Citizenship Conference

I spoke at the Citizenship co-ordinators conference in Edinburgh this morning. The session was filmed so I might be able to post my first videocast some time soon. The response from the audience was fairly positive.

I attended a workshop session about philosophy for children. I liked the way the focus was upon teaching children to think – I believe this has potential in our schools and may link with our extreme learning ideas. Apparently Fife Council are also developing materials.

In the evening I attended the Ross High School Celebration of Success evening – a super night with the highlight being Helen Alexander's address.

School Openings

Started the day with a Directorate meeting.

All our secondary schools were officially opened this mornig. The main event took place at Knox Academy. First Minister Jack McConnell perfromed the ceremony which had been very wel organised by Janis Craig and her team. The pupils were a great credit to the school.

I went from there to Musselburgh Grammar to take part in their opening – followed by a tour of the school.

Back to the office for a great meeting of our 3-18 Assessment Group This group is going to renamed in the new session as the 3-18 Learning and Teaching Strategic Group – it will oversee a range of developments identified in our Service Improvement Plan. We identified a range of sub groups which will hopefully involve up to 40 teachers plus some pupils and parents depending upon the topic.

Filled my bag with three days worth of correspondence and left for home.



The conference finished at 1.00pm and my flight back home isn't until 5.30. In response to my original question about
value for money I would have to say that it has been – it's given me a bit of space to play with some ideas; listen to others; meet new people and experience Belfast – you must visit!! – the final judgement will probably be more difficult to measure as you never really know how your thinking has been changed by the ideas and conversations you've had.

I'm speaking at a Citizenship Co-ordinators meeting on Tuesday in Edinburgh – I thought I'd use this time to jot down some ideas for my presentation which is entitled "Promoting a culture of Citizenship" The conference theme is embedding citizenship.

I think I'm going to explore the concept of citizenship from two perspectives – pupils as citizens and teacher as citizens.

I'll kick off with a bebo screen shot of my sons' BOBO spaces – they live in a connected community – despite the fact that we live in rural environment. How does school prepare them for this reality – or even take account of it?

From there to this website and the community of teachers who are sharing their experiences via blogs. We are citizens – in our own schools but – and this is what excites me – to a larger community outwith our schools – i we could just connect people.

I'll then link these two forms of citizenship and argue that citizenship comes through engagement – there's no way I'll be a voluntary citizen unless I feel something for my community – in this case the school. I'll then suggest that engagement comes through empowerment – I have to have a voice! I have to have some ownership of what's going on and even more importantly I need to be able to see that my voice is being heard.

Then to blogs and comments and the SELS data we have been generating via on-line questonnaires with all P7 and S2 pupils in East Lothian – and how these voices are shaping what we do.

From there I'll jump to vehicles for citizenship – I'll make reference to things such as the Dunbar trip to the WW1 battlefields cemetries for all their S3 pupils and the impact it makes on them as citizens; sport; performing arts; uniform; outdoor education; play; social events.

Then reference to Gretna football club and their chairman's Brookes Milseon's perspective on their role in the community – let's call it organisational citizenship – are schools citizens of their community? – or does their membership stop at the gates?

I''ll then talk a bit about "tranfersable citizenship" or perhaps that should read non-transferable citizenship" – there are kids in our schools who are model citizens but who in the local community can cause havoc – why? surely we should expect the "skills" of citizenship to be transferable?

Finally, I'll ask about citizenship for all. How easy is it for a pupil who comes from a disadvantaged background to feel the same about his community as another person who has a more supportive home environment – in all the forms that that support might come?

My final word will be about the hook for citzenship is much more likely to take place for both teachers and pupils if they are treated with unconditional positive regard? Any comments? What's missing? – or am I off beam?


Managing Change

This morning’s session looked at strategies for managing ICT. I enjoyed listening to Kathleen Gormley, Principal, St Cecilia’s College, Derry. She is obviously and outstanding leader and provided and inspirational perspective on successful school leadership.

Kathleen outlined 6 steps of a strategic map for change. These steps were:

  1. Vision;
  2. Planning;
  3. Partnership;
  4. Development;
  5. Leadership;
  6. Learning Environment.

She then quoted Kotter 1996 “Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces satisfactory results”

On hearing Kathleen speak I don’t think she really sees these steps as being sequential or separate but the quote certainly gives that impression.

This set me to thinking – what is my strategic map for change?

My problem is that I see change as being messy – if you try to make it too rational and scientific I believe you are destined to fail. I thought back to how I led the change process as a headteacher and now as a Head of Education. I know this flies in the face of all accepted practice but I would like to suggest a multiple metaphor model for change management – MMM? (aghh mixed metaphors the English teachers cry!!!)

Please regard this as a work in progress and I’d love to hear from you if you have suggestions for amendments or additions – or if you just plain disagree.

My multiple metaphor model for change has seven metaphors – why seven? -well why not – it was the number which Alan McLuskey used yesterday, it worked for Steven Covey and there were seven brides for …..

My metaphors are:

  1. Gardening – with apologies to Vygotsky
  2. Sculpting
  3. House Building
  4. Child rearing
  5. Hill walking
  6. Inventing
  7. Belonging

Gardening – gardening needs long term thinking, we need to defer reward just as the gardener does with faith that our efforts will be rewarded; we need to spend time preparing the gound; there are environmental factors which conspire to ruin our crops; we need to tend our crop- weeding, supporting, feeding, watering and selective removal of plants which aren't flourishing; there is a reward at the end of the day but there is also pleasure to be had in the process – and so it can be with the process of collaborative change.

Sculpting – a sculptress has a vision; they are creative; they have an expertise; they adapt their ideas in response to the material they are working with; there is a finished product which people appreciate; the finished product might be very different from the original vision.

House building – we select a design or a commision an architect; we take affordablity, convenience, personal requirements into account; the build has a timescale; it involves integrating different groups with a variety of expertise; there is a snagging process once the build is complete and people have moved in.

Child rearing – I once wrote a piece of doggerel about my son and the pleasure I got from holding his hand:

Take your child by the hand

And hold the future there

Keep him upright if you can

Release him if you dare

Change management can be like this – we need to nurture, encourage, support, provide opportunities to succeed and fail; provide unconditional positive regard; and eventually release from our control.

Hill Walking – we might have a map, or we might have a guide, or just follow signposts; we use a compass to help us know which direction we are going in; we have appropriate equipment, foood and water, perhaps a means of shelter, a communication tool; we let people know where we intend to go in case we get lost – but the view from the top of the hill makes everything worthwhile.

Inventing – when faced with a need human beings have a capacity to invent a solution – Scots have a reputation as inventors; we need to be prepared to step into uncharted territory, use our expertise and come up with ways of doing things which have never been done before.

Belonging – people need to belong; we need to take pride in our comunity – Belfast has reinforced this with the people taking an enormous pride in their community; people are valued within their own community; a community shares values – above all a sense of belonging is built upon a mutual sense of trust.

For me change management is a sophisticated combination of all these metaphors where we might merge any number of them together to fulfil our goals.

I intend to develop these metaphors as The Seven Sides of Educational Leadership.


There were two very interesting presentations this morning. Alan McCluskey from the Swiss Agency for ICT in education spoke about The 7 tacit lessons which schools teach children:

  1. Knowledge is scarce
  2. Learning needs a specific place and specific time (lessons in classrooms)
  3. Knowledge is best learnt in disconnected little pieces (lessons)
  4. To learn you need the help of an approved expert i.e. a teacher
  5. To learn you need to follow a path determined by a learning expert (a course of study)
  6. You need an expert to assess your progress (a teacher)
  7. You can attribute a meaningful numerical value to the value of learning (marks, grades, degrees)

I really enjoyed Alan’s ironic exploration of the principles which do seem to underpin the schooling process. Alan’s encouraged us to question our existing practice and to challange ther tacit principles which seem to currently drive the curriculum and our teaching.

Alan was followed by Dr Jerry Weast, Superintentdent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Massachusetts.

This was a complete reverse of the previous speaker and for me provided an interesting contrast.

Jerry told us how his system is results driven, with measuring of attainment at regular intervals being critical in keeping parents and the public happy by being able to demonstrate continual improvement. This is important for Jerry, as without their support the funding would be restricted and they would lose teachers – who, he reinforced, were the critical components in the success of their education system.

In the ensuing debate I made a point and asked a question.

My point was to repeat a something I’ve mentioned on this blog before. I expressed my appreciation of the counterpoint provided by the two speakers. I mentioned that probably all of us in the audience would empathise with Alan’s seven tacit lessons and that we would wish to aspire to this potentially utopian view.

However, I recognised the reality which Jerry faced on a day to day basis. I then drew the link with how progressive education was dismissed as being ineffective because it did not have a positive impact upon attainment. The danger we face in our move towards Alan’s perspective is that the reactionary dark forces gather together to enforce a return to “traditional” teaching methodologies in which the tacit lessons underpin all practice.

My question to Jerry was how he would go about moving towards a learning system which reflected Alan’s utopia, whilst maintaining attainment levels. Jerry’s response concentrated on the need to satisfy his public who provide his funding – only 1 in 4 has any active engagement with education through having a child in school.

I actually think this gets to the heart of the challenge facing schools, education authorities and governments who all agree that they need to change to face up to our changing world – yet the reactionary forces are out there waiting to pounce at the first sign of any slide in what is perceived to be “good” practice. It’s the job of all of us to inform and engage with parents about the changes which are taking place in schools – we need to demonstrate that we can be trusted to change our practice and that their children won’t suffer. I know this sounds a bit to pragmatic for the revolutionaries out there but we need to evolve our practice in a well managed transformation – if we don’t then we haven’t learnt the lesson from the Progressive education.

So far so good

We are due to go off to Stormont Castle in half and hour but here are some thoughts which have struck me over the course of today.

I'll give more detail about the structure of the conference later but I don't have a good long term memory.

I may put these points down as separate entries when I get back but in the meantime here goes:

Do we need ICT co-ordinators (don't panic Karen) in schools? Do they provide a barrier to teachers engaging in ICT if it's someone elese's responsibility?

Could ICT co-ordinators be a limit to the growth of ICT use as it can only move as fast their capacity to support and lead? Could we create a more dynamic and enabling culture which encourages partnership, sharing and a more creative development culture where ICT is part of the Learning and Teaching Process as opposed to being something which exists outside that process.

During one of the talks someone talked about a "blended approach" – I like that in that it gets towards what we should aspire – i.e. both face-to-face and on-line engagement with learning.

The key to the future is the communication with other colleagues who share a common interest. If a teacher works in one school they might only have one or two people who are professional soulmates. It's possible through accessing people's blogs to find others who share a common perspective.

Should blogging be compulsory for all teachers? – why don't we ask all probationary teachers to keep a blog. Just as Guardian on-Line requires job applicants to have a web presence to judge their qualities as prospectiove employee then perhaps we could use blogs to from an important part of the selection process – or at least enable us to match up people with schools.

The danger with this is that pressure might arise from 'having' to keep a blog – However, the experience of keeping a blog would – arguably – prove to be a worthwhile professional learning experience.

Could we ask all those who wish to apply for promotion to keep a blog?

How about even setting applicants up with a blog which they would keep prior to being called for interview – even it was only for a week it would provide an insight into what makes the person tick – at the very least it would overcome some of the difficulties which are presneted through the traditional interview process.

Assessment of ICT capacities? – if a pupils can complete a project on-line, use photos, sound, text, correspond with others, search, select and use on-line resources – what else would they need to do?

I worry about spending all our time auditing the curriculum – particularly for ICT. Perhaps we should be enabling and empowering teachers as opposed to constntly checking for gaps and deficits in their practice.

Digital divide – the digital divide is a subset of the social divide – the digital divide is OUR problem.

Should we replace all desktops with laptops which pupils could take home?

How about a bi-polar approach towards change – i.e. both top down and bottom up. The top needs to enable and empower – the bottom needs to accept opportunities and innovate – it's a partnership!

I haven't had a chance to proof read this and no doubt some of the ideas are a bit off the wall but I don't want to lose anything.

Off to Stormont!



Value for money

Breakfast time in Belfast

I got into Belfast last night. The day had been taken up with a Directorate meeting from 8.15-9.30 – we made significant progress in the integration debate – then Education Committee in the morning. This was followed in the afternoon by scrutiny committee – we presented the SELS data on pupil opinion at P7 & S2. This information will prove to be critical over the next few years in helping us to plan and monitor developments in our service.

The title of this entry is value for money? Certainly some of my friends from home see this as a "jolly". Flights, accommodation and conference fees add up to a hefty sum. So I intend to try to make a judgement about the impact if the conference on myself and the strategic direction we are taking ICT in East Lothian.

The good thing about keeping a blog is that you can track how you have been influenced by certain events, meetings and people. My hope is that by Friday afternoon I'll be able to make a judgement one way or another. I'll try to update my blog throughout the next few days.

Off to breakfast.

PS I had a pint of the black stuff in The Crown – beautiful!!


I'm going to Belfast tomorrow for the
xchange conference.

I received this e mail today from Eddie Sloan – I'm sure he would welcome some responses from Scottish colleagues. I've invited him to keep a blog on Exc-el


Mon 5/6/06 4:50 AM


"eddie sloan" <>


Reply To:

Dear Don,

whilst looking at some educational blog sites I came across yours. My name
is Eddie Sloan and I'm a primary teacher in Adelaide, South Australia.
I thought I'd introduce myself.

I was born in Glasgow and came here when I was 8, that was 44 years ago.
I've been teaching here since 1976 and have seen some changes over that

I was looking at some of your blogs and felt that Scottish philosophies
may be similar to some of ours in Adelaide, eg. teaching for life long
learning and that we should teach students skills to learn not just expect
them to learn facts and figures.

Our state web site is called SACSA (South Australian Curriculum Standards
and Accountability) and has companion documents that may
be worth a look.

Eddie Sloan



Tuning in

Friday 2nd June

My Day – Education Officer's weekly update; team briefing; Stewart McKinnon, ED&R; North Berwick High School Leavers lunch; NBHS evaluation visit; a disciplinary hearing; my son's leavers' event at his school; Cath Purves' leaving do at Dunbar Grammar.

A busy day but one which was characterised by the fact that seven people admitted to reading my blog. It is all the more surprising in that I did not solicit that admission from any of them. You sometimes have to wonder about blogging but feedback like that does give you encouragement – name checks for Louise Holland and Alan Sommerville!

New blogging platform

We are experimenting with new blogging software.

I've had a go at setting up two new versions of Don's Blog

Don's Blog

Version 2
Don's Blog

We would hope to be able to set up users with accounts using either of the platforms. The only problem we can foresee is the search facility would be lost if blogs were held on another platfrom other than exc-el – am I right?