Learning Teams

7.30-10.00am Completed correspondence and had a quick chat with Alan Blackie.

10.00am -3.35pm Learning Team Presentation by
Shirley Clarke Ann McLanachan, Headteacher, Longniddry Primary school has been leading an initiative aimed at promoting classroom research with a focus on formative assessment. A key part of the programme which is being support by Future Learning and Teaching (FLAT) funding from the Scottish Executive is the creation of Learning Teams. All of the primary staff involved in the programme (30 teachers) attended a seminar at Craigielaw Golf Club to listen to Shirley Clarke.

I was fascinated by the day and thoroughly enjoyed listening to my colleagues and to Shirley.

I have no doubt that if we could successfully implement formative assessment in all our schools then attainment would rise, behaviour would be improved and teachers and children would get more out of the schooling process. The challenge for us is to provide the scaffolding to enable all teachers to feel confident enough to experiment with their practice. My concern is that primary schools are so far advanced of most secondary schools, that pupils will feel restricted and confined by the form if interaction they have with secondary teachers and that even more of them may switch off – with all the associated problems such disengagement brings. Once again the problem facing secondary teachers is the feeling that they are a slave to the syllabus or content ans that they just don't have the time to engage in the “luxury” of engaging with pupils in the same way as primary colleagues.

I think we need to directly challenge that notion and suppport teachers to experiment with their practice in a professionally curious and intellectually coherent manner. Perhaps the Department has role to play to encourage teachers and schools to take up the approach and not to feel there is any risk?

What sort of things would need to change in teachers' practice for formative assessment to have a positive impact on children's learning and engagement with the learning process?

Well the following would be a good starting point:

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 advice 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.

Some techniques which Shirley focussed on during the day were:

The importance of identifying well focussed success criteria and use these to plan the lesson around – as opposed to planning the lesson around the learning objective;

Learning partners – put learners together with a learning partner for a two week period – change the partners after two weeks using a random system. I've always been a great believer in pair answering/dialogue but I've just asked them to work with the person next to them.

Questioning – use a range of questioning techniques. I really liked the range of options approach e.g. Which of the following is the answer to 5674-1798?; 1776, 3876, 7472, 4876.

By giving answers which are often given mistakenly we start to enable children to really engage with the problem. I know I would have benefited from this approach when I was at school.

Hands down – don't let children put up their hands – as one who always waited for someone else to get the answer first I never bothered engaging in class – using talking partners for this.

Don't do any marking outside class – now this is a real challenge to all secondary teachers – However I agree that most children only look at the mark or grade and rarely take on the comment or advice. Now this would really free up teachers to plan much better lesson if we could reduce the marking time outside class!! Which school will be the first to take up the challenge? – you have my support

Perhaps the greatest challenge is how we share this with all our colleagues in a way that is meaningful. Formative assement is not “another bloody intiative”. It has the potential to liberate teachers and learners with a proven impact on summative assessment. Perhaps the “viral marketing” approach will prove the most effective means of sharing good practice?

Lat thought – we have been looking for a title for our clusters – other authorities have used the idea of “Learning Communities” – how about “Learning Teams?” – groups of teachers working together, reflecting upon their practice with a definitive purpose, whereas a community does not always have a clear purpose. Just a thought.

Take alook at

Ian Fullerton

7.30-10.30 In early to do some preparation work for a number of bits and pieces to come this week.

11.00-1.30 Met with Colin Sutherland, HT North Berwick High School, Liz McLean, ELC architect and Ian Fullerton, Legend. We were talking about the anticipated increase in NBHS's roll over the next few years and the need for additional space. Ian is our Principal Officer – Strategic Planning and has responsibility for tracking pupil numbers, working with developers and architects for planning new schools or extensions and advising the Directorate on pupil intake management. Ian is a master of spreadsheets and his work is highly regarded throughout the authority and beyond. Unfortunately he supports a rather inferior English football team whose name I can't remember!

Ian and Liz left at 12.15 which enabled Colin and I to complete the first evaluation report on North Berwick High School which focuses on attainment and the standards and quality report. North Berwick has outstanding examination results and compares very favourably with it's comparator schools in other authorities. This is a great testimony to Colin's leadership and the efforts of all of the staff and students.

The focus of our discussion was on the gap between a pupil's potential and their final attainment. I've asked Colin to analyse the targets set for each of NBHS S4 student and their eventual attainment in the actual exams. When these figures are gathered together you can identify the % of a year group who are targeted for 5+ Standard Grades and then compare it with the % that gained 5+ in the actual exams.. I know from experience that this gap can range from 10-20% – the challenge for all of us in education is to close the gap between what we see as potential in a child and their eventual attainment. It will be interesting to reflect upon these figures in all out schools.

Back to the office for 2.00-3.30pm LNCT – Local Negiatiing Committee for Teachers – agenda – 35 hour working week; role of business managers; budget; finance officers for primaries.

4.00 Sheila McKendrick – met to discuss national priority spending and funding for a creative links officer. Sheila provides excellent advice and support and occasionally manages to keep my feet on the ground!

4.30pm Met with primary hedteacher regarding fbudget issues.

5.00-6.15 Met with Raymy Boyle to reflect upon Integrated Community Schools and our visions for the future i.e. What would the best Integrated Community School in Scotland really look like?

Office Work

I was going to have taken today off but we had arranged an important Directorate meeting for first thing. As it turned out the new format, where one week we only have a single agenda item, followed the next week by a routine business meeting could enable us to make more rapid strategic progress. Certainly if today's meeting is anything to go by we should be able to agree a strategic vision for integrated services sometime in the new year. We intend to make classroom behaviour a key area of emphasis and combine this with the perceived opposing emphasis of inclusion. We wish to support classroom teachers and schools to improve the standard of classroom behaviour, whilst reinforcing the notions of ownership and collective responsibility. Alan Ross is going to gather some statistics which will demonstrate why it is so important for vulnerable children to remain in education – as opposed to being excluded from the process. Alan was at pains to point out that education doesn't always mean full-time presence in a school.

The rest of the day I was an office worker. I think this is the first time since I started that I just worked at my desk for the entire day – certainly established something – I'm not an office worker!! I think one of the reasons I'm not missing school as much as I thought I might is because I'm interacting with so many different people. Am I a people junkie??

Having said that I did have a quick chats with Eilish Garland – complaints policy, Derek Haywood – primary school devolved school management policy and Richard Parker/Susan McNaught about Alison Wishart's induction programme. Alison joins us on Thursday.

Managed to take a look at Ollie's weblog and left a comment on blue sky thinking.

Home for 6.30pm. After tea I watched The Gadget Show from South Korea. A perfect example of the curriculum for excellence in action. Children in South Korea are given technological projects in school in the form of project boxes. These consist of motors, circuitboards and programming technology. They are then set a task to use the equipment to solve a problem. I know such things are taught in technology in our CDT departments but this seemed to be way in advance of what we ask our 12 years olds to do. Is it any wonder South Korea is so in front of our country on the technological front?

Viral Marketing

During the ADES conference I had occasion to speak to a couple of people about exc-el. I tried to explain the strategy we were using to promote the site e.g.
word of mouth. As I listened to some of the speakers I couldn’t help relating what they were saying about personalization and the fact that word of mouth is a powerful means of promoting a message – a fact which has advertising executives running scared.

When I got home I wanted to find out a little more about the power of word of mouth. On searching the web I came across a link to
viral marketing. Viral marketing can be a deliberate strategy by commercial companies to promote a product but I am more interested in the idea of using viral marketing to promote exc-el and it's goals

This then got me thinking to education as a virus. I realise again how difficult this metaphor will be for some people given the alleged proximity of a flu pandemic. The other problem is that people traditionally don’t have an option whether they are to be infected or not. However, I wonder if infection with a desire to learn and joy in participating in the learning process should be a goal of education?

Social Entrepreneurship

Picking up on a theme that Charles Leadbeater described on Thursday I’ve been exploring the concept of
social entrepreneurship

A social entrepreneur is someone who works in an entrepreneurial manner, but for public or social benefit, rather than to make money. Social entrepreneurs may work in ethical businesses, governmental or public bodies, quangos, or the voluntary and community sector.

While entrepreneurs in the business sector identify untapped commercial markets, and gather together the resources to break into those markets for profit, social entrepreneurs use the same skills to different effect. For social entrepreneurs, untapped markets are people or communities in need, who haven't been reached by other initiatives.

But while they may read from a different bottom line, social and business entrepreneurs have a lot in common. They build something out of nothing. They are ambitious to achieve. They marshal resources – sometimes from the unlikeliest places – to meet their needs. They are constantly creative. And they are not afraid to make mistakes.

I was fascinated to read that one of my heroes John Muir – an ex-pupil of DunbarGrammar School is regarded as a leading social entrepreneur.

Found a great article by Howard Gardener on
“Are Social Entrepreneurs the new leaders?”

The more a read about social entrepreneurship the more I thought what a liberating model for school leadership. I can’t think of a better definition of what school leaders are trying to do.

Another more academic
article on social entrepreneurship

Open Source Education

On Wednesday I met with Robert Jones to check out his FreeMIS on-line management information system. As I explained on Wednesday Robert is an advocate and user of open source software. I’d never heard of open source but since Wednesday I’ve been doing a little more homework. It is a remarkable concept – develop something share it with others – for free!, who then improve it and then pass it on to others – for free! No wonder some of the big software companies are frightened. It rang a bell for me this morning when Graham Whitehead talked about encyclopedia britannica and the fact that knowledege is developing so quickly that a paper based version is no longer useful. I linked this with the
wikipedia idea where people put information up on a site, which is self-monitored, and the info can be edited, added to and enhanced by other users. In a sense this is open source knowledge management. I then wondered does this have any potential for education and the development and delivery of the curriculum? Open source education? What would it look like?

ADES Conference

Association of Director’s of Education Scotland (ADES) Annual Conference 2005
“The Future of Educational Leadership”

Charles Leadbetter “Charles Leadbetter is an ideas generator, strategist and adviser to leading European companies”

Charles focused on the notion of public value in public service. What did I take out if his presentation?

1. Don’t think about people as users or consumers – instead think of people as participants and investors.
2. Don’t think of the frontline as being in the classroom – it’s “out there” and we need to operate out there – establish guerilla networks for change.
3. Personalization of service – tailored services established through dialogue and respect e.g. Assessment is for Learning; Challenge the traditional building blocks of the system – school year, periods, timetable; trusting the participants; be flexible and adaptive; devolve finance to the users; workforce redesign.
4. People want to self-provide – “they don’t want to be dependent upon a service – however well delivered”
5. Public services need to think more about creativity than delivery
6. In order to provide shape to our service we need to set boundaries – need to set them up in such a way that they are not stifling – take risks!!
7. Create satisfaction by eliminating dissatisfaction

Then Nick Smith of Bath Consultancy Group – “Nick is working with organizations across private, public and not-for-profit organizations”

Nick linked with Charles’ point about boundaries. He asked – “why do we create boundaries?” – People like boundaries; people feel safe; gives some coherence to activity. What are the alternatives to boundaries? – TRUST.

We then did an interesting exercise on coaching. Into threes – not knowing the others in your group; choose a project you are engaged in or about to start; draft a 2 minute presentation on your project; then present to the others in your group; they then have 2 minutes to provide feedback about the presentation; the person then repeats the presentation taking on the advice of the others; then the next person gives their presentation with the same cycle; and then the third etc, etc. It worked!

The question time panel – with Peter Peacock, Minister for Education and Young People; Zoë Van Zwanenberg – Chief Executive Scottish Leadership Foundation and Gordon Smith IBM resident director. The panel was chaired by Ewan Aitken of COSLA. A great deal of time was spent on the idea of “best” practice and then the idea that we shouldn’t be thinking about “best” practice but “next” practice. I have no problem with looking for next practice but I do have a problem with best practice – best practice really suggests there is only one way to do something – this has been one of education’s greatest problems over the years. We need to focus on successful practice – and recognize that success can be achieved in many differing ways.

Graham Whitehead “Futurologist”

Graham spoke engagingly about the future of communications technology and how it will impact upon our lives in the next ten years. He suggested there would be more change in the next ten years than there has been the in the previous 85 years.

A recurring theme was technology which was “on” all the time – and which people could access when they wanted – anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

He then picked up on a point made by Charles Leadbetter about tailoring a service to the needs of the customer. He talked about how Amazon contacts the customer when a book comes out by an author whose previous book they had bought. This idea of personalization has been a feature of all the various presentations, with examples which have included E-bay – scoring systems provided by other users; wikipedia – self-monitored by users.

Mary McLachlan – Headteacher at Notre Dame school for girls. What relief to see a Headteacher having the confidence to steer clear from the need to bring certification down the school. She and here staff are using S1/2 to provide an opportunity for pupils to develop skills which will enable them to fulfil the four capabilities outlined in Curriculum for Excellence.

Now what did I take out of the event?

  1. Personalization of the curriculum and our means of delivering the service
  2. Change the boundaries within which education is provided, managed and delivered
  3. Use technology to enable anytime, anyplace anywhere access to the curriculum
  4. Build a system to which people can contribute and participate
  5. Enable people to “self-provide” i.e. Build a service which suits them
  6. Use problem solving tasks in S1/2 to link the curriculum – create more freedom


8.30am-9.30am Met Stuart Hiles of Corporate Development. Stuart told me about the e-learning opportunities for staff and also the project management system he has been developing. I don't think education has ever really mastered the art – or should that read science – of project management. We often just set up groups and say “off you go” without giving them any structure or scaffolding. One of the recognised project management systems is PRINCE2 but Stuart has been develpoping a more user friendly system called PRINCE Lite. Sheila McKendrick joined us for the end of the meeting to explore how we might use the system in education. Great potential.

9.30-10.30 Sometimes things just come along and just knock you over. At least that's how I felt today when Robert Jones from North Berwick High School came into my office to show me the management information system he has developed for his school. Robert showed me a system he has built using open source software, that is software which is freely available on the net. The only stipulation is that any products you develop using the software must be made avauialable for free to anyone else. He's called his system
FreeMIS – it does exactly what is says on the tin!, i.e. a free management information system. The system is web-based, simple to use, intuitive, easily modifiable for different schools and meets all the requirements we have been looking for in such a system. I can't imagine how many hours Robert has spent putting this together but it is an incredible product which beats anything else on the market that I've seen. The only proble I can foresee is that it sounds too good to be true – surely something that good must cost money – and lots of it! but no it is absolutely free!! We are going to look at finding some time for Robert to develop the system for all our schools – at no charge to them. If other other authorities are interested we would be happy to help them – the only fee might be in relation to a support line which Robert would man. Exciting times!

11.45pm – School visit to Pentcaitland Primary School. Freda and Shirely showed me round – Freda reckons the school is due for inspection – if it is I don't think they have anything to fear – in fact probably quite the opposite. Listened to the brass band playing – I couldn't get over the high standard!! Well done Charlie – and thanks.

1.00pm – Visit to Musselburgh Grammar to speak to Ronnie about his forthcoming inspection. Everything seems to be in place and Ronnie and his team were putting together the finishing touches to their HMIe briefing. This is a one hour presentation to the lead inspector and associate inspector on the Thursday prior to the inspection week. It gives the school the opportunity to give their perpsctive on where the school is and where it intends to go.

2.30pm – Stoneyhill Primary School to see Seonaidh McGillivary – the new headteacher who started on Monday. Seonaidh is a very experienced headteacher and will settle into the school very quickly. We are going to put together an induction programme for her which we can repeat with other new haesd as they are appointed.

3.30pm – back to the office. Met a parent at 4.30 to discuss a nursery school issue. Generally tried to catch up with tings and leave a tidy desk. Left the office at 6.45pm out tomorrow and Friday for the ADES conference in Peebles.


7.30-9.00 Preparation for Education Committee and correspondence.

9.00 – 9.30 Quick impromptu meeting with Kay Affleck who is our Integration Information Officer. Kay is going to take responsibility for a new section of the site –
Additional Support Needs

10.00-12.00 Council Committee for Education. These are formal meetings where the officers, namely Alan Blackie and myself present a series of reports to the elected members about a range of issues. Today covered: 4 inspection reports; East Linton catchment area review; early years review; educational maintenance allowances; schools meals and free school meal entitlement; and college/school links.

12.30pm Out to a secondary school to meet a headteacher with Fraser Parkinson regarding a pupil who had been excluded and who the school were unhappy about taking back. We had an excellent meeting where we explored the notion of ownership and proper multi-agency support. We have agreed that the student will return to the school once a proper multi-agency plan has been put in place. Our collective problem is what happens when the “worst” student in the schol is permanently excluded? The reality is that another student simply moves up the ranking and takes their place as the “worst” and the only recourse to inappropriate behaviour is another permanent exclusion.

The challenge for us all to face up to is: Why do we want to keep such kids in school? Is it to comply with legislation? – don't think so – Is it to make our statistics look good? – nope – Is it to try to do something to improve society? – well although this sounds pretty grand I think it must be close to what should be driving us. I can't help thinking that if we really take on this idea about cluster collective responsibility – where all groups share responsibility – that we at least have a chance to make a difference. But there again I am a hopeless idealist!!

2.00-4.15pm Emergency Alert Training – this is an on-line system which is about to go live. It will allow the various agencies to communicate effectively in the case of a major emergency.

4.30pm -5.45 Back to the office . Joined in an excellent discussion between Ruth Munro and Rob Lewis – one of Management Information Team about how we intend to collect, collate and present 5-14 data. Ruth has picked up on work done by Angus Council assisted by Tony Conroy (LTS) where schools will set targets based upon actual students in their schools – as opposed to picking them out of thin air. The system will work by a teacher stating where students are in, lets day P2. They are then asked to estimate how many of the same class will ahve acheived the same level by P3. This will give a much more realistic picture of where schools are in terms of attainment. We are also going to consider creating comparator groups of schools within the authority, small and large and split by low FME and high FME. Should prove interesting.

To share or not to share

8.30am -9.30am Directorate Meeting – only agenda item was the restructuring of the department. The process is leaving a lot of people fairly sore. However, today seemed to be a turning point. Basic agreement about the education side of the department – now just needs finalcostings and timescales. Alan Ross and myself are to work together to resolve the middle ground. The “hard end” children's services will not engage in any significant change. Alan and I both agree that there is an opportunity to come up with something which really gets to the heart of the notion of integrated children's services – perhaps even to the point where we can be seen as national leaders in the field. So much depends upon people's willingness to actively engage in the process.

10.00am -11.30am Single Status Roadshow. This was a presentation from Sharon saunders – Head of Personnel and some key figures in the single status working group. Single status is something which all authorities are having to work towards. It will certainly have a significant costs attached to it but at least it will resolve some of the pay anomolies which have plagued local government for too many years.

11.30am -12.30am ASL Nursery Nurse job description meeting. Met with Maureen Jobson, Helen McMillan, Derek Haywood, Susan Smith and Sheila Ainslie to discuss the ASL nursery nurse job description – very useful and worthwhile meeting.

1.00-2.00 Met with Alan Blackie and Roger Thomas – Roger has a consultancy business and wanted to share some of his services with us. We are interested in developing our own coaching programme and we may need the services of an external person to help us put it all together. I'm going to draw up a more detailed plan of our vision for our coaching programme.

2.45-5.15pm With Pauline Homer visited Tranent wrap-around after school provision; Cockenzie After School Club (met the management team of the school whilst at the school- thanks for the coffee) and then on to Aberlady after-school club which meets in the Bowling Club whilst the town hall is renovated.

Now to share or not to share – that is the question? Weblogging – how open can we be? When does a commitment to transparency and honesty lead to conflict and unhappiness? Should some of my day remain secret? So far I've tried to be as open as possible – with the exception of things which are obviously confidential, such as personnel and personal matters. Should I keep my thoughts to myself and just describe events? What should I do mmmmmmmmmmmm?