Ronnie has a remarkable talent for engaging with children which is marked by a caring, committed and calm approach towards working with childern . They obviously repsond well to such and apporach and Ronnie is obviously well supported by his staff. I'll look forward to visiting the school again.

Back to the office for a meeting with Patrica MacCall and Valerie Irving about cluster working. We are keen to develop a clear rationale for how cluster – primary schools and associated secondary school – work together. I’m going to write a paper on the topic but we felt a cluster should be characterised by the following:

Consistency; continuity; collegiality; creativity; and collective responsibility

It will be a key role of the cluster to take collective responsibility for educational attainment and welfare of every child in their care. This is quite a dramatic shift in that we are usually only responsible for children in our particular schools. Cluster meetings will fulfil a number of purposes:

Interface between schools;
Raising and resolving issues;
Consultation mechanism;
Representation mechanism;
Development and progression of teaching and learning;
Staff development
Mutual support;
Deployment of resources;
Oversight of children at risk of social exclusion;
Management of integration.

I was then interviewed by Adam Whyte who is a consultant currently appraising the department for the revised standard for Investors in People. He asked some challenging questions but I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting – we find out on Friday if we have been successful.

Met someone to provide feedback about an interview in which they hadn’t been offered the position. This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of any management job but also one of the most important. What makes it even more difficult if the person was very close. I take copious notes throughout any interview for this very purpose.

Then fourth Deputes’ seminar – this was another really good meeting. A number of very challenging questions were raised about the level of support offered to schools particularly to Headteachers and senior management teams. A large number of those present did not see themselves as being prospective HTs – primarily because they are put off the job by what they see it doing to their HT. I’m concerned by this on two counts – firstly- it will prevent people from applying – secondly, how sustainable is it for HTs to continue working as they are? The coaching scheme was well received as was the opportunity to meet as deputes.

Tuesday 11th Oct

Second time around – A bit frustrating but I just tried to upload my weblog and lost the lot. So here goes again from memory.

Directorate meeting – 8.30 – 10am joined by councilors John Ross and Maureen Talac Covered a number of issue most notably pre-vocational education. A number of questions arose from our chat. Should such opportunities be reserved for those who wish to follow a trade? Should such opportunities be open to all? If places are short should preference be given to those who wish to follow a trade? Should we include those students who have behavioural problems? – some FE colleges suggest that putting such students onto courses is only used by schools as a “dumping ground” We also explored the potential of using sub-contracted lecturers to deliver pre-vocational courses in schools.

Met with Steven McLachlan and Chris Lawson about emergency planning. We are going to set up an emergency scenario involving the destruction of a school to test our processes for getting a temporary facility in place. We are also going to produce a policy and procedures wall chart. This will be an A3 wall chart with each of our important policies summarized by a number of bullet points. In an emergency it can be used a an easy reference aid to guide practice whilst the actual policy can still be used to gain more detail. For example the emergency closure policy could be summarized by 10 bullet points. The chart will also have emergency contacts.

I met the curriculum leaders form Knox Academy. I was interested in finding out more about how Knox Academy had managed to improve attainment over the last ten years. they put it down to a consistent expectations and consequences relating to pupil behaviour and strong focus on teaching and learning. I asked them abbout the thuoghts about East Lothian Council. It didn't come as surprise that they regarded a a fairly distant entity aside from being a resourcing – I think this is probably a fairly common perception in many schools and it fairly focusses the mind on addressing the problem.

College Links

Met with Wendy McAdie from Jewel and Esk Valley College at 9.00am. We spoke about links between East Lothian Schools and JEVC; links with Queen Margaret's University; pre-vocational courses and the need to be more explicit about the purpose of such courses; the Christmas leaver programme and associated funding; and the idea of staellite courses being run in schools by college staff who are sub-contracted by the council or schools.

10.00-11.00 Met a parent and her child for a readmission meeting. These meetings are never easy but we managed to come to a satisfactory resolution.

Interviews from 12.00-4.00pm for Education Officer. Appointed Alison Wishart who is currently responsible for post-primary education at Learning and Teaching Scotland. The post is a secondment in the first instance unitl June of next year.

4.00pm met Elizabeth Cowan to discuss the proposed plans to put an electronic whiteboard in every maths classroom and a pilot project contrasting the benefits of laptops or tablets PCs. This project was agreed before I came into post. I'm always worried about any project which, if it is proved to work, does not have a budget linked to the need to re-equip schools to the same standard.

Met two probationers at 4.30pm to discuss possible weblogging for probationers and the setting up of a probationer forum. I'm making a presentation to probationers on the 27th October and we hope to have some example of probationer weblogs to demonstrate on the day

Best Value

Friday 7th October

In at 7.00am to clear my desk for the day. Meeting of Education Officers at 8.15am. This is the weekly sweep of school issues arising from contact with HTs. I’ve missed the last few EO meetings for a variety of reason but it is proving very useful in tracking problems and improving communication between us all. Of course it doesn’t help that we are down two education officers.

9.30am – 1.00pm Management Summit at Musselburgh racecourse: This was for all managers employed by East Lothian Council. It was focussed upon how the council can prepare for the best value audit which will take place in 2007. It was interesting hearing how other department go about the audit process. It would seem that education has quite sophisticated evaluation systems – particularly when we introduce SELS.

One of the challenges presented to the audience was to consider if their services could be provided more effectively by another organisation. For example, could road repairs be contracted out to a private company?; could payroll be replaced by a banking service? That set me to thinking about the implications for education. Is the current system the best way to provide a quality educational experience?

What are the alternatives? The most obvious is to remove education from local authority control and make schools totally autonomous. This has obvious attractions – particularly for Headteachers. So what are the downsides? Well – when things are going well there isn’t really a downside – an effective school is an effective school. The problem comes when things are not going well: when a school is underachieving; when the children in one school are receiving a very inferior education in comparison with the school down the road; when teachers are working an environment which is not conducive to good health or professional development. In such circumstances there is a need to have some mechanism for quality assurance and external support. The HMIe inspections are one such mechanism but with schools only likely to be inspected on a six or seven year cycle, the scope for slipping through the net is too great to rely only on the inspectorate.

So we need some means for schools to be held accountable on a more regular basis and offered appropriate support and challenge. In England some authorities have contracted out the management of their schools to a private education company. A fee is set and it is the responsibility of the company to manage the schools to an agreed standard.

The problem with such a system is that I think it loses one of the great strengths of local authority responsibility – the notion of community attachment and belonging. Schools are something in which most communities take great pride – it belongs to them – you just need to observe the furore when any attempt is made to close a school. If schools are to serve a community they need to be connected to the democratic process in a very direct and clearly understood manner. The current system – for all its weaknesses – ensures that the locally elected councillors are accountable to their electorate and – ultimately – for the quality of education provided in the local school. If we need to do anything we need to make this link even more obvious than it is at present. One of the things I’ve learned from PPP is that private companies are fundamentally driven by the profit motive – and profit alone. So when you enter into a contract with a private company they assume responsibility – the phrase used in this world is the “transfer of risk”. The problem occurs around the edges of a contract. For concrete parts of the contract – if you can excuse the pun – it is clear if the contractor is fulfilling their responsibility. However, key parts of an education service are not concrete – they are abstract things, such as professional ethics; notions of duty and service; moral obligation to serve the needs of children and the community. In my recent experience if something isn’t explicitly stated in a contract then it is unlikely that it will be done by a contractor. The problem with such a mentality is that it reduces everything to a lowest common denominator – rather than creating an environment for professionalism and creativity can flourish.

However, that is not to say that the current system is working well – only to suggest that it has the potential to do a lot better than a profit driven enterprise. Our challenge is to create something which matches the best practice of commercial companies – their efficiency, dynamism and effectiveness – whilst ensuring that we retain our obligation to serve the needs of our communities.

Back to the office for 1.00pm to meet Sheila McKendrick – we are interviewing four candidates on Monday for the vacant education officer position. We were creating the scenario which candidates will have to respond to as the first part of the interview. The scenario – which I’ll post here on Monday night – describes a situation which an education officer might encounter in a school and asks them to identify an appropriate strategy.

2.00pm – first departmental briefing session. We are introducing a weekly briefing session to improve communication within the department – seemed to be well received.

2.30-3.30pm met with a teacher and their union rep about a phased return to work after illness

3.30pm meeting with Ollie Bray and David Gilmour to discuss the development of exc-el. We had a wide ranging discussion about weblogging; creating our community; sustainability; search facilities; the website; and an exc-el conference.

Ollie and David bring very different but complimentary skills to the table. David has many years experience in management levels in the nuclear industry before he decided upon a change of career and started teaching. He looks at education from a unique perspective and is able to see things that some of us close up too the action fail to recognise. Ollie was a member of staff at Glenmore Lodge – Scotland’s outdoor training centre. He is steeped in mountaineering, canoeing and outdoor life. From what I see this gives him two things – firstly – a recognition that you have to depend on working with other people to succeed (in his former life your life depended upon it) and secondly – a determination to make education and learning an exciting and life enhancing experience. In his new role as PT of Geography at Dunbar Grammar School it’s obvious that his enthusiasm for his subject is matched by his enjoyment of working with young people. He is constantly looking at his practice with a view to making the children’s learning experience better.

We reflected upon weblogging as a central core of the exc-el project. We considered setting up different sections on the site such a probationers blogs; Headteachers blogs; parents’ blogs; pupils’ blogs. After some discussion we realised that this only continues to place everyone involved in education into neat boxes as opposed to creating something which challenges that traditional perspective. We intend to develop the search facility on the site which will enable a person to look at a subject from a variety of perspectives – for example – if you wanted to find out about exclusions, you could enter exclusion on the search facility. The search engine finds every entry which mentions that issue on the site and presents them for the reader. We hope to make this facility more sophisticated but the essential part will be that it breaks down all the traditional barriers between the various groups engaged in the process of education.

Then we touched on the idea of “high reliability” organisations. David talked about the business of aircraft carriers and the need for a complex organisation with so many variables working together without making mistakes. I’ve come across this idea in relation to airports. Education is different but perhaps we tolerate too many mistakes? Or perhaps it’s just that mistakes in education are less obvious – it’s not quite the same when French teacher fails to prepare his lessons and bores kids rigid, thereby switching them off languages for good, compared to a plane crashing because an air traffic controller misread his screen. Our mistakes have more of a long term impact but how good could schools be if they tried to adopt something of the high reliability organisation mentality?

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’ve struggling to come up with a metaphor to capture this idea – the best I could think of – and I know it’s a potentially offensive notion – is that of “cells” (small goups of associated people). Imagine, if you will, 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. It seems chaotic but it is a totally different way of working from what we currently experience. I’ll play around with this idea but would welcome comments.

Part of the exc-el statement of intent is to arrange an annual conference. Ollie is keen to develop an IT conference in East Lothian similar to SETT but with more of a practical focus involving teachers, students and parents. We played around with this idea before striking on the concept of developing a conference which brought the exc-el website to life. In other words create a conference which mirrors the website and gives participants the chance to meet and bring together some of the issues which have been raised the past year on the site.

Prestonpans Primary

Met with David Scott and Donald McGillivary fro the Association of Headteachers Scotland (AHTS) from 8.30 – 10.00am. Very enjoyable meeting and characterised what I hope will be my relationship with unions. We solved a lot of problems and they made some very useful suggestions. One of the key suggestions was that we develop a set of guidelines which would help teachers and headteachers to manage students who have behaviour problems.

Then met Helen McMillan about Early Years budget. We had had a finance meeting when helen had been on holiday and shifted some money from childcare strategy to nursery schools to cover the nursery nurse payrise. I apologised to Helen for not having discussed this with her on her return to work but it had slipped my mind. It reinfroced for me the importance of really getting on top of the budget, as the suggestion had been made during the meeting and had not been properly thought through prior to the meeting.

Out to Prestonpans Primary School for another drop in visit. Florence Brydon took it in her stride and after a cup of coffee and chat showed me round the school. Met some really great kids who had some real spark about themselves. The teachers seemed very committed to their jobs and I got the feel of a place which was determined to give every child the best start in life they could. The school canteen has won awards for healthy eating and I'm sure Jamie Oliver would have been impressed.

Back to office to meet with Pauline Sales about developing a database for recording complaints and incidents of bullying. Pauline will contact Angus, Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire and North Lanarkshire Councils to find out about their attainment evaluation procedures. Colin Sutherland, HT North Berwick, Pauline and myself are looking to imrpove our evaluation procedures and these councils are reckoned to be amongst the best in Scotland.

The met Norma Mcpherson – our Maths support officer and Ronnie Summers – HT Musselburgh Grammar – about 5-14 maths results. Norma has done some really interesting analyses of maths results and was able to share that with Ronnie. We agreed that perhaps the most important thing we can do to improve maths attainment is to cincentrate on formative assessment and the creation of an interactove learning environment.

Then 45 mins with Alan Ross about the philosophy behind integrated children's services – once again very stimulating and challenging.

Straight from there to third depute's seminar. Another great session – of course that's my opinion. We reflected again upon the luck involved in gaining promotion. Agreement that we need a proactive means of identifying talent. It was also a common feature that almost everyone had acted up at some stage in their career. Chris Peyton – North Berwick – talked about a system in Beeslack where one of the assistant heads was always an acting appointment – I really liked this idea. The proposed coaching system was also well received.

Back home for a parents' night for my youngest son. Why was I so upset by a teacher who was chewing a sweet as he spoke to us? Must be getting old!

PS I've updated Wednesday's entry by adding my Tuesday weblog


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!

Headteacher shortlists

Directorate Meeting 8.30am -10.00pm Range of items but had a very interesting discussion relating to criteria for evaluating the success of education and children's services integration – with a particular focus upon intergated community schools. The Scottish Exec have shelved ideas to have a “How Good is Our Integrated Community School”. Ths can only be a good thing as we are coming down with such evaluation documents. However, we recognise that one of the ways that you can lever change in a system is to introduce rigorous means of measuring effectiveness. Alan Ross and I are going to meet this week with a view to setting out some ideas about the purpose of integrated children's services. We will use that as starting point for an engine room involving a range of people to establish possible performance criteria with which review practice in schools and clusters.

Out to Brunton Theatre for 10.30am – Europe in Business – this is an annual event for senior students to encourage them to adopt an open mind to business links in Europe and the importance of languages.

Back to office for 12.00 to meet with a school's admin' assistant. The person had requested the meeting to share some ideas they had for improving the quality of our service. I was delighted to receive so many positive and constructive suggestions. It proved to me – if it needed proving – that by opening up our culture and acting upon suggestions in a positive manner that we can initiate dramatic and sustained change which meets the needs of children, teachers and all those involved in support services.

Schools Liaison Group from 2.00pm – 5.00pm. This involves all the Education Officers, Derek Haywood and Sheila Ainslie. This is a key group for articulating broad strategic goals and with action in schools. We focussed upon a range of topics relating to the attainment action plan such as leadership development; data collection; and staff development. The attainment action plan is providing a common purpose and clear focus for our actions.

7.00pm Stoneyhill School Board – Alan Blackie and I made a presentation to the board about the long leet process and recommended short list candidates.


I received the following e mail from a teacher in East Lothian:

“As I’ve said before, your blog is helping me make sense of the world of education. As time goes on, though, a thought is niggling me that I’d like to share with you. My guess is you’d prefer that… if I keep it brief!

I see ELC education dept as providing a service to customers. Those customers primarily include the students and their parents or guardians. One step beyond that, we also provide a service to employers, and to colleges and universities, by educating their people.

What's niggling me is that the world of head of education doesn’t seem to involve much interaction with those groups – yet in that role you’re the one responsible for satisfying the customers… something of a paradox. In case I was imagining this, I’ve done a rough trawl through the blog – attached – and highlighted green the “customer” meetings, yellow the “other” meetings. I make it about 117 others, yet only 6 customers.

By way of a sanity check, I’ve looked for a “second opinion”. In Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” he notes, “…the higher the position of the executive, the larger will the outside loom in his contribution. No one else in the organization can as a rule move freely on the outside”. The context of this extract shows he believes this matters.

You’re committed to student evaluation of learning, so I’m sure you’re enthusiastic about meeting customer needs. I know you’re working your socks off, and clearly have enough meetings on your plate already… but I wonder if there might be an opportunity here somewhere to build some new links to give students and parents in particular a voice in the higher level decision-making process? If in doing so we could improve the satisfaction of parents with our services, then we might be able to get improved support. Similarly with students (especially those less engaged) this could extend the idea of SELS into bigger areas such as ethos….”

I found this to be an intersting perspective on my work and has made me reflect upon the purpose of my job and my effectiveness to date. The figures surprised me. My only excuse is that I’m only six weeks into the job but nevertheless, it has challenged me to give more thought as to how I use my time. On the other hand I’m not sure if it should all be down to me – as this only serves to reinforce the idea that control of the organisation is in the hands of the people at the top. Certainly we are ultimately accountable but I’d like to challenge the notion that nothing can happen unless it is being driven from the top. Perhaps we can create a different culture in East Lothian?

Anyway – I’m grateful for the feedback and without the weblog I’d have been blissfully inoocent of the potential imbalance in my work.