Study Deposit Account

piggy bank

When I was a  head teacher I used to say to pupils that studying was just like putting money in the bank. 

A few years ago I turned this idea into reality when I experimented with the Study Savings Account.

You deposit the hours and make the withdrawal at exam time.  I used this system with my sons and they both seemed to benefit. The response from those pupils at Dunbar who used the system was very positive and I recently met a boy who left school a couple of years ago who is now using the same system at university: see it here –study-deposit-account.doc

 Feel free to modify as you please.

West Barns Primary School

I visited West Barns Primary School (Dunbar) this afternoon.

Reading for INfromation

Bridge Building Challenge

The Bridge

 What do I do next?

  Personalised learning intentions

Weekly reminder

 ICT teamwork

In the course of my visit I found out more about Active Learning from Karen Prudence and had a very stimulating chat with Kay Chapman the PT about how we extend children’s writing ability – get in touch with her if you want to follow up on any of the ideas you see here.

I followed this with a meeting with HT Dave Wharton – we explored the relationship between formative assessment and summative assessment. Dave has strong opinions about how attainment extends beyond summative tests such as national tests for levels.  I have sympathy for that point of view but repeated some of the recent ideas I’ve been exploring on this blog – it’s great to be able to work with colleagues like Dave who bring incredible experience and passion to their work.


SELS session at Knox Academy

I was invited to the Haddington Cluster to speak about our Student Evaluation of Learning System (SELS) . Watch a flash presentation on SELS here or the quickstart manual here

If you have a login and password you could access the Knox Academy questionnaire here at Knox Academy survey – on the other hand – if you don’t you won’t.

All East Lothian schools have this system in place to enable a robust self-evaluation process.

Here’s an actual table of results:

SELS table

Secondary School Guidance Systems


Throughout my career I’ve been impressed by a succession of outstanding Guidance Teachers. Without fail they are driven by a commitment to support and help children and to solve any crisis which comes their way.

However, (you were waiting for that) does the system which has been in place for so many years – certainly throughout my career – need to change? “But surely it has changed – just look at how structures have changed with faculty heads, first line guidance structures, tracking and monitoring, inclusion teams, etc, etc?”

I would concede that superficial changes have been made and maybe that’s been enough. But I’ve been reading For Scotland’s Children again there are a number of things in that report which we should be considering – and upon which we should make a judgement.

It’s really to do with targeting services – in a time when resources are under pressure and schools need more and more support to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families can we continue with the existing dominant Guidance model which characterises most of our secondary schools?

For Scotland’s Children challenges us to target services:

“Each children’s services plan should set out how two main aims will be achieved:

  • Providing excellent universal services for all
  • Targeting additional services to meet need and reduce inequalities.”

The recent report into Guidance and Pupil  Support in Schools identified two models of Guidance:

Two models of organising guidance/pupil support emerged from the case studies: one, we have referred to as an ’embedded’ approach, and the other relies on the deployment of specialist guidance/pupil support staff. The primary and special school case studies all embedded pupil support within the school, its ethos, policies and practices. Primary and special school teachers all viewed pupil support as an integral part of their professional role and an integral part of learning and teaching. In contrast, guidance/pupil support in the four secondary school case studies relied on different variations of a ‘specialist model’  8.2.4

What is interesting is that the researchers found no evidence to suggest that one model was better than another:

“There is no evidence from this study than one way of organising guidance/pupil support was more or less successful than any other. Pupils and their parents were equally satisfied with the model they had experienced. We found no association between approaches to guidance/pupil support and absence levels or attainment.”8.2.9

Nor was there any evidence to show that changing the model of guidance/pupil support necessarily encouraged more pupils to discuss their problems/issues of concern with guidance staff, but that it merely redistributed the caseload to more and different members of staff.

The Report noted that Guidance/pupil support is costly:

Although providing a cost and benefit analysis is beyond the scope of this current study, it is evident that many teachers believe that guidance/pupil support is making increasing demands on schools and teachers’ time at the expense of valuable teaching time. The value for money of alternative approaches to guidance/pupil support needs exploring. 8.3

The last sentence in this bullet point under implications of the report needs to be properly considered. My own gut feeling is that we should be considering more of an ’embedded’ structure more akin to primary or special schools as oppsed to a ‘specialist’ model. I don’t believe that all pupils need a dedicated Guidance Teacher, nor do I think that PSE should be delivered as a separate subject – it should be embedded in the curriculum. All pupils should have a link with a teacher – and there are numerous ways in which this can be acheived thgough the development of  systems where all pupils have an entitlement to support when required.

The report considers Generalist Versus Specialist Teachers and found that pupils were equally satisfied with each.

In  my next post I’ll explore some alternative models which might enable us to target our resouces more effectively upon those pupils who are the greatest need.

Children’s Panel

Children's Panel

I was invited to address the members of East Lothian Children’s Panel this evening.  We spoke for 90 minutes about how we approach attendance, exclusions and inclusion in our schools.

A key theme which emerged in the course of the evening is the perception that there are still issues to do with consistency between how our schools approach each of these complex issues.  I explained how our 5Cs Consistency; continuity; collegiality; creativy; and collective responsibility are addressing these issues.  I was delighted to be able to refer to the HTs’ Conference last week where we explored the issue of attendance and how we share good practice and work effectively with other agencies with the aim of promoting a consistent approach.

If you would like to volunteer to serve as a panel member I would urge you to download an application from the above link – you would be made most welcome. It was interesting to see that several teachers are Panel members.

St Martin’s RC Primary School


I visited St Martin’s Primary School today.  I’m going to start to photograph some of the practice I see in our schools. This board took my eye sharing the principles of “A Curriculum for Excellence” with pupils.

P1 Learning Intentions

I liked this sharing of Learning Intentions with infant pupils using graphics.


The school’s befrienders wear a cap each day. This enables younger pupils to know who they can approach.  The P7s liked their caps and the duty rota.

 What WE are learning

Pupils got to choose what they would learn.  I asked the class why they did this and I got a great answer – “you might already know that” -silly

Our Nursery Day

Our Nursery Day

 I can

Each week a different pupil gets the “I Can” board – this is all collated and then put into a learning log.

 Nursery ICT

Age is no barrier!

 Parents' comments

This is used at every parents’ evening where parents write comments and post them up on the board.

Extreme Learning Exemplar – “Where do Gannets go for Christmas?”


I started writing an extreme learning project by using a blog with questions which would lead learners through the process.

After trying it out it became obvious that this is far too restrictive – what we need are lots of exemplars which learners can use to shape their own ideas.

I’d welcome your help to shape up our first Extreme Learning project

If you would like user rights to enable you to contribute to the project just drop me a line.


I’ve had some great feedback from head teachers this week about the swapshop session we ran at the recent head teachers’ conference. I think the photos show how engrossed people were in sharing their ideas. Take, for example, this photo showing Willie Galbraith HT Preston Lodge HIgh School and Anne Burke, HT Lorretto RC Primary school.


As a child (perhaps that should read teenager) of the 70’s my Saturday mornings were incomplete without with Noel Edmunds Multi-Coloured Swapshop.

Our swapshop idea required each head teacher to write down ten things they were doing in their own school to develop learning and teaching. After 5-10 minutes they were asked to move from their table and find another HT. Their task was to find as many other ideas which did not appear on their existing list – with a view to finding as many ideas as possible. They kept moving around the until time was called.  The winner had amassed a total of 26 ideas – including her own – well done Sheene Richardson – the bottle of wine is on its way. 

The result was incredible – far better than anyone might have imagined – and certainly worth remembering!!

Last point – as a result of this experience a number of HTs have arranged to go to visit their colleague’s school – most of which are outwith their immediate community. We talked about the positive impact such visits can have upon a school to have a visitor come to see good practice – a real example of win-win!

Developing Principal Teachers


Over the next few weeks we’ll be meeting with principal teachers from all of our secondary schools (we’ve already met with primary PTs and all schools’ depute heads). These meetings take place from 4.30-5.45pm and PTs opt into the opportunity.The first meeting took place this week and we enjoyed a very productive chat about how we go about developing PTs’ leadership skills. It looks like over 80% of  PTs have already opted into the voluntary programme – which is very encouraging.

Through “Curriculum for Excellence ” we have identified funding to help develop our PTs as ‘leaders of learning’. A key outcome of the meetings with PTs will be to shape that strategy.  It was interesting that none of the PTs who attended this week thought that the programme should require significant time out of school – even if cover could be provided – they want to be in their schools!

So what might be the alternatives? One of the things I talked about with Professor Richard Kerley, Vice Principal of Queen Margaret University College was the possibility of developing a leadership module for “Middle Managers” (how I hate that term!) in conjunction with ourselves. The module – which would be a part of a masters management programme – would adopt a blended learning approach with materials being available of the web and also involving face-to-face contact. The focus of the module would be upon leadership and management – and unapologetically focus on these to the exclusion of any educational content.

If we could match such a course – which might also be open to PTs from outwith East Lothian and other similar level managers from other fields – with some educational input we felt that there would be a significant demand.

Perhaps we could use of some of the funding to invest in developing a quality product for our PTs and other prospective leaders?

A key tenet of the programme would be to challenge the notion/assumption of the Leader as Superman – or Superwoman for that matter!!