Dr Harry Burns on “Support from the Start”

Photo of Dr Harry Burns

Dr Harry Burns

This powerful video shows Dr Harry Burns, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, speaking at length about early intervention and East Lothian’s joint Support from the Start development.

He was the speaking in the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh, at the invitation of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, who kindly shared this recording.

Dr Burns speaks for the first 45 minutes of the video.

“Do not see my disability as a deficit”

I visited Ross High School’s additional support department today. The department provides education for East Lothian children who have a range of severe and complex needs.

The department was recently inspected as part of the school’s HMI inspection and received a very positive report.

The team – so ably led by Fiona Cooper – and supported by head teacher Dorothy Bartholomew, are incredibly committed to providing a worthwhile educational experience for every child and young person.

The school really go the extra mile to include every child who can benefit from mainstream class inclusion – as do all schools in East Lothian.

My visit reminded me of a wonderful encounter I had a few years ago with Norman Kunc. Take a look at

Kunc’s second video is even more powerful

Naive – compliment or insult?

If someone describes you as naive should you be pleased or insulted?

I thought it might be worthwhile referring to the dictionary for the definition and synonyms.

I’ve emboldened those terms which lead me to believe that, on balance, it’s a compliment.

The scorecard reads 25 positive against 22 negative.

Perhaps we need more naive people in the world?

Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: childlike, trusting
Synonyms: aboveboard, artless, callow, candid, confiding, countrified, credulous, forthright, frank, fresh, green*, guileless, gullible, harmless, ignorant, impulsive, ingenuous, innocent, innocuous, instinctive, jejune, lamb, like a babe in the woods, natural, open, original, patsy, plain, simple, simple-minded, sincere, spontaneous, square, sucker, unaffected, unjaded, unpretentious, unschooled, unsophisticated, unsuspecting, unsuspicious, untaught, unworldly, virgin, wide-eyed.

Are we adding value?

I met with a couple of colleagues from schools  today (one primary and one secondary) to discuss how we can make better use of the data we collect through our MIDYIS and PIPS assessment system from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring based at Durham University.

We now administer these assessments for all children in P1, P3, P5, P7 and S2.  The S2 results act as very accurate predictors of how students will perform in their formal subject examinations in S4. 

Pauline Sales, our Research Principal Officer has been doing some outstanding work to allow us to make judgements about how groups of children progress against the national averages for reading/verbal skills as they move through our schools system, for example “Do children from one primary school improve, decline or remain the same against the national average after two years of secondary school?”  This data offers huge opportunities for school managers and teachers to better understand the impact they have upon children’s literacy levels.

The basic premise is that if we can develop this system further we can make judgements about how much value we add – or otherwise – throughout a child’s educational experience in East Lothian schools. It’s important to emphasise that this data is most useful for judging the progress of groups of children – rather than individuals.  Obviously the form of assessment that makes the most difference to the individual child is that of a formative kind undertaken by the teacher and used to support the learning process. We will be discussing this further with headteacher colleagues with a view to how we make best use of this data.

Resuming a journey

One year can pass very quickly! 

On my return I thought it might be worthwhile  repeating what I said a few years ago about the purpose and benefits of keeping a Learning Log.

A “Learning Log” can be captured in a relatively simple tri-colon:

“Where you’ve been; where you are; and where you’re going”.

I’m not talking here of travel in any sort of geographical sense, but more about the journey which relates to opinions, ideas and perceptions.

A Learning Log imposes a discipline upon the reflective process, which, although it may be going on informally, or tacitly, all of the time, can often be lost in the ‘clutter’ which forms much of our daily, weekly and monthly work.

The Learning Log gives me that brief – and ever more valuable, opportunity to step outside and look back upon my practice and direction of travel.

The reflective power of the on-line Learning Log is magnified when the contribution of others’ comments is taken into consideration. The Learning Log therefore provides an invaluable strategic map, in that enables me to retrace my steps and see where I’ve come from, identify where I am at any one point in time and, hopefully, enables me to explore the future in a relatively safe environment.

The other, incredibly useful role for the Learning Log is that it enables me to see connections between various things that I’m doing that might not be apparent if they were contained within their normal silos.  For me it’s this connecting function that helps me to make sense of some the very disparate things that I do in my day-to-day work.

If this seems focused upon the personal benefits of keeping a learning log then that has been deliberate – the benefit of a Learning Log to other people is very much dependent upon the reader’s perception – whilst at the same time modelling the kind of transparency which I believe should be characteristic of modern public service systems.