Didn’t you used to be Don Ledingham?

I encountered a new question this week when someone asked “Didn’t you used to be Don Ledingham?”

What they meant by that was whether or not I was the Don Ledingham who played rugby for Gala in the 1980s. 

The simple answer is yes – but on so many other levels I’m no longer that same person – certainly not physically.

However, the idea of having a range of identities throughout one’s life is an interesting thought.  So although we might think we have never changed, people – who have only known you at certain times in your life – will all have different perspectives of you as a person.

So perhaps the correct answer to the question is – “which Don Ledingham are you talking about?


Helping your child cope with the bereavement of a school friend

One of our schools had to deal with the tragic death of a senior student due a car crash at the weekend.

When I was 12 my best friend and his family were murdered by their father.  No-one thought to speak to me about the incident as at that time it was thought best not to linger on the issue.

Ever since then I’ve been very keen that parents are aware of the potential impact of the death of a peer upon their child – even one who does not appear to be close in terms of friendship, or age, or even at the same school.

To that end our Educational Psychology Service have provided advice that parents may wish to consider in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy such as the one experienced over the weekend.

Information for Parents/ Carers: How to support your child 

Your son/s or daughter/s may react in different ways to the news they have heard today in school (or heard in other places). They may or may not have known the boy who has died. The news may also affect you as a parent/ carer and others you know in the community in differing ways.

 In the next few days, and maybe for much longer, you may notice some of the following behaviours:

  • Feeling upset, sad, depressed, guilty or confused.
  • Being angry or being on a short fuse with family members and friends
  • Separation difficulties – not wanting to let parents or siblings out of sight
  • Sudden thoughts about what has happened – these can happen at any time and make it difficult to concentrate and remember things so well
  • Finding it harder to settle at night
  • Finding it difficult to talk about what has happened – younger children in particular may find this hard. When children find it difficult to talk they will express their feelings through their behaviour
  • Feeling afraid and vulnerable – understandably children may react in this way – but may try to hide these feelings – boys in particular may act tough or aggressive to try to hide their feelings
  • Denial – the child may seem surprisingly unaffected. Sometimes this can be because they are really hurt. The child will need help to cope with what has happened.
  • Guilt – this is a common response to death, especially if the child is unable to express their sadness about the loss. They will need reassurance that nothing they did had anything to do with the death that occurred.

 All of these behaviours are normal reactions to hearing about a death.

  What Can I Do to Help?

  • Let your son/daughter know its OK to feel peculiar, afraid, guilty, angry, sad – or any other feeling – and that it is OK to cry and be upset
  • Let your son/daughter know how you feel too – don’t try to hide this
  • Make time to talk while you’re doing something together – perhaps sharing an activity or looking at a book
  • Use books or videos or TV to explore feelings – this can help young people to recognise how they are feeling and realise that they are not alone
  • Provide reassurance and be patient
  • Your son/daughter may have lots of questions -young people of different ages tend to ask different sorts of questions. Try to provide honest answers and use easy-to-understand language. Young people need clear answers to help them learn about death whilst also feeling safe and secure.
  • It may be reassuring to remind them that people usually die when they are very old.

 When will my son/daughter feel better?

No one can say since all children/ young people and circumstances are different. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Allow your son/daughter the time it takes them to feel better. Remember that experiencing death is a normal part of being a human being. Your son/daughter will eventually feel better.

 Further sources of support

You may find these sources of further support helpful:

 Cruse bereavement helpline: 0870 167 1677






                                                             February 2009






Support from the Start

East Lothian has been selected as one of the national test sites for Equally Well projects.

You can track progress on this edubuzz site.

Test Site Aims:

Our aim is to improve existing and /or develop new service pathways for addressing health inequality in the early years, and to develop the engagement of the target communities in improving the health of their youngest members.


The rationale for the test site is ‘Breaking the Cycle’, referring to the need to prevent the risk of disadvantage in health outcomes being passed from one generation to the next.

Geographic coverage:

An East Lothian ‘test site’ will focus on the communities of Prestonpans, Musselburgh East & Tranent, which have significantly poorer health outcomes than is average for East Lothian.

Redesign activities/actions initially being considered:

Our initial focus will be the engagement of stakeholders in a comprehensive review of service pathways for health & well being of pre-school aged children. The aim of this review will be to assess services against the knowledge base on reducing health inequalities and to develop understanding and ownership of the ‘Test Site’ aims amongst the targeted communities and service areas. The learning from this review will then be used to plan service redesign / development.

Expected outcomes:

Four broad outcome areas have been identified for the ‘Test Site’. Community Engagement, Improving Support for Parents & Carers,Improving Support for Families, Creating Child Friendly Environments


An evaluation strategy will be developed in consultation with colleagues from Queen Margaret University

Contact Person: Steven Wray, Health Improvement Development Officer swray@eastlothian.gov.uk Tel 01620 827509


Barrie Ledingham 1930 – 2009

Mum by you.

We held a wonderful thanksgiving service today for my mother Barrie Ledingham who died on the 8th February 2009. I gave this eulogy.

Barrie was named after her father’s favourite writer J. M Barrie who wrote Peter Pan, sometimes known as “The boy who never grew up”.

In a peculiar way mum lived up to her namesake’s central character, as she always managed to maintain a wide eyed wonder of the world and saw it afresh every day. It was this innocence and openness that made her such an attractive character and one who made lifetime friends with such remarkable frequency.

Her character was undoubtedly shaped by her experiences in Malaya before the war. Living an isolated and colonial existence on a rubber plantation deep in the Cameron Highlands she depended upon her lively imagination to create friends and play worlds. Her parents were both in their forties when she was born yet she cherished this time with them both and the enforced separation from them when she returned to Scotland was only endured through her capacity to always see the best.

When Singapore fell and her father was taken prisoner the family went two years without knowing if he was alive. Barrie worshipped her father and used to tell the story of of him eventually returning to Scotland and getting off the train – 8 years after she had last seen him and 8 stones lighter.

Mum’s personality which could best be described as fun loving, warm and exceptionally generous. These qualities were underpinned by her less obvious, but no less strong, gifts of an incredible inner fortitude, a sense of duty. and self sacrifice to others needs.

Her early life both abroad and in Scotland followed by qualifying as a midwife, her achieving rank of Lieutenant in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, her time in Germany all prepared her for her her greatest achievement.

Mum and dad had fallen in love at first sight in Alford, Aberdeenshire. That love had endured and grown throughout their training and separation due to national service, through to their marriage in 1957.

And so they were ready for their ultimate challenge – something that both of them had unknowingly been working towards throughout their lives up to that point. When they bought 26 Duddingston Crescent, Edinburgh and dad put his plate up on the wall it needed two exceptional people to make it a success – and a success it was. In a time now when doctor’s practices are governed by strict working hours and appointment systems – we were brought up in an environment where duty and service to the community came first, last and always.

Mum’s inner strength and ability to sacrifice her own needs ensured that the community and her family were well served – all done with an amazing sense of fun. Yet for all the hard work that this was mum could still look back on this time as one of the happiest in her life.

As a mother mum sacrificed her own needs. She always attended everyone’s parents’ evenings,watched us play rugby and hockey. She was our greatest supporter – regardless of how poor we might have been. I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say we owe her so much. Yet it wasn’t all plain sailing. If you can imagine her trying to keep three teenage boys in line – never mind a wayward daughter brought it’s own difficulties. One day over dinner she was berating all of us with equal venom – when my brothers and I decided we’d had enough. So we picked her up and sat her on top of our old style American fridge. There she sat helplessly shouting at us as we went about eating our tea.

Yet mum was no softy when direct action was required. As a sneak thief learned one day to his cost when he tried to creep through an open window. Mum – at that time in her 60’s – took immediate action and grabbed him by the leg. So there they were, a stalemate – with him half way out the window and wee old woman determinedly attached to his leg. He shouted and swore but he really should have known better – mum’s never let go of anything in her life. Eventually he wriggled free leaving behind his shoe – which mum kept as memento of her struggle

To have the security provided by mum and dad was a fantastic. They were a truly remarkable pair who depended upon each other fulfil their own dreams and ambitions. Yet on dad’s death mum set about making her own life. She always saw everyone else’s problem as being so much greater than her own. In fact she always talked about how lucky she was – when in so many cases – particularly about her own health – she was so unlucky. But that was mum for you. Her sense of duty saw her go out to complete her voluntary service work at times when she should have stayed at home.

As a grandmother and mother-in-law she extended her family and embraced everyone as an individual. There were no favourites in mother’s heart – there was more than enough space for everyone.

Yet it was her capacity to make instant positive contact with people that probably marked her out so much. There was something about her that people warmed to. Perhaps it was because she had an aura of honesty – she didn’t know how to tell a lie? Perhaps it was because she always expressed such interest in other people’s lives and didn’t start every sentence about herself? Of perhaps it was because she had retained her child like love of the world.? Not for her any world weary cynicism or natural distrust. Perhaps her father did provide her with her greatest legacy when he named after the creator of Peter Pan? For she only ever saw the world through the eye’s of an optimist – someone for whom things would always get better. Even in her darkest days – she only saw the light.




Principles of Public Service – can we live up to them?


At a time when the behaviour of senior executives in the financial world is being scrutinised by politicians, the media, and the general public I thought it might be worthwhile to explore what might be reasonably expected of those of us who hold senior executive positions in the public sector

The most suitable place to start this analysis would be with reference to the Seven Principles of Public Office, sometimes referred to as Nolan’s Principles, after Lord Nolan who reported to Parliament in 1995 on Standards in Public Life. The principles are as follows:

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

As a public servant who is committed to the old fashioned concepts of duty and service I find the above principles to be a very useful reminder of the standards which should guide my professional life. The first three principles of selflessness, integrity and objectivity would appear to have been sadly missing in any analysis of some of the practices which have been apparent in the financial and business world over the last few years.

I have no doubt that this level of scrutiny will turn its attention on those of us in public service – particularly as the notion of value for money comes to play an even bigger role in such considerations. In many respects the opportunity for personal gain in terms of money, or benefit in kind, are relatively limited in my own area of responsibility. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to carefully filter invitations, offers of hospitality and any other “free lunch” by using the principles of selflessness, integrity and objectivity to ensure that I gain no personal benefit from that opportunity.

Beyond the first three principles the practice of a public servant must be underpinned by the remaining principles on a daily and continuing basis. I often try to explain that the difference between two people, one of whom is in a senior position and the other who is not, can be captured in the difference in accountability. I suppose it’s most clearly seen in recent times through the dismissal of Janet Shoesmith, the Director for Children’s Services in Haringey, for being ultimately held accountable for the quality of the entire service provided, whereas the person of lower seniority has a more limited range of accountability.

The principle of accountability sits beside the commitment to openness, which, if pushed ,I would suggest, is the foundation for all the other principles. For I believe that the more we can do to be as open and transparent in our business the less we can be accused of failing to live up to any of the other principles. This is a lot harder to live up to than one might imagine, as it takes lot more effort to be open and to explain decisions, than it might be if we were to adopt the role of the benign dictator who can be relied upon to “do the right thing for the people”

Lastly, the principle of leadership, rests upon our capacity to live up to these principles and – above all – live them out in our own practice as an example to others. Now that is difficult!!

Good management – the bedrock for good leadership?


“England and America are two countries separated by a common language”    George Bernard Shaw 1856-`1950

It was Shaw’s quotation which came to mind a few years ago when visiting Boston to meet with school principals from throughout the world. The Americans describe school leadership as “administration”.  For us in the UK such a description sits very uncomfortably with all its associations with bureaucracy, paperwork and distance from the learning and teaching process.

Ironically, in my time as an assistant headteacher, depute headteacher and even as headteacher  I was uncomfortable with the title of being a school manager – despite being known as a member of the “school management team”. I was – in  my mind – first and foremost a teacher and a leader and any suggestion that I had moved from having a manager’s perspective was denied at all times.

Even as a head of service I struggled to be closely associated with the concept of being a manager – for such a term conjures up a distant, procedurally obsessed, hierarchical, budget dominated and technically oriented person who has little thought for those in his or her employ, let alone concern for the children we serve.

Yet over the last few years my position has begun to shift. In working closely with headteachers I have come to see that good management is the bedrock upon which good leadership is based. Early in my career I scorned those who could only do the technical tasks involved in school leadership. But as we begin to really engage with the consequences of global financial crisis perhaps we need to reappraise the relationship between management and leadership?

Even a cursory glance through this Learning Log over the last few years should indicate a personal commitment to creating culture where people – at all levels – can innovate and take much more responsibility for creating positive conditions for teaching and learning.  In line with that commitment I have explored models of practice which shift decision making to those who actually engage with learners – as opposed to issuing policy diktats from the centre and expecting them to be implemented.

The next step in that process must be to help school leaders to become more comfortable with their role as managers who facilitate, support and provide space for colleagues,  who in must turn take more control over their own practice. The current drive for distributed leadership actually has significant consequences for the way in which educational leaders have to conduct their business.

If people are to have more freedom they must be able to be clear about the parameters and expectations within which they are working.  They need the security of a manager who can share the accountability agenda and who understands and protects the innovative process. If creativity is to flourish within the system then the expectation that it will always be derived from the “top” needs to be changed and seen to change.

I’m not suggesting here that leaders – lose their capacity to influence the strategic direction of their organisation, department, school, business unit, etc. But that a significant amount of their time is spent on facilitating and supporting a culture which are underpinned by the concepts of freedom and responsibility.

In order for this to happen I reckon the manager at all levels has to  master the following:

Budget transparency and open engagement with all stakeholders about the financial context within which we do our business.

Engagement with the data which indicates the impact of our practice – much, much more than simply considering attainment data.

Clear line management responsibilities where colleagues are supported, enabled and provided with permission to take action.

A willingness, the skills and the organisational support to engage with colleagues whose work does not reach the standards set out in professional codes of practice – e.g. GTCS.

 As I’ve mentioned before, I learned a huge amount from my colleagues in social work who don’t appear to have the same hang ups as those of us in education about the need for them to act as “managers”. Perhaps it’s time for those of us in education to take a lead from their example.