Research Practitioner

Friday 28th April

8.15 – 9.50 Education Officers’ Meeting – we all update each other on matters arising from the previous week. It’s a very useful way to ensure that we are aware of emerging issues.

10.00 Departmental Briefing – I updated the department on matters of interest and relevance.

10.15-10.30 Quick chat with Derek Haywood about the translation of our service improvement plan into the format being used by the council to ensure a corporate approach.. We have ensured that school plans do not need amendment.

10.45-1.15 Out to DunbarGrammar School to accompany Peter Peacock, Education Minister, who was visiting the school to announce that DGS is to become a
school of ambition. The school’s
plans centre around the performing arts. The only problem with this initiative is that it has the potential to set one school against another – through the preferential funding arrangement. We are exploring a strategy to enable all our clusters to become “Communities of Ambition”. Alan Blackie spoke to me about it briefly this morning and we will be trying to identify some funding for such a plan. The idea would be to identify a characteristic which the schools in a community could use as common point of focus, e.g. performing arts, languages, design, etc, etc. I wonder if the idea of Wittgenstein’s notion of
family resemblances might be helpful here. It’s not that we are trying to create identical schools but that within a community there might be family resemblances underpinned by a common focus.

2.00-4.00 Quick drive into Edinburgh to meet with Lawrie O’Donnell to pick up on our conversation from Wednesday. We’ve come up with the job title – Research Practitioner. the traditional term is, of course,
practitioner research – but by turning the words around we create something quite new. Reseach Practitioner captures the purpose of the job and also links the ideas of theory and practice – a common theme on this weblog. A Research Practitioner would innovate, experiment and with emerging practice whilst attempting to embed it in classroom practice. This concept also picks up on our
grounded strategy approach which underpins exc-el We see the job in East Lothian focusing upon the synthesis between, curriculum for excellence, digital literacy, and learning and teaching. We want to focus attention on the P6-S2 age stages (10-14 – now that sounds familiar!!) Lawrie is interested in our idea about project work and referred to Queensland, Australia who have redesigned their curriculum around the concept of
rich tasks – watch this space.


7.30-9.00 E mails and correspondence left over from yesterday.

9.00-10.15 Met with Sheila McKendrick. We completed and circulated the blank format Task Management Tracker

(this is what schools will use to complete their school development plan) – departments may wish to also use this format but HTs will give more information. We then put together an exemplar statement of intent which schools can use a model for their own purposes.

10.15-12.00 Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group. We are using a Task Management Tracker to monitor the implementation of our action plan. A key issue arose around the transiion of responsibility from children's servives to adult services.

1.00-1.45 Met with Alan Blackie to have one of our regular update meetings. This gives us a both a chance to clear up odds and ends and to update each other on confidential matters.

2.00-3.30 LNCT Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers – another very productive meeting with our union colleagues.

4.00-5.00 Robert Jones, the developer of
FREEMIS, met with me to dicuss how we could take it forwards. We feel this has great potential and I will be taking forward our ideas with a couple of possible backers who might enable us to develop a support package from FREEMIS (which is free) which could be commercially distributed.




9.00-10.30 LorettoR.C.Primary School Shown around the school by Tyler and Sarah (P7 student council reps). I’ve found this to be a very effective way of seeing a school. The pupils are always a great credit to their school and complimentary about their education. I was very impressed by how all the teachers were consistently applying formative assessment techniques.

11.00-12.00 Back to the office to give a briefing to all members of the department about our service improvement plan; cluster working approach; and learning and teaching policy. I stressed the fact that we are all employed to help and support the teaching and learning process – helping to improve children’s life chances. We need to always bare that in mind. The next stage is for groups of staff to devise work plans for the coming year to support our departmental objectives. The feedback after the event would suggest that it was well received and that people appreciated being able to see the big picture and how their own role is important.

12.30 – 3.15 Met with Lawrie O’Donnell and Ian Graham of
Learning and Teaching Scotland. We were exploring how we could develop a mutually beneficial partnership between LTS and East Lothian. We focused on trying to create a different model of development work. The traditional model has been for LTS to second innovative members of staff and ask them to do national work. The problem with this approach is that it takes them out of the environment where they were able to develop their ideas in a real situation and that they are often spread too thinly to really influence the national stage. We are exploring a model whereby LTS seconds a person but they continue to work within their authority but with formal links to the national practice. We are meeting again on Friday to flesh out these ideas.

4.00- 5.40 Into Edinburgh to meet with
Roy Jobson, Director of Children’s Services for Edinburgh. Roy was Director of Education for Manchester for ten years prior to taking up his current post five years ago. I really appreciated Roy taking the time to share some of his wisdom and experience. I hope to be able to replicate some of these actions which will be of benefit to education in East Lothian. The fundamental culture which should underpin such actions has to be one of trust, building partnerships and engaging all stakeholders in the decision making process. Thanks

Dirleton School Board

I've been overwhelmed by the response I've received from people about my appointment. Now I'm really under pressure to deliver! Many thanks

7.00-8.45 got into the office early to write a couple of letters – one for the pupils and parents; and another for staff at Dunbar Grammar. I e-mailed these to Paul Raffaelli for distribution – my last act as Headteacher of the school.

9.00-10.00 Out to LongniddryPrimary School for a chat with Ann McLanachan and a wander round the school – what a place. How does Ann maintain her enthusiasm?

10.15-10.30 popped into my mums for a cup of tea

10.30-11.00 e-mails, e-mails

11.00-11.45 Met with Julia Robertson, our Determined to Succeed officer, Alison Wishart, our QIO with responsibility for enterprise in education and Gordon Brown, who now works for the Scottish Executive (he is currently seconded from our department). Gordon was out helping us finalise our report on DTS activities. We explored our perception that DTS is hampered by too bureaucratic systems and reporting formats. We have offered to make a presentation to the DTS management team. We shared our thoughts with Gordon about how we are trying to integrate enterprising classrooms into our Learning and Teaching strategy as opposed to a bolt-on which is often how it is perceived in schools. I don’t think the reporting system or the fact that we have a separate development officer helps to break down that perception.

11.45 – 12.30 Gordon and I discussed his secondment.

12.30 – 1.30 a number of quick updates with various staff in the department, plus a wander round the office – picked up the fact that we are receiving a number of placement requests – Fiona Brown deals with these requests in an exemplary manner.

2.00-4.45 Secondary Headteachers meeting – very full agenda covering: school transport; official opening of schools; smartcard; PPP; budget issues; development planning process; HT conference agenda for 31/4/2006.

4.45-5.00 quick chat with Janis Craig , HT Knox Academy

5.00-6.45 phone calls to a few people plus e-mails and correspondence

7.00-8.00 Dirleton School Board – I was invited to the meeting to provide more information about the predictable needs formula.

Head of Education

Today's been a bit of a blur. I was interviewed for the permanent position of Head of Education for East Lothian. After a nervous wait I was offered the position this afternoon. I've accepted. I'm looking forward to continuing our work to help develop education in East Lothian. However, the euphoria is counterbalanced by a recognition that I won't be going back to Dunbar Grammar. I've written letters of explanantion and thanks to go out to pupils, parents and members of staff. I loved my time at the school and it is my hope that we can try to recreate something of the culture which characterised the school across the whole authority. Thanks.

Parental weblog

Friday 21st April

8.15-9.50 Education officers' meeting – as usual we went round the table each person updating on their work and any school issues.

10.00 Department Briefing

10.30-12.00 Campie Primary School – I met with members of the school board to help set up a
school board blog. This will be the first parental blog on Exc-el. It will be called a view from the gates but hopefully we can demonstarte that our partnership extends beyond the gates. The headteacher Patricia McCall is to be congratulated for welcoming such involvement. I spoke to the parents about our blogging principles – and I'm confident it will add a rich new dimsnsion to our site. Hopefully it can provide a model for other boards to follow suit.

1.00-2.00 Directorate Meeting with Alan Blackie and Alan Ross. We hadn't met since prior to the Easter break so there was fair amount to get through.

2.00 – 2.30 Met with Bill Torrance, the new EIS local secretary to discuss the time he will require for him to undertake his duties.

2.30-3.00 joined Alan Blackie who was meeting Phil Denning our new district HMIe. I'm looking forward to working with Phil who has great experience in community learning and development. This is an area we are keen to develop, particularly in relation to a curriculum for excellence and supporting the lowest attaining 20% of students.

3.00-4.00 Met Diane French, one of our integration officers. I was keen to find out more about the pressures facing the integration team. It came as no surprise that the greatest challenge comes from the lack of boundaries for their involvement. They are pulled between supporting schools and the local social work practice teams. I'm confident that we can resolve this problem over the next couple of months.

4.00-5.30 Tried to catch up on correspondence – gave up – packed my bag and headed for home.

Full Diary

Somebody joked today that it must be easier to see the Queen than it is to get an appointment with me. I have to admit to being concerned about my diary. Looking forward until the end of May I can hardly see a space where I'm not scheduled for a meeting or appoinment. The only spaces are the mornings and afternoons (one each week) where I'm free to drop into schools – a priority I'm not prepared to give up. The question has to be how could I make better use of my time. If you've read over my weblog can you suggest anything I could do to change my way of operating?

9.00 -11.20 Chief Officers Group – this group meets four times a year and involves everyone with an active involvement in providing integrated children's services – including police, education, children's services (social work) and health. The role of the group is to adopt a strategic perspective on how we can improve our service to children. I spoke specifically about our emerging cluster approach – which was well received. Jim Lamond made an interesting point when he noted that the new restructuring of council wards will reflect the school clusters.

11.30-12.00 Met with Sheila McKendrick to pick up on points from the SLG held on Tuesday and to plan our work for the next few weeks.

12.00-12.30 Met with Alan Blackie who updated myself, Sheiila McKendrick and Elizabeth Cowan on the Microsoft Innovators programme. Microsoft will sponsor a secondment for a teacher to work one day a week delivering their programme of CPD for teachers. This fits well with our agreed ICT strategy – serendipity!

1.00-1.30 Met with Derek Haywood, Sheila Ainslie, Maureen Jobson and Helen McMillan to discuss the Olivebank Nursery. We brainstromed the issues facing the unit and our solutions. I drafted a minute which will inform our future actions.

1.30-2.30 Preparation for next weeks Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers (LNCT) with Derek Haywood and Zoe Thomson.

2.30-3.45 Managed to get down to some work at my desk

4.00-5.00 Out to Ross High school to see Willie Carrol, Acting HT, to pick on how the school is getting on – I'd missed an appintment with Willie at the end of last term.


Lindsay Paterson

9.00-10.00 Met with a classroom teacher to explore professional development and subject support issues.

10.00 -12.00 Morning taken up with Primary/Nursery Headteachers Executive meeting. This meeting involves one HT rep from each cluster. The agenda covered: how we are managing the resuction in class contact time for teachers; budget issues; HT conference agenda for 31/5/06; probationers;

1.00-2.00 Met with a union rep to discuss a variety of issues.

2.00-4.00 Met with Professor
Lindsay Paterson to report on our progress over the past year. Lindsay has been acting as an informal critical friend for the department in connection with the exc-el project. I described the policies, systems and the strategies we have used to implement our change strategy. It's incredibly useful to have to try to articulate a vision and explain the associated actions. We spent a good deal of time discussing the idea of unconditional positive regard and wheher or not it is as critical as we have been making out.

I was glad that Lindsay seemed to appreciate our approach and was interested in the ideas we have been exploring in relation to the curriculum for excellence – particularly the notion of
project work which cuts across subject boundaries. A school student whom Lindsay knows is passionate about birdwatching but has no vehicle for following that passion in the school curriculum – project work could address that anomaly..

There is a real need for practitioners/leaders to actively engage with our academic colleagues. It is of mutal benefit to both yet we too rarely work in active partnership. Lindsay referred to an intersting partnership between David Carr – an educational philosopher – and two practitioners in the world of outdoor education. Together they have been exploring the place of outdoor education in a way which would not have been possible from only one perspective. I was able to link this with the idfeas we have been having about
"practice into theory" and how such an approach could engage teachers in better understanding and developing their practice.

4.00-5.45 Paperwork!!

School Liaison Group

Having had the first week off I enjoyed another couple of days leave over the Easter weekend – hard physical labour is a great antidote to office work.

We started the term this morning with our School Liaison Group – this is where I meet with the Education Officers (soon to be Quality Improvement Officers), Sheila Ainslie (Pupil Support Manager) and Derek Haywood (School Support Manager). The agenda covered the following: Task Management Tracker – reviewing progress in major projects to date; School Development Plans and Evaluation Visit 3; reshaping our standards and quality guidelines for schools; achieving excellence policy; HT conference 31/5/06. A prime focus of the meeting was trying to work out our priorities for the coming term.

In afternoon I made a home visit to an absent member of staff. I've always made use of home visits to see colleagues who have been ill for some time. I know I would appreciate such a visit.

Rest of the day spent trying to come to grips with the correspondence backlog.