Exc-el – a worldwide resource?

I received these posts from Hilary Holt – the message says everything – Over to you David

Subject: information please!
Date: Sat 20/1/07 6:47 PM
From: “Hilary Holt”
To: dledingham@eastlothian.gov.uk
I read a reference on your blog that the East lothian site had information by Maureen Grainger and Claire Sime of Educational Psychology Service  summarising educational theories.
I have looked at the site but could not find this information…I wondered if you could give me more details.  I am researching information to help a friend who is currently studying a NVQ level 4 Child development
best wishes
Hilary Holt

Subject: Re:  information please!
Date: Sun 21/1/07
From: “Ledingham, Don” <dledingham@eastlothian.gov.uk>
The link is http://www.exc-el.org.uk/content/index.php/main/teaching_and_learning/everything_you_wanted_to_know_about_teaching_and_learning_but_were_afraid_to_ask
I hope this helps

Subject: Re:  information please!
Date: Sun 21/1/07 7:47 PM
From: “Hilary Holt”
To: “Don Ledingham”
Many thanks for such a speedy response! It is an excellent site, but I
wonder if your webmaster could add some more tags so that a wider audience
would find it…though maybe that’s not what it has been designed for.
I am living in Portugal where I used to teach and it is difficult to get
much information apart from on-line!
best wishes
Hilary Holt

Seven Sides

World_2Over the last few weeks I’ve been receiving some very interesting e-mails from educational leaders and researchers from throughout the world about the Seven Sides website . I’m constantly amazed how the internet can bring people together people who have common interests.

As a consequence of one of these suggestions I’ve revamped the site and hopefully made it more user friendly. As I’ve stated before this is very much work in progress – but even my brother has given his approval – strange indeed!

Extreme Learning Update

We reconvene our Extreme Learning Group in late February.

Over the last couple of months we’ve been playing around with an on-line Extreme Learning project. Hopefully this will be completed by the time we meet but it has been useful in enabling us to try out the theory and smooth out some of the technical and educational challenges presented by the concept.

I recently met with David Gilmour – our Exc-el guru – to explore the development of Extreme Learning templates. The idea would be that we can set up a variety of templates which pupils could use to give shape to their project and be tailored to their ability – differentiation in action!  The obvious progression is to make the templates gradually more dependent upon the pupil’s judgement and expertise but to provide a fairly closed environemnt for the first attempt.

By the time of our next meeting we hope to set these templates up and be ready to try them out with a variety of pilot groups of learners in schools and community groups.  If you think you would like to work with a group of learners on a voluntary Extreme Learning Project drop me a line.

Zero Tolerance does not = zero bullying

I’ve received a very heartfelt comment from an East Lothian parent to my recent reply to a “Parent with standards”

An extract reads: “Firstly, your office may well pass down a zero tolerance policy to the schools but it is not what happens on the ground. Bullying is tolerated in the sense of ineffective warnings issued to the culprits and the problem grinds on for months and years.”

The parent is right that a zero tolerance policy does not mean that bullying does not take place in our schools. In fact bullying will be happening in every one of our schools. However, I’d have to dispute your next assertion:

“Bullies exist for various psychological and sociological reasons related to their home environment.”

In my experience there is little correlation between home environment and being a bully – bullying can happen in our most exclusive private schools just as easily as it can in school situated within an area of deprivation.

 I’m ashamed to admit it but I can look back with sorrow at the way I treated a boy when I was in primary school. He was ‘different’ and we must have made his life hell through physical and verbal abuse. What I remember about it – and this does chime with one of your points – the school didn’t seem to do anything about it – even though it must have been obvious. Another aspect of this experience was that I had no empathy for the boy in question – but if an adult had helped me to understand how the other person felt I think I would have stopped – for us it was fun!

This experience has been a driver for me throughout my career. Bullying must be challenged immediately, forcefully and in a sustained manner – not in an “anti-bullying week” fashion.

Throughout my career in senior management positions I’ve set out to tackle bullying ‘head-on’ and I have to admit that it is one of the most challenging and difficult areas of the job. Nevertheless, there can be no tolerance – that’s why I’m keen that we tackle bullying outside the school gates and outwith the school day if it involves our pupils (I’ve excluded pupils who were proven to physically bully a fellow pupil outside school and outwith the school day).

I suppose that’s where I take different tack from you on the notion of policing. Playground supervision is important and most of our senior managers in schools spend a great deal of time patrolling their schools at break times to ensure good order. But if we only rely upon a policing approach then what happens as soon as I turn my back?  – the answer is obvious – the bullying continues.

I believe there are seven key strands to tackling bullying:

  1. Make it high profile and kep it high profile;
  2. Constantly reinforce the importance of a zero tolerance approach to all – that includes staff, parents and pupils;
  3. This zero tolerance approach means that they must report any bullying incidents immediately;
  4. Educate children about the impact of bullying on others and promote empathy;
  5. Build the anti-bullying culture into the fabric of the school;
  6. The school should challenge bullies immediately and without exception;
  7. Make our approach towards zero tolerance the responsibility of everyone in the school community – noty just teachers.

To return to the problem facing school managers – you sometimes need the wisdom of Solomon to judge who is to blame and whether it was bullying or mutual dislike and blame. Nevertheless, it is possible to make a judgement in most cases and to involve the parents of both parties as soon as possible.  Of course one of the problems facing schools is that few parents can believe that their child might be bullying another child – and there’s the rub – I believe that almost every child has the capacity to be a bully. I think we need to reinforce this point but the the counter to making bullying such a high profile and almost criminal issue that parents of otherwise very well behaved children recoil in protest when their own child might be accused of such an act.

Bullying is a fact of life – just look at the current furore in Celebrity Big Brother – we need to recognise that given the right conditions (or should that read wrong conditions) then bullying can flourish.  The role of schools is to create conditions and cultures where such bullying is not tolerated in any way and that everyone knows the consequences if it does happen.

We are taking our new anti-bullying policy to the Education Committee on Tuesday for approval and I’ll post a link here next week.

It is our goal to translate that policy into consistent practice in all our schools.

Please complain to your school if you feel that bullying has not been properly tackled.

Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology

I met Ian McGowan today who is one of the Directors of INPP in Scotland.

I was interested to find out more about this programme which I’d heard can have positive outcomes for children with Developmental, Specific Learning and Behavioural Difficulties.

I hope to invite Ian to Haddington to speak to him with some colleagues before we make any commitment to active involvement. However, I am convinced that motor difficulties can have a very negative impact upon a child’s development and that there is potential for using such programmes in an early assessment and intervention programme.

 I will back this up with a research literature review.

Parent with Standards


I’ve been getting some very interesting comments from a “Parent with Standards”. These comments have have been relating to bullying, bullying and good behaviour.

I agree with many of the points made in these comments but I’m intrigued by a couple of things to do with the choice of pseudonym.

Are you suggesting that there are very few parents with standards? or

Are you suggesting that we – in education – don’t have standards?

Either way I think you underestimate your peers and the teaching profession.  A recurring point you make throughout your comments is the need for Consistency.  You will be pleased to know that this is the first principle of our 5Cs which should characterise our approach to education in East Lothian – the others are Consistency; Collegiality; Creativity; and Collective Reponsibility.

You obviously have strong opinions about education and about bullying. Can I suggest a couple of options?

1. Why not start keeping a blog on exc-el – we only have one parent at the moment see guineapigmum; or

2. Contact me and we should meet to discuss your concerns.

Lastly – we do adopt a zero tolerance approach towards bullying and you should be complaining to your school if you feel it is not being tackled properly – or alternatively complain to me. You might be surprised but we actually welcome complaints  – it’s one of the key ways in which we can improve our service.

Midyis, PIPS and ASPECT

We made a decision last year to introduce Midyis baseline testing for all our secondary schools for a test which all S2 pupil sit. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been analysing the data and its has thrown up some very interesting results.

Such has been the success that we have now agreed to use the PIPs test for P5 and are now piloting a pre-school test.

All this data will allow us to identify any pupils who are obviously operating below their potential and enable us to actively track progress over their school career. Such information supplements the on-going assessments and judgements made by teachers.

We used Midyis at Dunbar Grammar School and it provided valuable supplementary information for parents and pupils when it came to course choice in terms if offering an accurate prediction of likely attainment at Standard Grade.

This example comes from New Zealand who have been using Midyis for many years: 

Lowest attaining 20%

At the Musselburgh Cluster meeting today we discussed our strategy for supporting the lowest attaining 20% of students in East Lothian.

We had a very stimulating debate about this issue and a number of questions emerged:

1. Is there a difference between the lowest attaining and those with the lowest ability?

We thought there was – it is possible to have low attaining pupils who have plenty latent ability but who underachieve due to a variety of complex variables

2. Are the lowest attaining 20% of pupils in East Lothian in the lowest attaining 20% of pupils in Scotland?

The statistics would suggest that they are not. In fact only around 5% of our pupils would make into the national group.

3. Will all the work – e.g. tracking, curriculum, planning. target setting, learning and teaching –  we are doing on raising the attainment of all pupils help our lowest attaining 20%?

We reckoned it will.

4. Can we identify children who at risk of failing later in school at earlier stage?

We all could – the tell-tale signs are all too obvious?

5. Could we identify the factors which contribute to a child being more likely to fail at school?


These questions linked with a discussion we had had earlier in the morning where we had spent time considering how the poor behaviour of a small number of pupils can have a detrimental impact upon the learning of many others.

We explored the possible impact of a strategy which looked to intervene snd support children and families at an early a stage as possible.  If it’s possible for a nursery teacher to say with confidence that a child will not be able to cope at secondary school why do we wait until that crisis emerges ten years later when it’s too late to do anything about it?

For our next meeting each HT will try to identify such vulnerable children in their school.  We will also look at some of the research about variables which exacerbate that vulnerability. Next we’ll consider some things we could do collectively to develop a strategy which operates through the age spectrum from 0-18 including how we engage with other agencies in the development of this strategy. Finally, we will look at some case studies of children in the secondary school who are now disengaged from the learning process and try to identify why and what might have been done to avoid this consequence.

Some of the words which characterised this discussion were “radical” , targetting”, collective action” and “partnership” – I have to admit to being uplifted by such a professional and solution focussed dialogue.

Principal Teachers: Leaders of Learning

Our response to the Curriculum for Excellence initiative has been to concentrate on developing the learning and teaching process. Part of that strategy is the forthcoming Principal Teacher’s Conference to be held on the 23/24th February.  We have 60 participants already signed up and hope to hit 80 by the end of next week.  This figure is remarkable given that the conference takes place in their own time and indicates the professionalism and commitment with which our teachers approach their work.

Our intention is to encourage much higher levels of engagement in the learning process by children and to promote deeper levels of understanding. The purpose of the conference is to give shape and form to our strategy by building upon the knowledge and expertise of our Principal Teachers.

The conference is split into four inter-connected parts:

Session 1. Using Appreciative Inquiry try to imagine what the learning and teaching process and the curriculum might look like in the future.

Session 2. Using the Engine Room approach work out what we need to do to allow that vision to be fulfilled.

Session 3. Using a Solution Focused approach establish how we might capitalise on our existing strengths to enable the actions identified in Session 2 to be achieved.

Session 4. Dragon’s Den: teams of delegates will have to come up with practical suggestions about how they would enable the solutions identified in Session 3 to be translated into reality.  The ideas will be presented to a group of ‘social capitalists’ who will judge likely success and award prizes.

Throughout the conference each group would have access to a laptop on which they would enter their ideas.  These ideas would be collated and used to from our strategy for the next couple of years.  It is likely that we will form a representative group of Principal Teachers who will take the ideas forwards in a strategic manner.