Change can happen – but it takes time

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I was pulled up short last week when someone asked me what I would regard as my greatest professional achievement.

Without having to think about it I responded that it had been creating a culture in a school where boys willingly participated in and enjoyed creative dance.

I became a Principal Teacher of physical education back in 1983.  In 1987 I was seconded for three years to what was then the Scottish Centre for Physical Education and is now part of Edinburgh University’s Moray House Institute of Education. When I returned to my school in 1990 – to everyone’s surprise – I wanted to explore if I could change the culture of a school and introduce some of the ideas I’d been researching in my three years away.

Over the next five years we set about transforming a traditional sporting culture.  I should at this time point out that I taught at a secondary school in the Scottish Borders, where rugby was the dominant sport and the idea of dance for boys was a complete anathema.

In order to fully understand my strategy you have to go back to my own school days (yes, that far!) and understand that I went to a school where on my first day I walked into the games hall to watch a sixth year boy, wearing a GB vest, slotting baskets from the sideline one after another.  He was a legend in the school and was playing for the senior men’s GB team whilst still at school. In the rest of the games hall there seemed to be hundreds of other kids of all ages playing games, dribbling, making shots and having a great time – yet there wasn’t a teacher in sight!

Over the next six years I became immersed in that sporting cluture which was passed on from one generation to another, almost by default.

In my time out at Moray House I’d had the chance to visit hundreds of schools around Scotland and it amazed me how many schools did NOT have that culture.  So what’s the missing ingredient in promoting participation and a sporting culture and legacy in a school?

It will be no surprise that you have to start with the youngest age group.  At the early stage so much depends upon the input from the teacher. It needs to be fun, it needs to be active, and above all, kids need to experience success and a sense of achievement. In the early years the modelling of performance – even if the quality wasn’t high was important from myself and my male colleague – especially for boys.  Now I’m no dancer but I was prepared to give it a go and without that commitment I don’t think the kids would have embraced it as they did.

Over the next five years we built creative dance into the curriculum at all stages and eventually into our certificated course at Standard Grade and Higher level. I remember the best lesson I ever took involved 25, S4 kids (17 boys and 8 girls) making up a dance to Puccini’s Tosca’s “E lucevan le stelle” I remember when they performed the dance at our school dance festival (which we had established a couple of years before) the tears running down my cheeks.

That same dance festival in my last year at the school had over 300 pupils taking part of whom 50% were boys.

That same year in our Higher PE class the students had the option of choosing between tennis and dance – tennis didn’t run! Four of the boys in that class that year went on to play for Scottish Schools under 18 rugby team and toured New Zealand.

More importantly that culture was sustained beyond my time at the school.

I think I’ll be extremely lucky to achieve anything like that again in my career.

Implementing a Curriculum for Excellence – what are the key questions?

Over the coming year I’m going to be working with local authority directors, heads of service and other key stakeholders to support the implementation of a Curriculum for Excellence.

What questions should we be attempting to answer to assist with its effective implementation?

Here are some possibilities:

How do Local Authorities ensure that Skills for Work, GIRFEC, More Choices More Chances and Curriculum for Excellence are linked together as part of a coherent implementation study?

What sort of data would demonstrate that Curriculum for Excellence is being implemented in schools?

How do we release resources to support implementation?

How can we make optimum and effective use of available continuous professional development time?

How might partners share resources to assist the implementation process?

How do we enable teachers to work together to develop innovative curricular solutions?

How might school design need to change to take account of a Curriculum for Excellence?

How do we promote a nurturing environment in all secondary schools?

I’d welcome suggestions as we are shaping up the programme for our first meeting and the programme for the coming year.

Laminate your notices; pick up in the snow; say yes; and stick up for the kids!


I was asked last week what my advice would be for a head teacher taking up their first headship

Obscurely my advice was that they should laminate their notices, pick up in the snow; say yes; and stick up for the kids.

So here are four true stories which underpin this advice:

A  new secondary head teacher reached the end of their first year and was flattered to be asked to speak at a national event for prospective school leaders. The title of her talk was to be “Experiences of being a new head teacher”

As part of her presentation she thought it might be an idea to speak to colleagues in the school and ask them what they remembered most about her first year.

Being a modest and self-effacing sort of person she expected them to mention something about her energy, enthusiasm, imagination or commitment. So you can imagine her surprise when he said – without – pausing “That’s easy, you got all the notices on the notice boards laminated”. Well, she thought, the person was a relatively junior member of staff and perhaps didn’t see the range of strategic initiatives she’d put into place in the last twelve months. Her next colleague was a principal teacher – surely they would have a broader perspective – but no back came the answer “Laminated the notice boards” Oh come on – what about her presence around the school, the new discipline policy, the new assembly system? Where had he been?

But as she made her way round colleague after colleague it came back to the notice boards and one other thing, which was similarly unexpected.

Apparently a simple act of kindness – had caused a quite unexpected and significant impact upon her colleagues throughout the school.

It happened one morning when a light covering covered the ground. The new head had made her way to school from a good distance away without any difficulty and so had every other pupil and member of staff. So you can imagine her surprise when she was informed that one of her new colleagues had phoned to say they wouldn’t be coming in that day due to the snow. The office staff informed the head that this had been the case for many years – and was a source of great frustration amongst the teacher’s colleagues.

Without thinking too much about it she jumped into her car and drove to the teacher’s home. She knocked and waited for a reply. Eventually she was greeted by her colleague, who, somewhat surprised, invited her in where she had a cup of coffee as he got himself ready for work. They made idle chat as they made their way back to school. She thought no more about this issue – pleased with her good deed for the day. But the effect upon the staffroom had apparently been electric. Suffice to say the teacher in question never missed another day at school due to bad weather!

The third example is drawn from another colleague’s experience as a new head teacher.  He had walked into a school where there was great mistrust between the management team and the staff.  So much so that at the first staff meeting it was proposed that the staff should be allowed to have a meeting without the senior management team being present – so that they could discuss issues of concern.  The new head was faced with this incredible dilemma – which had never feature in any leadership programme he’d had taken part in.  If he supported the staff he risked alienating the senior management team, if he refused the staff request he risked being aligned with the previous management culture.  His solution was to say yes – in the belief that he could change the culture in the school to the extent where the need for a senior management team free meeting would not be required.  And so it proved – with such meetings being abandoned within six months as the staff saw that he lived up to his principles.

My last example is drawn from my own experience as a senior manageer – and it relates to a failure on my own part – for which I will always regret.  It relates to a teacher who was known for creating circumstances where children would inevitably respond by swearing or blowing up in class.  Children who were vulnerable – but who managed quite well in most classes – would go into this teacher’s classroom and within a matter of lessons were having to be removed for their own protection.  Very subtly – and even explicitly – the teacher made it clear that certain children were persona non grata. They were picked on, treated with disdain, and boxed into corners where their only recourse was to “blow up” in class. Of course a member of the senior management team was called who removed the child – leading on occasions to exclusion, detention, or a punishment of some kind.  This had also gone on for years and the teacher had learned that their behaviour did not need to change. My lifelong regret is that I never challenged that teacher’s behaviour – although when I moved to new school I vowed that I would never again allow such behaviour to go unchallenged.  Whether or not I was successful in changing subsequent teachers’ behaviour is open to question but at least I know that I never walked away from such circumstances ever again in my career.

So my advice to my colleague was as follows:

Allow people to see concrete things happen -regardless of how small that change might appear, i.e.  have an eye for detail. Rhetoric, policy, personal behaviours and values are important but above all else leadership requires those things to be translated into a commitment to action – and action that can be observed -e.g. find the equivalent of laminating the notices.

Secondly colleagues like to see that the leader has the courage to confront inequality  of expectation for all staff- in a manner, which addresses long-standing wrongs.

Thirdly, believe that people can change and provide them with space to be professionals.

Lastly, never turn your back on circumstances where children are getting a raw deal – you have to advocate for all children.

For what it’s worth I reckon any headteacher who heeds this advice is well placed to create a very special place for children to learn and colleagues to work – especially as we seek to implement a Curriculum for Excellence.





Managing Resources – a description

We are currently involved in preparing for a comprehensive self-evaluation of the quality of the education service we provide to children in East Lothian.

We’ve identified seven themes for which we will gather evidence. Each theme will then be subject to rigorous self-evaluation by teams composed of councillors, parents, head teachers, young people and colleagues from other departments.  The selected themes are:

  1. Learning and Teaching
  2. Additional Support for Children, Young People and Families
  3. Stakeholder involvement and Support
  4. Early Years and Child Care
  5. Our Cluster Approach
  6. Wider Achievement
  7. Resource Management

I met with our evidence gathering team for Resource Management on Friday and we agreed that a useful addition to the process would be a description of our practice in relation to each theme.  Without this contextual narrative the associated evidence might appear as disconnected materials.

Here’s my first attempt at describing how we go about managing our resources.

We have three key resources which allow us to deliver education in East Lothian: finance; personnel, school estate (buildings).


Our annual budget is £85 million, of which nearly £10 million goes on Children’s Services.  The department’s allocation makes up nearly 48% of the council’s total budget.

Over the last two years we have moved to a budget management system where transparency and accountability to our stakeholders are of prime importance. On a monthly basis we convene our Finance Advisory Scrutiny Group (FASG). This group is chaired by the Head of Education and has four head teacher representatives, unions reps from EIS, SSTA and Unison, a representative from the East Lothian Parents’ Councils Association, Finance Department accountant and other key business managers from the department.  The minutes of each meeting are circulated to all head teachers.

Before the establishment of the group there was always a possibility that the the budget allocation and management process in the department was open to question.  Since the Group has been set up this has been removed and more importantly real partnership has been established in identifying issues and solving problems. As the group’s name suggest it’s role combines providing advice to the the Education Directorate and also scrutinising all financial decisions made in the department.  The agenda is open to any member to suggest an item.  Small working groups are occasionally formed to tackle particular issues.

Our Devolved School Management Policy is currently being revised through such working groups. Our current policy sees 93% of our available budget being devolved to schools and the department is keen to see this figure rise. It has been interesting to note that head teachers do not universally seek to see more budgets (and the associated responsibilities)- which are held centrally by the department – to be devolved to schools.

The Education Department is advised by the Council’s Finance Department and significant work has been undertaken in the last three years to improve the quality of financial information available to the department and schools.  There is still an issue relating to the real time accuracy of budget monitoring statements as there tends to be a timelag between spend and that spend appearing on a monitoring statement.

Recent head teacher training and additional support provided by business staff in the School Support unit have addressed many issues which were causing difficulty. 

At a strategic level a Budget Steering Group was established this year to address the need for efficiency savings to made in the Department.  This group was composed of senior politicians from the administration, two parent reps; senior managers from the Department and representatives from every union with a stake in the Education Service. A key feature of this group’s remit was to seek savings which reduced the impact upon school budgets.

Budgets are a standing item at all meetings including, Primary and Nursery Headteachers’ Executive, Secondary Headteachers Management Meetings Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers, Joint Consultative Committee, Education and Children’s Services Management Team; Directorate; East Lothian Parents’ Council’s Association. regular meetings take place between senior managers in the department and the convener and vice-convener of the Council’s Education Committee.  Budget is a weekly item on the Department’s Directorate Meeting – Director, Head of Education, Head of Children’s Services.

Schools receive advice and support from the School Support Business Manager and Principal Officer, who work closely with staff from the Finance Department. School budget management is a now an item which features as part of the range of school performance which is validated by a school’s Quality Improvement Officer and reported n an annual basis.

School budgets are monitored on a monthly basis and support offered to those schools who appear to be having budget difficulties.  Some school specific budget issues have been discussed at the Finance Advisory Scrutiny Group and additional resources have been allocated with their agreement.

Secondary schools have a dedicated Business Manager who is a member of the school’s senior management team and who supports the headteacher in relation to school business matter. Primary schools do not have access to dedicated business managers but are supported by a member of staff in the Finance Department


There are over 1000 teachers and over 400 support staff employed in the department.

The department is supported by the Council’s Human Resources Department who advise on recruitment and selection, absence management, discipline and grievance, and the implementation of associated policies.

Each school has a direct link with a member of staff from the Human Resource Department who advises and supports the teacher.

The School Support Business Manager supports schools on a wide range of staffing matters and is often a first point of contact for personnel issues which arise unexpectedly. Liaison with Human Resources , the schools Quality Improvement Officer and members of the Directorate can also be called upon to provide support.

School staffing profiles in the primary sector are worked out through application of the formal provided in the Devolved School Management Policy. This will be done in partnership between the Business Manager and the relevant head teacher. Secondary schools are responsible for deciding upon their own staffing profile within the limits of their devolved budget.  The School Support Business Manager will assist secondary head teachers if there issues relating to surplus staff.

Disciplinary and Grievance issues will be supported by the Quality Improvement Officer and the Human Resources Department with reference to the Directorate if more support is required

To be completed………………………….


Free School Meal Entitlement and educational outcomes

The OECD reinforced the point that there is more variation in educational outcomes within schools than between schools.

The report also stressed the difference in educational outcomes for those pupils who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

We have been doing some research into this area in East Lothian – which is still at an early stage – but initial results would suggest that the average attainment for S4 pupils, who ARE entitled to Free School Meals, is exactly half that of the average attainment of their peers who ARE NOT  entitled to Free School Meals.

I’ve always had difficulty with the idea of raising attainment of the lowest attaining 20% of pupils – as expressed in recent national priorities. The problems of identifying these children makes it an artificial distinction – lowest at what? Maths, English, PE?, art?

I’ve also had difficulty with the idea of closing the gap – as many people worry that the attainment gap might be closed by simply depressing the results of those children who have high levels levels of attainment.

However, we can identify children who are entitled to Free School Meals from their earliest years in education. At a time when we are looking to identify data to judge the effectiveness of the system – and to identify if we add value to children’s lives – I am tending towards seeing the educational outcomes for children who are entitled to Free School Meals as a key indicator, in addition to the academic attainment of Looked Afer and Accommodated Children (of course many of the latter group are also included in the former).

We will be exploring this in much greater depth with our colleagues in schools over the next few months at all levels in the system.

Improving Scottish Education – 12 action points

HMIe have just published their most recent report on Scottish education in the form of Improving Scottish Education The report is based upon the findings of HMIe inspections and reviews of schools and local authorities in the period 2005-2008.

HM Senior Chief Inspector Graham Donaldson, in a very comprehensive commentary, sets out some the main challenges facing the Scottish education system. I’ve had a go at identifying twelve key action points from his commentary for local authorities to consider, with a particular emphasis upon the implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence.


“Scotland’s future economic prosperity requires an education system within which the population as a whole will develop the kind of knowledge, skills and attributes which will equip them personally, socially and economically to thrive in the 21st century. It also demands standards of attainment and achievement which match these needs and strengthen Scotland’s position internationally.”


“I am encouraged by the extent to which The Early Years Framework, Curriculum for Excellence, Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy and Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) address these findings. The challenge remains, however, to translate aspiration into action.”


“The best of our local authorities are already leading curricular change and ensuring that high quality experiences and outcomes are being provided for learners. The challenge remains, particularly in a demanding economic climate, for all local authorities to use their increased freedom in innovative ways which address difficult issues and raise standards”


“Curriculum for Excellence embodies a new way of working. It recognises that sustained and meaningful improvement should, to a significant extent, be shaped and owned by those who will put it into practice.”


“Self-evaluation should not be seen simply as more effective monitoring by managers but as the commitment of a staff team to reflect and improve. The increasing extent to which teachers are sharing, analysing and comparing each other’s practice, although still limited, is encouraging.”


“We have to place professional development, covering both subject content and pedagogy, at the centre of our approach to change if we are to achieve better experiences and outcomes for learners. The onus will be on local authorities, centres, schools and individual teachers to make optimum use of the time and expertise available for professional development.”


“Curriculum for Excellence proposes to address literacy and numeracy directly, emphasising the need to develop these fundamental skills across the curriculum and to provide formal recognition of progress up to the end of every young person’s school career.”


Formally accredited attainment and broader forms of achievement are sometimes portrayed as alternatives. They are not. Both are essential to the future success of individuals and of our society and economy as a whole.”


“Sound assessment is integral to the learning and teaching process and to our ability to be confident about standards. A prerequisite is for educators to ensure that they are secure in their judgement of pace and progress in learning. That means actively and rigorously seeking to develop and share knowledge, data and other intelligence about performance in order to be confident that each learner is achieving fully.”


“Scotland’s lifelong skills strategy draws upon the agenda set by Curriculum for Excellencein the pre-school and schools sectors, and requires partnership working between schools and other sectors, including colleges and community learning and development, in developing skills progressively.”


“The (OECD) report Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland3report highlighted the limited success of Scotland’s schools in tackling those differences in outcomes that are associated with socio-economic disadvantage. A number of important steps are being taken to address this fundamental issue, particularly through early intervention. Curriculum reform should also, in time, make an impact by improving motivation and relevance.”


“In our last report we said that systems of accountability must themselves adapt to reinforce the kind of changes in practice and in culture which the new ways of working demand. Since then, HMIE has significantly reformed inspections and reviews to focus on what matters most in terms of outcomes for learners, building directly on self-evaluation and enhancing capacity by promoting well-judged innovation.”


ACfE Logic Model – Assumptions and Risks

Logic Model ACFE

Assumptions are the beliefs we have about the programme and the people involved and the way we think the programme will work. This is the “theory” we are talking about: the underlying beliefs in how it will work. These are validated with research and experience. Assumptions underlie and influence the program decisions we make. Assumptions are principles, beliefs, ideas.


  • Teachers are professionals who want to make a positive difference to children’s lives;
  • Where teachers are empowered to work together they can create outstanding learning environments for children and young people;
  • Teachers naturally want to talk and learn from each other about their practice;
  • Teachers want to engage in dialogue about their own educational practice with a view to improving their craft.
  • The school is the key unit of curricular creation and professional development.
  • Schools should be encouraged to create curricular models which suit their own context
  • School leaders can create environments where teachers want to learn.
  • Teams of teachers working collectively towards a common purpose can have a more positive impact upon practice than any other strategy.
  • Teachers are partners in the curriculum development process.


  • Teachers might prefer more direction and instruction than is assumed.
  • Local Authorities might not want to give up power to schools for curricular policy.
  • Insufficient development time can be identified to enable change to take place.
  • Head teachers might not be willing to take on responsibility





ACfE Logic Model – Situation Analysis

Logic Model ACFE

Situation Analysis

Description – The situation is the foundation for logic model development. The problem or issue that the program is to address sits within a setting or situation-a complex of sociopolitical, environmental, and economic conditions. If you incorrectly understand the situation and misdiagnose the problem, everything that follows is likely to be wrong.

Situation Analysis of Scottish Education (the following situation analysis draws heaviliy upon the Executive Summary of the OECD Report on the Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland , Dec 2007)

A major challenge facing Scottish schools is to reduce the achievement gap that opens up about Primary 5 and continues to widen throughout the junior secondary years (S1 to S4). Children from poorer communities and low socio-economic status homes are more likely than others to under-achieve, while the gap associated with poverty and deprivation in local government areas appears to be very wide.

A second challenge relates to the need to build on the strong platform of basic education through socially broader and more successful participation in upper secondary education and greater equity in Scottish higher education. Inequalities in staying-on rates, participation at different academic levels of national courses, and pass rates in these courses are a concern. So, too, are the number of young people leaving school with minimal (and in some cases no) qualifications and the  comparatively high proportion in precarious transition.

A third challenge relates to static levels of achievement in national qualifications over the last eight years at a time when other countries are showing improvement in comparison to Scotland.

 Local authorities have only limited influence over the curriculum in schools and over the full range of learning opportunities available to the communities they serve. Promotion of change in schools is hampered by the vulnerability of schools to adverse perceptions and judgements based on examination results. Although local authorities are the  employers of teachers and the builders of schools, their influence is limited by wider arrangements which have a centralizing and conforming effect.

Schools need substantial freedom of action within a framework of agreed goals and  outcomes to vary the courses and to offer programmes which best address these challenges. Greater management freedom in these two areas needs to be part of a compact with local government which establishes expectations in exchange for autonomy, and encourages and protects innovation and risk-taking through an authoritative mandate.

 The OECD review considers that greater flexibility is needed in arrangements linking local councils to the Scottish Government, and linking schools in turn to local government. But without greater flexibility in arrangements relating to curriculum, examinations, and qualifications, more autonomy for councils and schools will not go far.

Any analysis of the situation in Scottish Education must also recognise  that budgets are under extreme pressure and this is likely to be the case for a number of years as the global recession impacts upon the Scottish economy and public services in particular.


Logic Model for Curriculum for Excellence ADES Implementation Partnership

Logic Model ACFE

The Curriculum for Excellence ADES Implementation Partnership is a bit of a mouthful but it is a group initiated by the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES) and supported by the Scottish Government to support the strategic implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence.

The Partnership will meet eight times over the coming year with a wide representation of partners who all have a key stake in supporting the successful implementation of ACfE. 

If you click on the above graphic you should be able get an idea of a possible model of implementation – although this is only intended to initiate discussion in the first instance – hopefully we can develop a more representative view of this process than my own stumbling effort.

Nevertheless, with the intention of providing some substance for discussion with colleagues I will flesh out the model over the following posts.  Comments and suggestions are welcome.

The posts will cover:

Situation Analysis

Assumptions and Risks

External Factors






Using Logic Models – Getting it Right for Every Child

 Logic Model Children's Services

We used the Logic Model this week to translate a 10 page Action Plan into a much more coherent and user friendly model (with the exception of some of the acronyms).  It really does work!!!


Where services for children, young people and families are delivered in a well integrated, seamless manner it will result in positive outcomes for them.

For effective integrated working to take place professionals need joint training, clear protocols and consistent leadership.

There will be occasions where single agency working will be the most appropriate response

There may be resistance to integrated working due to factors such as budgets, attitudes, previous experience, inconsistent leadership messages or lack of time.

External Factors

  • New Government initiatives
  • Recommendations from significant case reviews
  • Policy changes
  • Budgetary pressures
  • Inspections potentially moving from multi-agency to single agency models (HMIE to SWIA) post Crerar