Exc-el debate

Diary: ED&R at East Saltoun with Ann Malcolm; then on to Yester Primary in Gifford with Dorothy Hilsley; back to the office – meeting cancelled so a good hour and a half at my desk; then out to Ross High School with Maureen Jobson to meet with Dorothy Bartholomew (the acting HT) and some of her management team to discuss next year's development plan; heard that Paul Raffaelli has been appointed as Headteacher at Dunbar Grammar School. This is an outstanding appointment and I'm confident that the school will go from strength to strength.

I've left a couple of comments on
Ewan MacIntosh's blog about exc-el. I'm pleased to see that a number of East Lothian people have also left comments. If you've never done it before I'd encourage you to take part – it's easy.

Silent Mentors

Diary: Met our District HMIe Phil Denning this mrining with Alan Blackie. We try to schedule these meetings each term to reflect on a range of issues: today's agenda included: recent inspections; learning and teaching policy; our plans for curriculum for excellence; our standards and quality report; Teaching Profession for the 21st Century – our response to the consultation; and communication between HMIe and LA. Followed this with a visit to East Linton for Richard Wilson's ED&R. I had another ED&R scheduled for later in the afternoon but this was cancelled. This enabled me to pop into Dunbar Grammar School to say farewell to two former colleagues who are leaving on Friday. Then out to North Berwick Nursery and back to the office.

In the course of our meeting with Phil Denning we explored the flexibility afforded to local authorities in relation to Integrated Children's Services Plans (as I've said previously on this blog I have volunteered to co-ordinate the plan for next session. Phil made a very useful point when he suggested that we might use the six questions from
Journey to Excellence, these being:

The framework of quality indicators and performance measures included in Part 3 of this resource, How good are we now?, provides a complete set of tools for evaluating the key outcomes of your school and the extent to which it is meeting the needs of its stakeholders: children and young people, parents and families, the staff who work in and with the school, and the community it serves. You can use these indicators to answer six key questions about your school, questions which are also used by other organisations to evaluate their work. The questions provide a common framework for evaluation shared by all staff who provide services for children. The six questions are:

  • What have we achieved?
  • How well do we meet the needs of our school community?
  • How good is the education we provide?
  • How good is our management?
  • How good is our leadership?

And finally

  • What is our capacity for improvement?

I also think this might be the format we could use for next year's Standards and Quality Report – schools should also be considering this approach.

The title of this post is silent mentoring. This has been an idea I've been playing around with for a few weeks and it goes something like this. If you are prepared to keep a blog (you need not be a current blogger) and you would like me to comment on it as a “critical friend” via confidential e-mail then contact me. I'll promise to comment on your blog on a weekly basis – first six volunteers will be accepted. One place is already taken. Any other willing silent mentors out there?

Last point – check out
Ewan MacIntosh's blog and the dialogue he is generating about exc-el – please comment there.

Determined to Succeed

Friday 23rd June

Diary: 8.15 Quality Impovment Team Update; People Strategy meeting with Alan Blackie, Clare O'Sullevan and Alan Ross; Department briefing; then into dinner jacket and bow tie to go out to Preston Lodge High School to officiate at the
Determined To Succeed Awards event. Julia Robertson and her team of supporters had put on a spectacular (really) event. I was overwhelmed by the range of things which pupils, staff and local businesses had been doing over the past year. At one point in the proceedings I got a couple of nursery pupils who were up on the stage to come forwards with an S6 student. I think this exemplied the notion of the 3-18 curriculum in reality – these pupils had been involved in events in which they had been the prime movers – enterprising, determined and engaged. If we can build on this level of involvement and collective commitment then I think the future looks exciting.

Julia Robertson goes back to Preston Lodge High School next year – we will miss her in the office but what an assett to any school!

Back to the office for a few e mails and then an afteroon off!!

Pupil Dignity

Thursday 22nd June

Diary: 8.15 Last interviewee for Quality Improvement Officer position; out to Meadowpark School ( I can call it a school as they have now been inspected) which is our severe and complex needs unit. I joined the staff and pupils for their circle time and was humbled – as I am every time I visit the school – by the love and support which embodies the place, allied to a very professional and determined approach to ensure that 'education' takes place. Lorna McLeod, the “excellent” headteacher described how the concept of dignity underpins everything they do with the children. Even in the presence of children with profound needs, who do not understand language, they never speak about a child in their presence. When carrying out cleaning, supporting bodily functions or adminstrating extemely personal medication they treat every child with the dignity they deserve. In our recent Learning and Teaching policy we highlighted the importance of unconditional postive regard – Meadowpark's concept of pupil dignity surely exemplifies this notion in it's purest form. If you can try to arrange a visit to the school – it certainly puts our own challenges and frustrations into perspective.

Back to the office for a briefing from Julia Robertson for tomorrow's Detemined to Success event; Local Negotiating Committe for Teachers; meeting with a headteacher.

East Lothian Leadership Course

Diary: Secondary Head Teachers' meeting all morning; Ed&R with Ann Bissett; Quality Improvement Officer Interviews; home visit to an teacher.

The Secondary Head's meeting was productive – particularly a 45 minute slot where each head told us about developments in their S1/2 curriculum to match up with a curriculum for excellence. Janis Craig, Knox Academy, described the choice period they are offering all S1 pupils next session. It's scheduled for the last period on Fridays – 14 teachers have volunteered to participate, who offer a range of activities which pupils will opt for – I really liked the sound of this and it begins to break from some of the rigid limits we currently have on the curriculum – without throwing the baby out with the bath water. I won't go over the other contributions save to say that there are some very innovative things happening in all of our schools. We concluded the discussion by agreeing that schools need to be given the flexibility to develop their own solutions in accordance to the context within which they operate. Nevertheless, if we can share our practice – as we did today – the potential for picking up on others ideas is available within the framework we have provided through such things as the service improvement plan; the cluster based approach; the learning and teaching policy; our development planning guidance; and our quality improvement system.

The ED&R with Ann Bissett threw up an interesting idea – Ann had participated in a very positive learning experience when she went on a week's leadership course in England two years ago. It triggered a thought – could we develop a similar type of experience using the range of exepertise we have in East Lothian? – we certainly can't afford to send all of our leaders on such courses. The question is could we set up a leadership course – let's say for five days – open it up to other authorities and other professions but over the period of a number of years give a large number of our own staff the chance to access such an experience? It could pick up on change management, coaching, outdoor education, solution focussed training, project management, and ????? What do you think? It might even generate income which we could use to support our own staff development programmes?

Homepage – as you'll see we are trying to describe Exc-el to people on our homepage – comments welcome – does it hit the spot? What would you expect to see?

Much more than just a website

Diary: Got into work at 7.00am to prepare for a meeting with Prestonpans councillors at lunchtime; Opened the Support for Learning Training Week at the Quayside, Musselburgh; Policy Forum Meeting at the council chambers – this is a meeting of councillors to discuss policy issues; met with Prestonpans councillors – discussed SELS and midyis data; Prestonpans Education Centre to demonstrate Exc-el to the Support for Learning teachers; back to the office for exc-el board meeting.


At the introduction to the Support for Learning week I reinforced the place of Learning and Teaching as the main focus for all schools – as such SfL teachers have a key role in helping to develop our practice and influencing the change process in our schools.

At the afternoon’s session I introduced the teachers to exc-el, with a particular emphasis upon weblogs. There followed an interesting discussion about blogging – “will it become compulsory?” + “how do I find the time?” Blogging is not compulsory – nor should it become so. People find the time if they feel it’s worth it. I think this is the key – I keep my blog because it is something I have found to be extremely worthwhile. This blog now extends to over 150,000 words since I started it in August – there’s no way I would have invested all that time if I didn’t feel it was worth it. Speaking to other bloggers it’s very much the same feeling – I’d encourage others to give it a go – certainly – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

We continued this theme at the exc-el board meeting – we had a discussion about the purpose of exc-el – as someone said “it's much more than just a website”. I know this sounds a bit over the top but it is about a distribution of power with a view to improving learning and teaching. We’ve changed the homepage of the site to reflect this through the following bulletpoints:

By taking part in exc-el you:

1. Are one click away from influence

2. Open a door on your own practice

3. Break free from your traditional boundaries

4. Learn from other's practice

5. Contribute to a dynamic conversation about learning and teaching

6. See education from a variety of perspectives

7. Become part of a vibrant community of learners

Ewan Macintosh will be writing up the key points from the meeting

Whitecraig Primary School

Diary: 8.15 Met with an unsuccessful candidate from Friday's interviews to give feedback. I've learned to take copious notes during interviews in order to help me give productive feedback; met with member's of Chief Exec's office to discuss a range of issues relating to the department; met with the unions and employee development to look at our plans for 360 degree competence framework for next session. Every one has agreed in principle to the system and we were looking at how we tie it into the employee and development and review system; met with Derek Haywood and Anthony Gillespie to go over budgets; met with Liz Morris and Gael Gillan of the EUIS and LNCT to agree agenda for the next LNCT meeting; out to Whitecraig Primary School for Sheena Richardson's ED&R, a tour of the school and a chat with the staff.

During my tour of the school I discussed the use of interactive whitecoards with John Dagger – Whitecraig is our only school to have one in every classroom. John showed me how he uses it in class and but I was even more amazed to see Primary 2 pupils keeping their own webpages – similar to Bebo but in a protected environment – I've asked John if he will keep a blog on his work in class – get in touch with him for more info'.

In my meeting with the staff I reinfrorced the dramatic improvements which have been made by the school in the last session. Some attainment levels have gone up by 20% and there is a tangible improvement in the ethos of the school – a real team success.. I mentioned how our focus is on learning and teaching in the authority and that this will relate well to the efforts being made by the school.

Sheena is currently one of the HTs who is participating in our coaching programme – she confirmed that this strategy is very useful and it will be important for us to build on this success next session.


Friday 16th June

Diary: Quality Improvement Team Update; Department briefing; Meeting with David Gilmour to plan further developments in Exc-el (P.S We have an Exc-el Board meeting this coming Tuesday at John Muir House 4.00 – if you'd like to be part of the discussions please accept this as an open invitation to attend – we should finish about 5.30pm); met with a teacher and their union rep; Sheila McKendrick to finalise questions for Acting HT interview; Ross High School Acting Headteacher Interviews.

I received an interesting e mail from a colleague and parent about some of the things I've been saying about technology and children's learning. In my recent conference presentation about
citizenship I referred to the fact that both my sons spend a lot of time of Bebo – I was making the point that this is voluntary, engaging, and enabled them to be part of a community – quite aside from the skills they were developing – schools need to tap into this engagement or their learning environment will become ever more distant from the reality which children experience in the outside world.

Here's the e-mail (I have been given permission from the writer to post it here) – comments welcome:

"Had a thought on the engaged/not engaged at school item. I think that it
can be the case that young people become disengaged because the web
world they inhabit- and some are there for many hours a day- is more
about their agenda than the education agenda? Does that make sense? If a
person can spend time designing/creating/talking to friends etc on a
page on the web maybe this 'zones them out' for the hard lesson that
learning isn't always about what they want? If we could gain a balance
between the technology and the teaching maybe we could reel these
youngsters in again? I often think that young people expect a lot
because that is what the rest of the world says they should have. The
culture of being successful and 'be all you can be because you can' is
misleading. What is success? Money? I often chat to my children about these web items and I think it is
about balance of time spent on it – we also live in an 'instant' world
nowadays. Do you know who your children text/talk to? I don't anymore!
Mobile phones take care of that. Visual stimuli are what they want to
have – they can become desensitised as well – life doesn't affect them
as it happens in isolation – in their rooms or alone somewhere. Parents
worry that they will log on to do some research and end up being
sidetracked into a chat place. I have always encouraged the thought that a bit of graft and a set of
good results will offer choice – the more choice we have as we leave the
world of school will allow us to 'be all we can be'. This isn't what it
should be but the wide world is a hard place and that is how we are
often judged. Choice is important. One path is not always best.
Adaptability is a good thing."

I won't offer my response at this time – but it's great to get such feedback about posts on my blog. It's just this kind of dialogue that helps to shape our practice and future policy.


Colin Sutherland

Chief Officer's Group Meeting this morning – this involves the chief officers from health, police, education and children's services. Our task is to ensure co-ordination of our various roles to help support young people and their families. We had a discussion about our capacity to write the integrated childrens' services plan. In the last few years the main responsibility for drawing together the plan has been taken up by childrens' services. We explored a number of ways in which this burden could be distributed or given to a "lead officer" who we might appoint using our changing childrens services fund. I wasn't too keen on this idea as I feel that there is a danger that all parties merely hand over responsibility to the individual and integration only happens in name only. I'm also dead set against plans which take weeks to put together but have very little impact on our practice. Before I could stop myself I had volunteered to take the lead role to draw up the plan. I'd like to discuss an alternative approach towards integrated childrens' service planning with the Scottish Exec'. We will discuss this further at Directorate level.

Lunch with Colin Sutherland, currently seconded to the Scottish Executive to manage the STACS programme, from his post as headteacher at North Berwick High School. I was fascinated to hear from Colin how they plan to change the ways in which schools are grouped into comparator schools. It sounds like the new system will be a lot fairer – I won't list them hear as I don't know if this is common knowledge – is it Colin? We also explored how we might link some of Colin's work with our SELS project – we discussed the possibility of trying to find correlations between pupil opinions and outputs from schools – hopefully Colin can join one of our sub-groups which will emanate from our 3-18 Learning and Teaching Strategic Group.

Back to the office for quick meeting to prepare for next week's LNCT meeting. then out to Gullane Primary School for an ED&R (employee development and review) with Maureen Tremmel. I was really impressed by the school and enjoyed discussing a wide range of issues with Maureen – I don't know who gets more out of these meetings – me, or the person getting the ED&R?

Here's a first go at the
MMM model I've had a go at three plans using the multiple metaphor outlines. The green infill indicates priority ways of approaching the task. The next stage would be to write a narrative for each of the plans.


Managing Change model

TUESDAY 14/6/06

The day was taken up with a meeting with Donald McGillivray of the Association of Hedteachers and Deputes Scotland – Donald wanted to go over some of the concerns his members had about some of the documentation which had gone out to schools recently about staff representative groups. We managed to clear things up and I'll be writing out to schools with confromation at our next LNCT (local negotiating committee for teachers).

Then on to the last nursery/primary headteachers' meeting of the sesssion – we were able to reflect upon the incredible amount of wiork we have got through in the past year. I was particularly pleased to hear how postive people were about the new development planning process we've put in place.

Finance meeting with anthiny Gillespie and Derek Haywood – there are still some issues to clear up about the next year's budget but hopefully all will be completed by this time next week.

Departmental Management Team meeting in the afternoon – it's the function of this group to look at matters which link education and children's services. Sheila Ainslie explained what's happening with ELIS – East Lothian Inclusion Service – this has real potential to become a much more significant part in our better integrated services plans.

I managed to get an hour and half at my desk – and had a few quick meetings with folk who popped in to see me. One of whom was Tom Renwick, a former colleague, who now runs Maths on Track

I couldn't update my blog last night – some technical problem – but spent an hour playing aroundwith the
multiple metaphor model of change and trying to develop a planning tool which people could use to set out a strategy for complex change projects. I'll post the model here in the next few days.