East Lothian – A Space to Grow


Check out the above video.  I can’t seem to embed it but it’s worth watching. It was used at our first Challenge for Change Conference for all East Lothian Council managers back in April.

It certainly captures something of the magic of East Lothian and the varous communities which make it such a vibrant place.

We held our second such conference on Wednesday entitled A Space to Grow. I think all of us present are committed to improving the service we provide to the people of East Lothian.

The key to the conference was the feedback from the 5 themed working groups which looked at:

Each of these working groups made recommendations which have an impact on ‘the way we work’ in the Council in future, and each presentations can be accessed via the links above.  Additionally, the overall key messages from the conference will be able to be viewed on video soon, and will be posted here.

A few surprises were planned over the course of the day using a series of theatrical vignettes, which generated lots of discussion as well as time for reflection.

Overall, ‘Challenge for Change 2: A Space To Grow’ was a fascinating event, which served as a launchpad for several new ways of working in the future.

Now its time for action…

Check out the associated blog for mor info’.

Leadership Dilemma: Can you lever change in the system through funding?


A Wikipedia image

Mel Ainscow’s assertion that there is more variation within a school than between schools ties neatly into what Professor Richard Teese had been talking about at the recent ADES conference. i.e. socially disadvantaged children’s attainment is significantly lower than their socially advantaged peers.

Ainscow talks of the challenge to “Raise the bar, and close the gap” or as I’ve explored before compress the curve and shift it to the right.

So here’s the Leadership Dilemma.


You are in a strategic leadership position within a Local Authority responsible for a wide range of schools serving the 3-18 population.  You have been asked by the government to improve the educational outcomes of more socially disadvantaged children.  You are committed to promotiong school autonomy and want to avoid the universal intervention strategy and instead wish to use the allocation of funds to schools as the lever for change. 

Your authority currently provides the vast bulk of funding to schools on a per capita basis which does not take any account of social background.  A small proportion of funding is linked to a “deprivation factor” which uses free school meal entitlement as the key indicator.

Free school meal entitlement:

Pupils entitled to free school meals are those within families who receive Income Support ( IS) or Income-based Job Seekers Allowance ( IBJSA). Those within families who receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 may also be entitled. Children who receive IS or IBJSA in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals. Also entitled are children whose parents or carers receive Child Tax Credit, do not receive Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) of below £14,495.

Free School Meal Entitlement is a suitable indicator of relative poverty although there are a wide range of other indicators which could be used, nevertheless the collection and protection of such data would prove difficult. For further reading in this area I recommend the Scottish Indicators of Poverty and Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2008.

Having listened to Richard Teese you want to find a way of linking funding with accountability for the achievements of more socially disadvantaged children in every school.

Using an outcome based approach the Local Authority agrees a set of outcomes which will relate to the achievement and attainment of children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The question you are faced with is how to hold schools accountable for the delivery of those outcomes and the additional funding which might be attached to their presence in the school. Here are three options which you might consider as possible solutions to the dilemma.  You are welcome to suggest any other possible alternatives.

Option 1. Money is removed from schools if agreed outcomes for disadvantaged children are not achieved.

Consequence – this seems unfair as it penalises a school and the children in that school which might already be working in difficult circumstances.

Option 2.The Headteacher/Principal is held accountable and would be an important element of judging the quality of their performance. Additional support could be put in place to help the Headteacher, which might be followed eventually by a disciplinary process.

Consequence– This would certainly focus the school leader’s attention on the issue and may indeed lead to a change in the way in which education is delivered in the school. However, it adds a significant pressure to a job which is already stressful and a simplistic analysis of figures might not demonstrate the change that has taken place in the school or a school which has been affected by other external influences.  It might also only serve to alienate schools and the authority and see them is oppositional as opposed to being in partnership.

Option 3 An Inclusion Board is established for each school.  This Board is made up of a wide range of stakeholders, e.g. parents, students, teachers, health representatives, area social workers, police officers, sports representatives, community education workers.

It would the job of the Inclusion Board to review the educational outcomes of children in the school with a specific focus upon those who receive free school meal entitlement; are in the care of the Local Authority; and those who have Additional Support for Learning needs.

The Headteacher/Principal would be accountable to the Board for those identified outcomes as agreed with the Local Authority.

Consequences – This gets things closer to the school but it could also put some pressure on the Headteacher/Principal as in Option 1. It would ensure that inclusion has a high profile in the running of the school.


One unfortunate but inevitable consequence of any change in the way in which education is delivered in the school to make it a more inclusive environment is the reaction of those who have benefited from the existing system, i.e. what if lower ability classes were given the most experienced and most effective teachers?

Funding, Autonomy and the Equity Gap in Scottish Education

Professor Richard Teese

At the recent Association of Directors of Education (ADES) conference I listened to Professor Richard Teese via a videoconferencing link provided through GLOW. Teese led the OECD report into the Quality and Equity of Scottish Education.

The theme of his presentation was “Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland”. In the course of his session he identified the following key challenges for the Scottish education system:


Professor Teese considered the role of Local Authorities in tackling these challenges and made an argument that Funding and Autonomy should be fundamental features of any strategy to tackle these problems.

His observations on autonomy were:


Point 3 here is crucial, for Teese observed that greater autonomy can actually result in an increase in inequalities. And so he noted about Scottish Local Authority funding that:


In other words we hand over money – whether it be to Local Authorities or schools with no regard to how that funding is used to tackle inequalities.

He concluded his reflections on how funding was used by schools with the following observations which were supported by research:


I’ve explored this before in a previous post – particularly in relation to setting classes by ability and in my experience I would have to conclude that headteachers and heads of department  are under significant pressure to ensure that the their “best” classes are taught by their most effective teachers. Whether or not that pressure is implicit or explicit the demands of parents, HMIE inspections and Local Authority expectations are seen to be the prime lines of accountability and – as such – drive the system in a particular direction.

Teese sees accountability in Scottish education to be primarily motivated by compliance as opposed to being a formative process and sees it being driven by HMIe and Local Authorities – to which I would add the parental voice of more socially advantaged pupils. Once again I’ve spent some time exploring the notion of accountability and argued strongly for accountability to shift from a liability model to a personal commitment model. Yet Teese observes a weakness in the Scottish system of accountability which might be worthy of further exploration – that is:




Having given this more thought I think I agree with Teese.  Although most authorities – to a greater or lesser extent – have funding systems for schools which use various formulas to take account of deprivation factors – we simply tend to “hand over the cash”. The problem with such a system is that it ignores the aforesaid prime accountability drivers and the resulting system does not reflect any change in the culture of inclusion to challenge the gap in the attainment between children belonging to different social groupings.

So Teese left us with a question – would it be possible to establish a funding system which offered schools significant autonomy but at the same time ensured that they were held accountable for closing the attainment gap between socially advantaged and disadvantaged kids?

In my next post I’ll explore some possible solutions to that question.

Moving to Outcome Based Assessed Children’s Services

I’ve been invited speak at what is described as an interactive seminar entitled Measuring Outcomes for Children’s Services in Scotland – (I’m a late replacement so my name doesn’t appear in the programme)

The blurb reads as follows:

This seminar addresses the key issues facing performance management within children’s services including:

  • Making the transition from measuring services on outputs   to outcomes
  • Preparing for joint inspections
  • Measuring outcomes across partnerships with the new focus  on integrated working
  • Providing evidence on ‘soft outcomes’
  • Building the capacity, skills and knowledge of your staff   to carry out outcomes based planning and reporting

My brief is as follows:

  • Moving to Outcome Based Assessed Children’s Services
  • Understanding the Government’s purpose, strategic objectives, national outcomes, national indicators, and their implications for children’s services and delivery partners
  • Identifying the key issues for children, young people and families and uses of social care within the National Performance Framework
  •  SOAs and the impact on planning, delivering and evaluating an outcome based approach in children’s services



New Zealand – an ambition fulfilled

P1020749 by you.

Ever since our youngest son Lewis was ten years old he’s been telling people that he would go out New Zealand to play rugby when he left school.

In the intervening eight years we’ve humoured him with the good old Scottish double positive “aye right”.

Well the boy has proved us all wrong as he sets out for eight months in Christchurch, NZ at the end of this month to work and play rugby with Christchurch Old Boys. Following on from his brother’s example he’s organised the entire thing himself and the hospitality and support shown by the people out there has been nothing short of remarkable.

I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised as he has an amazing ability to focus on his goals.  If his experience is as successful as his brother’s then my support for gap years – particularly for boys – will be stronger than ever.

We’re really going to miss him but I’m hoping that we can get out there next summer.  Anybody looking for a speaker on Scottish education?

Headteachers/Principals: Go on – take a day off

HOLIDAY TIME !! by MyLifeStory.


Earlier this week I met with one of our most experienced and exceptional headteachers who is due to retire at the end of the session.

In a bespoke winding down arrangement we have agreed that she can take ten days unpaid leave during the year.  She has spread these days over the course of the year to provide a number of extended weekends.

The impact on her health and well-being has been incredible and she feels so much more able to undertake her job – to the benefit of herself and the school.

In line with my recent reflection on the mental health and well-being of teachers I wondered if this might be something we could consider in a different kind of arrangement with other headteachers?

Three years ago I moved from being a headteacher to being an educational administrator at East Lothian Council. My holiday entitlement changed from 65 days a year, to 27 days plus public holidays. Yet despite the apparent loss in days the biggest difference has been that I can now take days off when I want – even during term time.  As rule I try to avoid extended periods of absence during term time but I do try to take a number of single days throughout the year to create long weekends.  The result of this is that I can avoid the kind of accumulation of fatigue that used to occur when I was a headteacher.

We currently have a problem recruiting headteachers – people look at the stress involved, the relatively low pay differential between a depute headteacher and headteacher and decide that the negatives outweigh the positives. So with that in mind I’d like to make a suggestion:

What if headteachers could trade in some of the current holiday entitlement for a number of single day holidays which which can be taken during term time?  As a starting point in that negotiation I would suggest that the exchange rate would be two days for one day. So if a headteacher wanted to have five days leave throughout the year during term time they would have to forfeit ten days of their current holiday entitlement.  To be honest I would have gone for something like this as I probably spent that number of days in school during holiday periods trying to catch up and prepare.  From an employer’s perspective we could arrange for a proportion of these forfeited days to be taken at an agreed time and in so doing enable collegiate tasks to be undertaken – e.g. cluster working , particularly if other colleagues were working at the same time.

The issues which would have to be resolved  would be:

Would schools fall to bits without the headteacher being there for a day? – No – certainly not in well managed schools

What would parents think? – I believe they would understand and see it as positive step as long as it was properly explained.

What would staff think?  -There would probably be many teachers who would be upset by such an arrangement but perhaps we need to start to see there being some perks for taking on such a job.

So what would I be saying to headteachers?

Go on – take a day off!!!




TESS Article 15: Can we trust the profession?

 Trust by Joi.


A recurring theme in discussions with colleagues about the implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence has been the need to keep a strong focus on promoting a culture of trust in the professionalism of teachers.

All too often people in positions such as mine can focus upon the technical elements of implementation and see it a problem to be solved through a logical project management approach. I have to admit that on many occasions in my career as an educational leader that I have succumbed to temptation of the “grand plan” approach – which took no account of the how it impacted upon how teachers might respond or be effected by the plan.

Perhaps the starting point for such a change in focus might come from exploring and clarifying our unspoken assumptions upon which so many implementation strategies have been built on in the past. The predominant approach has been the “cascade” model where the key units of change existed outside the school and were “handed down” to those in schools to implement. In this sense the system “teacher proofed” itself, where the industry of curriculum development resided outside schools – with the exception of pilot projects which were trialled within “willing” schools.

Yet Elmore (2004) suggests that most reform strategies are based on what can described as the “true believers” who are already motivated and whose commitment is galvanised by concentrating them into small groups who reinforce each other – the bad news is that these small groups of self-selected reformers apparently seldom influence their peers. And so I would suggest that “willing schools” who throughout the last thirty years have led the change process actually do no favours to the wider profession.

In implementing a Curriculum for Excellence we need to promote alternative models where the key unit of change resides within a community’s secondary school and partner primary schools. For such a change to happen a huge mind shift needs to take place amongst many of us who have been brought up with a quite opposite experience.

Yet the “elephant in the room” which must be addressed is the vexed notion of time! How can schools implement an initiative without being given any more time for teachers to develop courses, lessons or resources?

My first observation would be that we need to move away from seeing A Curriculum for Excellence as something which requires a shift in terms of the content which already underpins our curriculum and more a shift in how we deliver and engage students with that self same content, i.e. we don’t need to develop more materials.

Secondly, we need to completely revise how we conceptualise the partnership and sharing process – on a quite a different scale from what we have known previously (not for the first time in this column GLOW takes on critically important role.)

Thirdly, we need to critically reflect upon how we currently use the time available to us in schools. That would require us to consider how we might make better use of the 35 hour working week; the use of the 35 hours of CPD time; the five In-Service days; and where we direct any additional support funding.

Lastly, we need to reorient ourselves away from assumptions where it is implicit that teachers are resistant to change, need to be “fixed” and are essentially passive receivers of information, to one where we believe that where teachers are trusted, empowered and enabled to work together they can create outstanding learning environments for children and young people.

Taking these four points collectively the role for those of us who operate outside schools becomes much clearer and changes from one of “command and control”, to one of “support and facilitate”, where teachers and schools can generate a true sense of ownership for what they do.

Time: a professional challenge?

*Time* Ticking away... by Michel Filion (aka Mike9Alive).


Over the last few weeks I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the vexed problem of “time”.

Sheila Laing expressed this very well in this comment on my log:

However, key to number 2 about teachers being empowered to work together to create outstanding learning environments is that TIME is the essential resource to allow this fusion of energies. It really requires quality dedicated time and can’t be done at the end of a working day.

It’s a recurring theme when speaking to colleagues at Listen and Learn meetings about the major challenges they face within their job – “if only we could get more time to work together”.

Before attempting to try to work out how we could generate “more” time for teachers to work together it’s perhaps necessary to consider what time already exists within the system. It is only once one has that kind of accurate appreciation that we can begin to consider whether or not we are making best use of that time and how we might find other ways of generating more time for a variety of development tasks.

Unfortunately the question about what time we have available at the moment sets us down what could be considered to be an anti-professional route – i.e. what is set out in a teacher’s contract? I’ve never been that comfortable with the idea of counting hours and minutes as a means of describing our professional practice – yet without such a delineation the limits of a professional’s responsibilities become open to personal interpretation ( and possible abuse).

The key to clarifying this issue is “A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century”  which in 2001 introduced a new negotiating framework for Scottish teachers’ pay and conditions of service.

The following attempts to set out the limits within which teachers work.  It’s important to state at this point that I know very few teachers who work within the limits set out this the agreement – i.e. teachers regularly work beyond their contractual obligations. The following extracts come from the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers

What are a teachers duties? (I’ve emboldened those elements which might relate to development of professional practice and the curriculum)

2.2 Subject to the policies of the school and the council, the duties of teachers are to perform such tasks* as the headteacher shall direct. These should give reasonable regard to overall teacher workload associated with:

(a) teaching assigned classes together with associated preparation and correction;

(b) developing the school curriculum;

(c) assessing, recording and reporting on the work of pupils;

(d) preparing pupils for examinations and assisting with their administration;

(e) providing advice and guidance to pupils on issues related to their education;

(f) promoting and safeguarding the health, welfare and safety of pupils;

(g) working in partnership with parents, support staff and other professionals;

(h) undertaking appropriate and agreed continuing professional development;

(i) participating in issues related to school planning, raising achievement and individual review; and

(j) contributing towards good order and the wider needs of the school.

 Working Year and working week

3.2 The working year for teachers shall consist of 195 days of which 190 days will coincide with the school year for pupils with the remaining five days being worked by the individual teachers on duties as planned by the council.

3.3 All teachers shall have a 35 hour working week. The working week shall apply on a pro rata basis to teachers on part-time contracts.

3.4 Within the 35-hour week, a maximum of 22.5 hours will be devoted to class contact except for those teachers on the National Teacher Induction Scheme.

3.6 An allowance of no less than one third of the teacher’s actual class contact commitment is provided for preparation and correction. The use of remaining time will be subject to agreement at school level within LNCT guidelines, based on the Code of Practice on Working Time Arrangements (see Appendix 2.7).

3.8 In addition to the provisions of paragraph 3.3 above, all teachers have a contractual requirement to complete a maximum of 35 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) per annum.

Continuing professional development

9.2 A teacher’s CPD shall consist of an appropriate balance of personal professional development, attendance at nationally accredited courses, small scale school based activities and other CPD activities. This balance will be based on an assessment of individual need, taking account of school, local and national priorities and shall be carried out at an appropriate time and place.

9.3 Every teacher will agree an annual CPD plan with his/her immediate manager and every teacher will be required to maintain an individual CPD record.

9.4 It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a wide range of CPD development opportunities and the teacher’s responsibility to undertake a programme of agreed CPD. This should be capable of being discharged within contractual working time.

9.5 Local agreements on the use of remaining time may include an allocation of time to undertake CPD. Such time will be included in CPD plans and will contribute to the wide range of development opportunities which employers are required to provide.

9.6 As part of the working year, teachers and music instructors must attend five days(pro rata for part-time staff) of development activity planned by the council, eg in-service training. This is separate from contractual CPD time but may form a part of the CPD plan and record.

So what does the above mean?

Teacher’s have a contractual 35 hour working week.

Of these 35 hours, 7.5 hours should be given over to preparation and correction.

Maximum class contact time is 22.5 hours.

This leaves 5 hours per week for other duties.

There are five days each year given over to in-service days – i.e. 35 hours total.

Each teacher has to spend 35 hours a year undertaking continuous professional development activity.

The way ahead?

Here are three questions arising from such an analysis? 

Perhaps we should start to see preparation work to be a collegiate activity as opposed to the traditional perception of an individual enterprise?

Are we making best use of the five days of development activity?

Could/should we tie the 35 hours of CPD activity into preparing for A Curriculum for Excellence?

Additional time strategies:

Here are some traditional approaches which managers have used to create additional development time::

  1. Provide ad-hoc classroom cover for teachers to do some work together during the school day.
  2. Modify a teachers timetable to build additional non-teaching time into their week.
  3. Take a teacher out of the school timetable to undertake development work – secondment.

All of the above carry a financial burden – i.e. a school must be able to pay for the time to cover a teacher’s class.  Current supply cover rates are £170 per day.

Over the next few weeks I intend to explore this matter in great detail with colleagues at all levels.




Building consideration for mental health and well-being into the planning process for education

stressed and worried by Bhernandez.


I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a draft implementation strategy for A Curriculum for Excellence and have identified a key element in its success to be a strong focus on maintaining and supporting the mental health and well being of teachers and headteachers.

All too often people in positions such as mine can focus upon the technical elements of implementation and see it a problem to be solved through a logical project management approach.  I have to admit that on many occasions in my career as an educational leader that I have succumbed to temptation of the “grand plan” approach – which took no account of the how it impacted upon the mental health and well being of those who would have to implement the “plan”.

There can be no doubt that any curriculum innovation can bring with it significant concerns and pressures which can have a negative impact upon the health of those who work in schools.  If we add to this some of the financial pressures on public services which might come about as a consequence of the credit crisis then the potential for an explosive mix is made even more likely.

To that end I believe that a key factor to be borne in mind throughout the implementation process is how we – and I do mean we – maintain a focus upon the mental health and well being of our colleagues.

I’ve been very impressed by the Teacher Support Network and any service which offers help and support must be welcomed. But I would like to see us move that focus “upstream”, i.e. build some consideration about the impact upon mental health and well being into the planning phase – as opposed to treating the symptoms of the consequences of our plans – regardless of how unintended they might be.