No posts for over a week but life has been something of a blur.
I’m probably earning my corn at the moment with some major challenges facing us in relation to efficiency savings having to be made in the education budget. Every meeting and piece of correspondence seems to be connected to this issue and I’ve got 100 letters on my desk from concerned parents of a primary school. One of the things which helps me to remain focused on the needs of children are my visits to schools and I was glad I made time to get out to Prestonpans Primary School.
I’m very lucky to be working with such professional people, in the form of staff in the centre and headteachers out in the schools. One of the things we have benefited from in the last 18 months has been our attempt to move to a totally transparent system in relation to budgets. People now understand how much we have in our budget, where it goes and how it’s all connected. In systems which are less transparent it’s possible for people to think that there are secret pots held within the centre which can be used at my discretion. Through our Finance Advisory and Scrutiny Group we have established the fact that the budget is a single pot, or as I sometimes say “the pot is the pot” i.e. if someone in the system is to get more money then someone else has to get less – the pot does not expand.
In addition to budget issues I was out at three evening meetings with parents in the last week. Tuesday was our first cluster meeting with Parents’ Council Reps from the Tranent area – the other areas will be covered in the next five weeks. These meetings prove exceptionally useful and although a lot of the time was spent on budget matters we did get the chance to explore the idea of parents as customers – hopefully this is a theme which we can explore in the other meetings.
On Wednesday I was at a public meeting in Dunbar to share information about the new primary school provision. The meeting was very positive and I think the parents and the community appreciated seeing some of the details we have been working on. Having worked very hard to develop our communication strategy in relation to this matter it was good to see it starting to bear fruit.
On Thursday I went to speak to the Haddington Infant School Parents’ Council to brief them on the long leet interviews for the vacant headteacher post. We now involve a parent on the long leet panel as part of our response to the Parental Involvement Act and I think it’s made a really positive difference. We have chosen three excellent candidates to progress through to the short leet process.
Lastly, I have decided to apply for the Acting Director of Education and Children’s Services post. I was delighted for Alan Blackie, my boss, colleague and mentor when he was recently appointed as Chief Executive of East Lothian Council, although he will be a great loss to all of us involved in education and children’s services he will really make an impact on all services in East Lothian.. The job will be for two months in the first instance, as the administration want consider the possibility of new structures. If I was fortunate enough to be appointed it would give me a chance to see if I enjoyed that broader role and also allow the administration to see if I could actually do the job. Given that I acted up in my present post for the first year I’m not uncomfortable with that possibility.
I was missing your posts.
I like your approach to budgets but does it still give you the opportunity to retain some funding at the centre to support innovation which is sometimes not evenly distributed?
Good luck with the job application. One definition of lucky that I really like is ‘when preparation meets opportunity’. Looks to me like you have done a lot of preparation and are presented with a wonderful opportunity.
Thanks. We are trying to manage the impact of savings to ensure we don’t lose our capacity to improve what we do. There can be tendency in such circumstances to simply cut anything which is not immediately connected to the teaching process. I’ve seen this done many times throughout my career and the long-term damage this does to the quality and breadth of children’s experiences can take decades to recover.
I’ll post more about this later this week.
Best of luck with the application, Don.
You would, I’m sure, have a big impact.