Is it safe?

We had been out at the weekend and I met two teachers who work in different local authorities – neither of which are East Lothian.

One teacher talked about their authority’s Curriculum for Excellence co-ordinator and the other referred to a School Review which she was going back to after the holidays. It made me think about what we do in comparison:

Curriculum for Excellence

  • What some other authorities do  –The Curriculum for Excellence Co-ordinator chimed with something which had been referred to in TESS a couple of weeks ago, in that most authorities now had a dedicated co-ordinator for Curriculum for Excellence.

  • What we do in East Lothian – We’ve gone for making a Curriculum for Excellence the responsibility for all of our authority team – myself included. 

  • Why we do it ? – We hope to permeate the thinking which underpins a Curriculum for Excellence across everything we do in schools. We also think that by making a single person responsible for an initiative reinforces an impression that it exists in isolation from everything else.

  • Potential downside – By spreading responsibility across a number of people there is a danger that no-one actually takes on responsibility for such an important development.

School Review

  • What some other authorities do – The School Review, which is like a local authority inspection requires a formal visit to the school by a review team which will also include some peer reviewers.

  • What we do in East Lothian  – In East Lothian we don’t have a school review process – our alternative is to develop our validation process whereby we rely upon the school’s own self- evaluation and use our evaluation visits which take place throughout the year to validate that evaluation.

  • Why we do it? – We are trying to develop the process of self-evaluation in our schools as we believe that such honest and rigorous evaluation has much more potential long-term benefit than a process where school review is “done” to the school.

  • Potential downside – Schools don’t actively engage in rigorous and honest self evaluation.  Our validation process might not pick that up compared with a “mini-inspection” which might lead to some schools to provide a standard of education which might be unsatisfactory.

So to the question “is it safe?” The connection between this question and the above two strategies might seem obscure but I happened to watch Marathon Man last night.  There is a scene in the film where Sir Laurence Olivier tortures, for want of a better word, Dustin Hoffman, whilst asking a recurring question – “is it safe?”

In our business we often make decisions about health and safety and work out risk assessments for trips or other potientially dangerous activities. But some of our other strategic decisions also carry a risk – such as the two examples quoted above.  What if they don’t work? Perhaps we should be taking a line which reduces risk?


6 thoughts on “Is it safe?

  1. Having been on placement in East Ren recently, it seemed to me that ACfE was being placed into the hands of the teachers. My experience was of a subject specific group coming together across the authority and discussing the impacts for their subject, although I’m a bit ignorant as to the leadership of this – was there a single co-ordinator? However, although ‘risky’ I get the impression that most teachers want ‘guidance’ from someone who knows their subject/ area rather than someone who is ‘detached’.
    Despite this, I have heard that some people view the spread of responsibility as a ‘money saving’ exercise which puts too much strain on an already busy job!
    Also – (lol I go on a bit sometimes!), is it not dependent on the type of Authority? Surely something which is ‘risky’ for you is not for someone else – it seems that East Lothian is already fairly consultative in nature. If an Authority who has been dependent on a strictly directive approach it would be very unsafe for them to launch into a wide scale responsibility and vice versa. Is it not dependent on local history, knowledge etc?

  2. I’ll try not to remember that image while visiting my dentist tomorrow and think about the CfE instead that should calm my nerves!

  3. One of the main strands of Islay High School’s ‘School of Ambition’ bid is the development of leadership.
    The ethos of this is to let the individual’s with particular skills and interests take the leadership role.
    Some personal conclusion’s so far are that you need a ‘leader’ to move something forward but that leader does not need to be the HT, SMT or even a staff member. Just the individual who will take the project forward.
    This seems to fit into neither of the models you describe above but somewhere in between.
    To answer the question ‘Is it Safe?’. I found have ask, ‘Define safe’.
    Is it safe to do nothing? To leave everyone within an organisation doing what they do because that is what they have always done?
    Risk has to be identified, defined and assessed but that risk should be compared with doing nothing.

  4. I really should read before clicking submit………
    To answer the question ‘Is it Safe?’. I found have ask, ‘Define safe’. should read To answer the question ‘Is it Safe?’. I have to ask, ‘Define safe’.

  5. By saying:

    “We’ve gone for making A Curriculum for Excellence the responsibility for all of our authority team – myself included.”

    you imply that the coordinator in those other authorities has that same responsibility.
    If they do, then they’re more than coordinators: they’re responsible for developing the new curriculum arrangements in their authorities.
    If they don’t, and the role is literally to coordinate, then there’s another issue besides reinforcing “an impression that (ACfE) exists in isolation from everything else”.
    That issue is a quality one, acceptance of defective processes for developing ACfE arrangements, and it may be more important. Pressure to appoint coordinators typically emerges where mismatched processes give rise to a situation that’s perceived as a problem. Although a successful coordinator may manage the symptoms, this is a sticking plaster solution. It’s inefficient, because the coordination takes valuable time and effort, and ineffective, because it doesn’t target the underlying cause.

  6. Have a look at

    It will go someway to supporting CFE Co-ordinators and help SQA plan how the new world might be assessed.

    Please join the debate on Curriculum for Excellence and Core Skills for the Future

    enrolment keys are “Excellence” and “Framework” respectively

    All the best


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