Between a Rock and Hard Place

10.00-1.00 Improving integrated services workshop. This was a workshop for representatives from primary and secondary schools, education department staff and children's services staff. I was asked to introduce the event. I used the 5Cs – consistency, continuity, collegiality, creativity and collective responsibility to explore how integrated services could be improved. We have recently identified some quality indicators to enable us to judge the effectiveness of integrated working in each of our clusters. I also referred to the notion of unconditional positive regard and the challenge that presents for our service

We then split up into groups to consider some examples where strategies to support children have been successful. Nancy Gordon -HT Cockenzie Primary – spoke about how her school are implementing a strategy called
Behaviour Recovery I was really taken by some of the strategies being employed – contact Nancy for more info' – it seems to be very effective. Gordon Fruish talked about an example from his own school – Musselburgh Grammar – the key to the success of their strategy was "not giving up on the kid" – for me this is the key to unconditional positive regard – thanks Gordon and Graham Forrest.

After this session we looked at some examples where we have failed to properly support children. One of the common characteristics was where an adult – sometimes a teacher – failed to act appropriately towards a vulnerable child thereby stimulating a negative response from the child. School leaders then found themselves in a situation where they had a situation where a child had done something quite inappropriate e.g. sworn at the teacher. The dilemma facing the manager is often, support the teacher – perhaps where you suspect it was their behaviour which initiated the negative response – or support the child – which has the potential to undermine confidence in the school management from other members of staff. I have to admit that on a number of occasions in my career I have found myself supporting the indefensible due to the negative impact it would have upon the school if a child wasn't punished for their behaviour despite suspecting it wasn''t their fault – a rock and hardplace right enough!! Perhaps if we tried to live up to the principle of unconditional positive regard then such behaviour would be less acceptable.

Now if your reading this and thinking this is a recipe for disaster I'm not advocating any notion of going soft on discipline – in fact quite the reverse – I believe in a zero tolerance approach and that we need to make our expectations very clear and respond consistently to unacceptable behaviour. I was impressed by Nancy's description of their approach towards poor behaviour – yet it was done in a way which was underpinnned by a unconditional postive regard for the child.

The last point emerging from our discussions was the impact of parents. In the vast majority of cases we are supported by parents but what happens when parents don't engage with the school to help improve their child's behaviour? I suggest two things – firstly make more use of home visits – schools bring back so many negative memories for some parents that we need to come up with other ways to engage with them in less threatening environments; secondly – we need to "confront" some parents with their responsibilities. This is a dangerous word but it kind of captures what we need to do with some parents who know everything about their rights but accept none of the responsibilities that go along with them.

We intend to hold a series of similar seminars with a view to developing strategy based upon successful practice –
a grounded strategy

2.30 Investors In People feedback – we were successful!!! – our success is due in no small part to the hard work done by Gillian Reilly – thanks to all the team

3.00 3.30 Julia Robertson – met with Julia Robertson to discuss the end of her forthcoming secondment to the department.

4.00-5.00 Met with Sheila Ainslie to discuss a nmber of issues relating to Pupil Support.

PPP – Preston Lodge

7.00-9.00 I needed to get in early to clear my desk before a busy day.

9.00-10.00 Met Yvonne Binks to discuss her new role as Development Officer for the Scottish Exec on Better Learning – Better Behaviour. Yvonne is seconded from Ross High School for two years and is able to give East Lothian 2 days of her time each week. There are a number of approaches she can help schools to deliver – all with a focus on improving pupil behaviour. We discussed the mapping tool we are developing and agreed that many of her approaches can provide entry points for teachers and schools. She is going to complete the cross checking of how the various approaches meet our learners' entitlements. The range of approaches from which schools will be able to select include motivated school; solution oriented schools; developing empathy; restorative practice; cool in school; and behaviour stratey toolkits. Yvonne will also provide a paragraph for each approach briefly describing what its about and what it offers schools. Schools will then be able to select the approaches which best meet their needs. Obviously there will be huge overlaps between approaches.

10.00-11.00 Met Alan Cruikshank and Keren Robertson to discuss our plans for next year's ICT capital budget. Amongst many other things we intend to complete our commitment to provide a minimum classroom entitlement of a computer; a digital projector and – thanks Ollie – a sound system – We won't be going for a video machine for each classroom – preferring instead to look towards DVD systems. We willl also explore a 1:1 laptop pilot for a P7 class. How would we fund something like for every child this if it's successful? – we would have to purchase 1000 laptops each year – rough cost 700,000 pounds. Could we expect most parents to purchase the laptop and financially support those who couldn't afford it? We are a few years away from this as it stands but we do need to start thinking about this.

11.00-12.30 Met Adam Whyte for our
Investors In People follow up assessment – Adam last visited in October. We will hear on tomorrow how we have got on.

12.30-1.00 Popped round to my mum for a bowl of soup – she was in!!

1.00-2.45 Delightful! – a couple of apointments cancelled – my room had been booked out for other meetings so I worked in the main office.

2.00-4.00 Meeting at Preston Lodge to discuss a number of PPP public and Private Partnership issues.
FES – our facility managers are very keen to work in partnership with schools and we hade a productive resolution to our concerns

4.00-5.30 Met with Sheila Mckendrick to go over on-going work and to plan our work schedule for the next few weeks. These meetings are proving to very worthwhile and Sheila's pragmatism pulls me back to earth.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

Tuesday 28th March

Early start for the family this morning – Douglas's 18th birthday. Into work early 7.30am – just to check that things are OK due to the strike action today. All of our schools have been open which is testimony to the professionalism of our staff – I heard of one HT who got into school at 6.30 just to ensure to was ready for the pupils and staff.

As it turned out there were no significant problems during the day due to the action. I worked at my desk until 9.45 mostly on phonecalls to schools.

10.00-11.00 Out to Whitecraig Primary School – what a remarkable difference in just a few months – it's almost unrecognisable from the school I first visited in September. It will also be the first school in East Lothian to have interactive whiteboards in every classroom. I observed John and Cathy teach their respective infant classes using the technology – well worth a visit if you are interested in taking this forward in your school.

11.00-12.00 Wallyford Primary School – had along chat with HT Debbie Beveridge. We discussed the challenges any new Headteacher faces and just how lonely and challenging the job can be – I was certainly surprised when I first became an HT and I think that probably goes for all of us who have taken that step. Debbie approaches her job with a great sense of enthusiasm, purpose and duty. I've rarely come across a Headteacher who expressed such faith in her staff and the future of the school. I really liked the vision statement they have come up with – I'm very confident that Debbie and her staff can make a very significant contribution to the community of Wallyford.

12.30-1.25 Back to the office to meet a few folk and catch up on correspondence.

1.50-3.00 Met Janet Shepherd of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Janet had asked to speak to me after my recent presentation at the OUtdoor Connections Conference. DOE are interested in how they can link with the Curriculum for Excellence. We explored a number of ideas but concentrated on the notion of a virtual logbook which students could use to record and track their involvement in activities which could be accredited for DOE. SQA are interested in finding a way to recognise these achievements. There remains a challenge to enable and train more adults to support DOE – particularly the expedition element. Janet told me about some communities – Webster High and Balfron where parents are involved in delivering the expedition – are we missing a trick? We also need to find ways in which community education can particpate more fully in the programme – school based activity does not suit all children.

3.00-4.00 Met with Mike McLaghlin who is currently on secondement to Scot Ex Ed.

4.00-5.00 Exc-el board meeting – very focused discussion – no teckie chat!! We are going to change the home page to improve ease of navigation and the look of the page – watch out this space. Had to get out of the building before 5.00 – it was being shut down!

Monday 27th March

Oops – I'll try to update this entry later but yesterday got away from me.

PS – if you are waiting to hear the podcast – many apologies – just one or two technical difficulties – hopefully it will be posted soon.

Micromanagement – podcast

Someone suggested last week that I am micromanaging education in East Lothian.

Definition of micromanagement: micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of their employees, generally used as a pejorative term. In contrast to giving general instructions on smaller task while supervising larger concerns, the micromanager monitors and assesses every step. (wikipedia)

This podcast covers my response to such a perception and how this runs counter to my intentions and stated aims when I first started this job in

Apologies for the sound quality but I had to take shelter form the wind



Friday 24th March

8.15-9.45 Education Officer's Meeting – usual update from everyone on the team of issues and work we have been involved in this week. This is such a useful meeting for ensuring that everyone knows what's happening in schools.

10.00 Staff Briefing

10.15-12.00 Met up with a couple of members of staff to discuss various issues, then tried to continue the initiative mapping tool we are developing to assist in the development of learning and teaching in our schools – it's about the fitrst time this week I've actually done any creative work at my desk. It's only once you start to work on something that you start to see the problems and real potential. I hope the mapping tool will be of use to schools in managing the complex business of improving learning and teaching.

Olivebank Nursery – this was a real learning experience for me. I met Ann and Sherleen with Maureen Jobson. They explained the background to the unit – the fact that it was originally a centre for family care during the second world war; it's management by social work and then its transfer to education. I met all of the staff and a number of the children. The service the staff provide to vulnerable children and families has to be seen to be believed. It's amazing how often I come across incredible "team spirit" in schools throughout East Lothian.

2.00-3.00 Meeting to discuss
planned industrial action by Unison for this coming Tuesday. We managed to clarify a number of issues – our schools will be opening unless there are specific health and safety issues which arise on the day. Parents have been notified by headteachers.

3.00-3.30 Meeting to discuss a number of forthcoming appointments

3.30-4.00 Took a walk round the department – stole some chocolates!!

4.00-5.30 Continued working on the Initiative mapping tool.

360 Degree Framework

9.00-11.45am Attended the Prestonpans Cluster Meeting. This was an excellent reflection of the potential of clusters – a group of Headteachers working together to improve education for all children in their community. Prestonpans is a very strong community but presents some particular challenges which they are all working hard to overcome.

11.45-12.50 Preston Lodge High School. 13 teachers and significant number of pupils absent from school due to a virus. I had a walk round the school with Willie Galbraith. I was very impressed – every class actively engaged in work and very high standards of behaviour. There are some issues about the fabric of the building and I'm meeting the facility managers on Wednesday with Willie to explore ways we can improve the situation.

1.00-1.45 Preparation for the Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers.

2.00-3.15 LNCT – We agreed a number of issues. I'm delighted that LLiz Morris is going to join our Finance Scrutiny and Advisory Group along with two primary and one secondary rep. This group will look at the potential impact of a frozen budget in 2007-2008 and to prepare a strategy.

4.00-4.30 Marina Naylor – Employee Development Department – Marina has developed the Council's 360 competency framework. We have trialed it this session with a few Hedateachers and intend to refine the system for next year to extend to all HTs.

4.30-5.30 Tried to clear my desk – filled my bag and headed for home.

HT meetings

9.00-11.20 Nursery and Primary Headteachers' Meeting – this was primarily an information giving session – never the best format for any meeting. Nevertheless, it was important to give some feedback on the responses we had received from clusters about the service improvement plan; the cluster based approach; and the guidelines for development planning. The feedback seemed fairly positive and I think people can start to see the connections between all the various policies and guidelines. We concluded with a presentation about the new Learning and Teaching Policy, which seemed to very well received. Sheila McKendrick took on a lead role this morning and I think she complements my own presentation style very effectively i.e. a little bit less frenetic!!!

11.30-12.00 Quick meeting with Sheila to consider actions in response to the meeting.

12.00-12.30 Lunch

12.30-1.30 Tried to clear another 60 plus e mails – I seem to struggling this week to get on top of things – I can only put this down to the fact that I didn't get my normal chance to prepare for the week on Sunday Night. I usually put in a couple of hours – I've been on the back foot ever since.

1.30-2.00 Met with Willie Galbraith, Jimmy McGuiness and Alan Blackie to discuss some PPP issues relating to Preston Lodge.

2.00-4.20 Secondary Headteachers' Meeting. We spent a lot of time considering the impact of the efficiency savings we are having to make next session. This will be the first time in 7 years that we face a reduction in budget growth – only 1% increase instead of 3.2% last year. School Management Teams will have some difficult decisions to make to balance their budgets. It's not part of the job that any of us enjoy but part of our professional responsibility is to ensure that we provide services within the budgets which are allocated to us. Willie Galbraith is going to join our Finance Scrutiny and Advisory Group which we are establishing to consider the budget plans for 2007-2008.

4.30-5.15 Caught up on a meeting to do with Enterprise in Education and the amount of paperwork which schools have to complete for submission of evidence. This seems to be running counter to our desire to streamline paperwork and focus on action. We're going to have a go at writing a paper for submission to the Scottish Executive to propose an alternative approach towards the collection and validation of evidence.


Learning and Teaching Policy – in three pages!

Here is the draft
Learning and Teaching Policy which we finalised last
Wednesday. It's most notable feature is that it only extends to three pages – yet we believe it has the potential to have a very significant positive impact upon practice – if it could be implemented consistently across the authority. It will be circulated to all schools tomorrow with a deadline on the 15th May for any responses. You are welcome to provide a personal response to the policy by leaving a comment here.


9.00-11.00 Meeting with timetablers from secondary schools. The job of timetabling can be a very lonely task and I'm keen that we share ideas and problems with each other. I know I would have benefitted from this when I was timetabling this time last year. We had another look at the software which is now being used by three of our schools. I think such software will be invaluable when we begin to properly explore some of the possible ideas for fulfilling the curriculum for excellence. I shared my ideas about the
project work in S1 and S2 which could still make the best use of subject expertise whilst establishing links between subjects. This was quite well received – it was suggested that we should only try two projects each year. I do intend to set up a pilot scheme in the summer term using weblogging software as the vehicle.

11.30-12.15 I met with Alex McCrorie – Director of Finance about the budget. This was a productive meeting. As I've said about many aspects of my responsibilities I'm still on a steep learning curve and this meeting did help me to understand the financial pressures facing the whole council. I suggested that it might be an idea to promote a wider understanding about these pressures with other staff. Alex has agreed to come to one of our HT conferences with a view to making a presentation on Council financial management .

12.30-1.15 Sheila McKendrick to go over a variety of business – not least preparing for the HT meeting tomorrow.

2.00-4.00 PPRP (Policy and Procedures Review Panel ) – council scrutiny of the department meeting. These are useful events and enables elected members to explore issues with officers in much greater depth. We have agreed to try to give future meetings a little more focus by concentrating on one aspect of our service improvement plan and then "drilling" down into what it actually means in practice for the department and schools.

4.15-5.30 Final primary school principal teacher seminar – another great session.

Back to work

Well what can I say? Paris was fantastique!!! Back to work with a bump – over a 100 e-mails and a full folder of letters. Didn't get any chance to get near them during the day and took a full bag home. A couple of hours later I've got to the bottom of the bag. Good to feel I've cleared my feet,

8.30 -10.00 Directorate Meeting

10.00-11.30 Additional Support for Learning Implementation Meeting – once again the task management tracker works very well.

11.30-12.30 Quick meeting with Sheial McKendrick and Gill McMillan with a view to looking at how we can better tie all our various plans together. We've agreed to present our ideas to the Chief Officers' Group.

12.30-1.15 Out to see my mum

1.15 – 3.30 I had to finish off a couple of papers to hit a deadline.

4.00-4.45 Out to Meadow Park Unit to speak to the staff.