Agnes Ledingham – a doric quine

My grandmother Agnes Ledingham (1906 – 2002) was interviewed by Robbie Shepherd for the BBC back in 2000 at her home in the Smiddy, Keig.

She was a peripatetic music teacher in Donside, Aberdeenshire for many years.  She played the organ in two churches every Sunday until she was 94.  She was some woman!!

We came across the tape very recently. You can listen to the 20 minute interview here


 – GLOWing?

I’ve been using Google Docs for a few weeks now – thanks to David Gilmour – and I’ve been hugely impressed by it’s potential and simplicity.

Here are two videos – the first explaining Google Docs and the second showing teachers and school principals describing it’s potential.

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Child Protection, shared services and accountability (2)

In my first post on this topic I traced the background to integrated and shared services and the possible direction of travel.

The current cultural hegemony in public services is that “shared” is good and that any rearguard action to resist that momentum is reactionary and self centred.

 I hesitate to recall a line from Orwell’s Animal Farm but there is something of the “shared services good, discrete services bad” about the current climate.

The reality is that no service can operate in isolation any more – particularly in respect to children’s services – where the needs of children and families are so complex that to try to deliver a discrete service to children would be to place their safety at risk. So let me make it quite clear from the outset that I fundamentally believe that working in an integrated and co-ordinated manner with other services and agencies to support young people is an absolute necessity.

Yet there exists potential for people to confuse integrated working with the current drive to consider shared services with other partners, i.e. we combine with them in a manner where governance is aggregated to a single point.

As a relative newcomer to the strategic responsibility for child protection in East Lothian ( I am the interim chair of the child protection committee) I can perhaps be afforded the opportunity to ask the “daft laddie” questions about our direction of travel and the associated benefits and risks.  As the person who is ultimately accountable for child protection in East Lothian – along with the Chief Executive – I think it’s legitimate for me to at the very least ensure that I have explored every angle. 

My concern in relation to child protection is that shared services between councils has the potential to lead to confusion over who is actually accountable. As we’ve recently seen from the Haringey tragedy the system cannot cope with any uncertainlty in this regard as it leads to inconsistent and potentially unsafe practice.

If I’m a social worker I need to know where the lines of management reside and to whom I report and share responsibility.  In potentially bringing two different authorities together – with people on different terms and conditions, salary scales, management scales – that potential becomes even more possible.

The other issue rests in lines of governance.  If I’m employed by authority X and yet we provide a shared child protection service with authority Y – which council is responsible in the event of child’s death in authority Y? Is funding responsibility split on per capita terms or in terms of need and use of service?  Which disciplinary process do we use in the event of malpractice?

It’s these apparently simple yet significant issues of accountability and governance which must be resolved before any steps can be taken to attempt to provide shared services on an inter-authority basis.  At the very least we owe it to our vulnerable children and families in our communities that our desire to run a more cost effective service does not compromise their safety or well being.



Child Protection, shared services and accountability (1)

One of the things I really enjoy about my post is the extent of joint working with colleagues from health, police, voluntary sector, children’s social work and other organisations and groups with a common interest in improving services to children and families.  This form of joint working can be characterised as “integrated service delivery” 

Yet integrated service delivery leads one naturally to consider the potential for “shared service” delivery.

The drive for shared services can be traced back to the Gershon Review which considered efficiency in the UK public sector in 2004-2005. It was founded on the assumption that certain functions of government were identified as offering good opportunities for savings through the use of ICT: such as tax collection and benefits payments. Aggregating and reorganising other functions were seen to offer the promise of savings in procurement, buildings and facilities.

In Scotland this was followed by a consultation paper published in 2006 by the Scottish Government in the form of “A Shared Approach to Building a Better Scotland” . The main focus of the paper was upon inward facing services such as finance, procurement, HR, facilities, ICT and professional services, e.g. legal, audit.  There was a second area which addressed operational support systems and processes which would allow shared services to be established, areas identified in this respect included:

social care administration/client management, Criminal Justice, Education administration, Housing administration, Transport/highways maintenance/management, Police Operational Systems, Fire Operational Systems, Customer Contact/ CRM, Payments systems, Corporate performance management/reporting , Grants and funding administration, Tribunal administration.

The same paper went on to specifically focus upon social care and child protection:

“There has been a long term move towards an integration of the Social Care services provided by Councils and NHS Boards and for the effective sharing of data on vulnerable children between Education, Social Work, Police and Health. The selection of common standards, processes and operational systems and the shared deployment of these will play a key part in these developments and we will support initiatives with this aim.”

Certainly within our integrated service approach in East Lothian there has been a move towards shared processes, standards and operational systems.  Yet our progress had been hampered by the fact that the police and health services extend across more than one council area, i.e. our boundaries are not co-terminus.  For example the police division covers Midlothian and East Lothian.

From an objective point of view there appears to be an inescapable logic that East and Midlothian need to develop common standards, processes and operational systems in order to facilitate effective joint working with our key partners, which may or may not take the form of “shared services”

In my next post I will explore the benefits, risks and possible solutions of this direction of travel.





What underpins our approach to implementing a Curriculum for Excellence in East Lothian?

1. We shall work with others to ensure that East Lothian’s future economic prosperity is based upon 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. 

2. We shall reduce the difference in the educational outcomes of those learners who are from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds and their other classmates.

3. We shall give ownership of curriculum for excellence to practitioners, as it is recognised that sustained and meaningful improvement should, to a significant extent, be shaped and owned by those who will put it into practice.

4. We shall give schools substantial freedom of action within a framework of agreed goals and outcomes to vary the courses and to offer programmes which best address the needs and characteristics of their local community.

5. We shall regard attainment and achievement as essentials not alternatives. Both are essential to the future success of individuals and of our society and economy as a whole.

6. We shall regard self-evaluation as the foundation for improvement. 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.

7. We shall actively seek the participation of other stakeholders in the self-evaluation process at a local level. This involvement will be a key factor in the successful implementation of curriculum for excellence, i.e. young people, parents, employers, community members, etc.

8. We shall actively and rigorously seek to gather and share useful information about each individual learner’s progress throughout his or her educational journey in order to be confident that each learner is achieving fully.

9. We shall make optimum use of the time and expertise available for professional development in order to achieve better experiences and outcomes for learners.

10. We shall link the four capacities of “responsible citizens”; “successful learners”; “confident individuals”; and “effective contributors” to a sustained commitment to ensuring that every learner is “employable” and ready take a positive next step into society on leaving school.

Tam O’Shanter?


I recently accepted an offer to perform my version of Tam O'Shanter to P6 and P7 pupils at King's Meadow Primary School.  Having explained the tale I acted it out using an ancient Scottish dialect.

And the lesson is? - never perform with children, or people carrying video cameras!