Standards and Quality Reports

I’ve been working on our Departmental Standards and Quality Report. I’m trying to set up a template which can be used by schools – with a view to reducing workload but improving the impact it makes.

One of the other differences is that I’ve used this blogging platform to present the plan on-line. There will be a front page with links for people to drill down if necessary. I’ll post a link here in a c ouple of days.

The key to the approach we’re developing is making use of the statements for quality indicators and using highlighter to show if we have evidence, possibly have evidence or just don’t agree, e.g.

How well do we meet the needs of our stakeholders?
QI 2.1 Impact on learners

This indicator relates to the impact of the education service on learners, including pre-school children, school-aged pupils and adult learners, focusing in particular on their current experiences. 


From this analysis – and in light of an absence of some data – we would score this as a 4 (Good).

Principal Teacher Conference

We have finalised the date for the Principal Teacher Conference for the Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th February. Invitations will be coming out next week to all PTs (nursery, primary and secondary)

The event will begin on Friday afternoon – with a keynote address and some time for discussion; then dinner in the evening.

The Saturday will probably have three sessions and finish about 3.30pm.  

The conference theme will be PTs as “Leaders of Learning” with an emphasis upon leading Learning and Teaching; A Curriculum for Excellence; our emerging strategy for developing the skills of Principal Teachers; Networking; Subject development; and links between PTs working 3-18.

We would welcome your suggestions for sessions. 

Development Planning

I met recently with the representatives of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland (AHDS)

The association is concerned about the development planning process:

“Unfortunately, the reality for many
headteachers and staff is that Development Planning has been reduced to a mechanistic tick-box exercise which fails to address genuine needs of the school.”

I’m sympathetic to this concern although our recent move to the five questions approach has reduced the bureaucratic tick box experience. Our questions are:

1. What do you want to do?

2. Why do you want to do it?

3. How are you going to do it?

4. When are you going to do it? and

5. What difference will it make to children’s learning?

If we can’t answer question 5 in a positive manner it should not be on the plan.

We are in the process of putting together our next Service Improvement Plan and will be asking ourselves the same question (i.e. 5) for each of the priorities we identify.

Seven Sides of Educational Leadership

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to make a presentation at the Association of Directors of Education Scotland  (ADES) Conference on the multiple metaphor model, which I’ve been developing over the last ten years as part of my on-going research into educational leadership and cultural change.

It was a daunting prospect to present to such a group but I was delighted by the positive response I received. So much so that it has given me the confidence to formalise the approach into “The Seven Sides of Educational Leadership”.


The background to this project has been my Ph.D thesis entitled “Schools as Learning Organisations: From Theory to Practice”. I started this ten years ago as an Assistant Head Teacher at Berwickshire High School. My thesis was written from a practitioner researcher perspective so when I was promoted to Selkirk High School after a couple of years I started from scratch in my new school. Unfortunately – or fortunately – I was promoted from Selkirk High School after three years – having taken a one year break due to family reasons during that period. Starting as a Head Teacher at Dunbar Grammar School I left my studies behind until a couple of years ago when I approached  Edinburgh University to recommence my studies – once again events conspired against me to get into my studies and I thought that was the end of things.

So what was I left with – 80,000 words of research diaries, literature reviews and discrete chapters of an unfinished thesis?

I now realise that I’ll never finish my project in the form that I had envisaged but my recent experenice with ADES has given me the impetus to develop my work into “The Seven Sides of Educational Leadership”. I’m going to have a go at writing a book on-line with a view to eventual publication. I’d welcome contributions as the work takes shape.

I’ve given myself 12 months to complete the book – so excuse the early work.

Sharing expertise

We had two requests today for members of our team to provide training for other authorities. This is very flattering and we would very much like to help our colleagues. The “however” is our capacity – or should that read lack of capacity to free our staff to help other authorities. In common with other authorities we feel we need to focus our attention on our own business, i.e. our own schools. We’re more than happy for people to come and visit but there is a limit to the number of times an individual can leave their main duties behind.

I raised this point this afternoon with our inter-authority consortium – Midlothian, East Lothian and Scottish Borders – where we are exploring various areas where we can work in partnership with our neighbours.

The question is how do we release the undoubted knowledge residing in local authorities without it having a negative impact upon their core business? Technology? Payment? LTS acting as brokers? Setting up a company?

ICT twin dimensions

We held our Education Policy and Performance Review Panel (PPRP) meeting today in Preston Lodge HIgh School.

The panel consists of elected members who scrutinise the work of the Education and Children’s Services.

We met in the school to show elected members how ICT policy is translated into action in our schools.

We looked at two very different examples:

  1. The first was a demo’ of the interactive whiteboard in a maths classroom. This looked at how technology was assisting and enhancing learning and teaching.
  2. The second was a visit to the art department to look at some digital animation and a film produced by students about the holocaust – one of the most exceptional films I’ve ever seen – regardless of who was the producer.

The councillors were very impressed and the visit proved so worthwhile that we intend to make school visits a regular feature of the PPRP programme.

Thanks to all at PLHS.

Promoting good behaviour – a tipping point

If learners aren’t paying attention they can’t learn. If they are being distracted by others in the class they can’t learn. It follows that for learning to take place then there must be a purposeful and focused environment in the classroom.

I was talking with a couple of colleagues this week about classroom behaviour and how it sits with our commitment to treat all learners with “Unconditional Positive Regard”. From a personal point of view there is nothing more important than classroom behaviour which supports effective learning. I don’t see any conflict between our commitment to unconditional positive regard and tackling bad bahaviour. In fact I think for us to ignore bad behaviour lets all children down – including those who are misbehaving.

There are many factors which play a part in encouraging good behaviour – e.g. an appropriate curriculum; good planning; enthusiastic teaching; appropriate pace of learning; effective assessment; reward systems; clear expectations; consistent application of these expectations in the classroom;  and the consistent application of expectations across a whole school.

It is the last of these points which I think is the most important. I remember when we went through a difficult time with a particular year group at Dunbar Grammar School. The tipping point came at a principal teachers meeting where we agreed to implement a totally consistent approach with this year group regarding our expectations and sanctions. As a senior management team we set out to support the staff in a variety of ways. Part of that was to adopt a zero tolerance approach towards low level classroom disruption – we used the human rights act as a lever with the pupils by explaining that the rights of an individual pupil – who wishes to disrupt a lesson – do not take precedence over the rights the majority who wish to learn.  However, the thing that made the biggest impact was the fact that all members of staff “bought in” to what we were doing – when things are applied consistently across a whole school it does make a real difference.

As a consequence I ended up excluding some pupils for very minor misdemeanors – such as answering back to a teacher. These exclusions were often only for a half day with the pupil returning the next day. The most important thing was the readmission meeting which involved the parents or carers. The result was a significant transformation in pupil behaviour – and the subsequent quality of learning. 

I’ve never been in favour of long term exclusions – they should not be used as punishments. However, we do need to drop our tolerance threshhold regarding low level disruption – there’s a really interesting section in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” where he described how New York tackled violence in their subway by adopting a zero tolerance approach – the effects were remarkable.


Amity 11: Blogging – a window on another world

I was captivated by the recent BBC series which tracked some our North Sea fishing fleet who fish out of Peterhead. Not least because the Doric was the dialect of my father and his family.

Since then I’ve been keeping up with Captain Jimmy Buchan’s blog. As an outsider I now have some understanding of the challenges and realities of his job.

This is often a forgotten benefit of keeping a blog – it provides a window on another person’s world – at a time when we are all so wrapped up in our own particular worlds. I think that’s why I’m so keen for different  stakeholders (there’s that word again!) keeping a blog on education from their perspective.

If you want to keep a blog contact David – it’s very easy and requires no techincal expertise (honest!)

Google Scholar

I had a day off today to catch up on some family duties. Whilst up in Edinburgh I had spare couple of hours and popped into the Central Library – I’ve always loved that building.

After searching through some reference books on leadership I sat down at a computer and searched for links on metaphor/leadership/change – I didn’t get much through the library links – most academic sites, like ERIC or JSTOR require registration – which costs.

I popped in a search through Google and was surpised when I came across Google Scholar – this gave me access to many books and papers – without cost. It enables the reader to access certain chapters of books – prior purchase. It’s great and I recommend it for anyone involved in academic study.

Learning and Teaching: Strategic thinking

We had two meetings on Wednesday which hopefully characterise the way we are trying to work in East Lothian.

The first was a meeting of our 3-18 Strategic Learning and Teaching Group. The focus for the meeting was how we ensure consistent implementation of our Learning and Teaching policy. One of the options was to issue a dictat that all teachers must implement every part of the policy “now!” – “if it’s policy then people should be doing it” What we reflected upon was that if we are serious about consistent implementation then it must happen as part of a development process and that it would be undermined by any attempt to “quick fix” It was interesting to hear that some HMIe inspections are picking up practice in schools – such as sharing learning intentions – but that when teachers are asked why they are doing it they have little understanding.

It was really helpful to have two teachers in our group who are members of the Learning Team intitiative – they both stated that it has taken them some considerable time to develop their practice to accommodate the thinking which underpins formative assessment. In their opinion we need to give all colleagues similar time and support if their teaching is to develop. Our decision was to see this year as a familiarisation of the policy and that we will focus on some key parts of the policy in the new session 07/08. There is some great work going on in our schools in relation to developing learning and teaching and we all felt it was important to recognise these efforts.

What is not negotiable is any practice which does not reflect our core principles – unconditional positive regard; learners must be engaged for learning to take place; and the development of learning is collaborative process.

The second meeting was the last of our secondary PT seminars. We have agreed to set up a PT conference for primary and secondary teachers in March to develop our PTs as Leaders of Learning Strategy. Another suggestion which went down very well with all PTs was the concept of learning partners where a primary and a secondary teacher are linked together as collaborative learning parteners with a focus on the learning and teaching process. What is happening more and more is that some of our main strategic decisions are being made collaboratively.