Collective Social Concience

This morning I watched driver after driver try to make way for an ambulance. It flitted through my mind that we don’t see too many visible examples of collective social conscience in modern society.

It made me wonder if we are motivated in such circumstances by something more than just simple compliance with the law? Could it be empathy, or to do with the fact that we know that one day it could be us, or one of our family?

Which triggered another question – are we motivated by the same thing when we get out the way of police car?

Twitter: Confessions of an unjustified sceptic

I joined Twitter 60 days ago today. I’d put it off for nearly two years as I thought it was either a vehicle for shadowing celebrities, or a mindless activity in which people spent their time telling each other what they had for breakfast.

How wrong I was!!

In the intervening period I’ve come to realise that it’s a unique learning resource – and I talk as someone who has written over 900 posts on my Learning Log. By discovering others throughout the World who share a passion for education, tracking their thoughts, following their links, and engaging in productive conversations – I have been inspired, challenged and professionally invigorated.

The other – possibly most surprising outcome – has been that it has proved to be an engine for policy development. This happened in a completely organic manner yesterday morning. Sitting over a post-breakfast cup of coffee I spied an interesting tweet from that dynamic educational practitioner and thinker in the form of Fearghal Kelly. The tweet pointed to his most recent post on A Framework for Learning and Teaching.

Over the next hour I engaged in a conversation with Fearghal and others from throughout the twittisphere which culminated in the #Learnmeet concept being identified, agreed and committed to action. Not bad for a Saturday morning.

Added to that are a series of conversations which helped to shape a first draft of a senior high school curriculum policy – which is now about to go out for consultation using more traditional lines of communication.

Taken together these examples have shown me that we must embrace Twitter and encourage other colleagues to engage in the dialogue about our practice which can have such a positive impact upon our work, the quality of education we can provide, and – I would suggest – our well being. For too often professionals who wish to engage in professional dialogue can be isolated in their work setting if no-one shares their enthusiasm. With the use of Twitter we have the opportunity to challenge that sense of isolation and create a tipping point where dialogue about education becomes the norm.

To all on Twitter who have made me feel most welcome, thank you.

All Black Magic

Gill and Richie McCaw by Don Ledingham

We met Richie McCaw a couple of years ago when out visiting our son who was playing rugby in Christchurch.

He was a really genuine bloke who belied the notion that all top sportspeople are only interested in themselves.

I was so pleased to see him lift the World Cup trophy this morning – albeit after an incredibly close match.  It means so much to our Kiwi friends who must have been watching the game through their fingers.

I’ve always had an affinity for the All Blacks ever since I played against them for the South of Scotland.  I’m afraid to admit that we huddled down around our own 22m line when they performed their Haka – a bit different from how the French faced up to it today.

It’s funny how that memory has stayed with me ever since and has probably helped me more than once to accept a challenge in a direct and respectful manner.



Hospitality and Tourism Academy

East Lothian Council’s  Education and Children’s Services Department, Jewel And Esk College, and Queen Margaret University have been jointly exploring the possibility of establishing a Hospitality and Tourism Academy for young people aged 14 – 18.
The concept is based upon the Engineers of the Future, which was a college, university, employer partnership with a view to promoting engineering as a career and  engineering qualifications ranging from vocational to higher academic levels.
Hospitality and Tourism are key growth industries within East Lothian and are currently  two of the most likely destinations for young people leaving school. Jewel and Esk College and Queen Margaret University specialise in offering Higher National Qualifications and under graduate and post graduate courses in specific and associated fields of study.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council have prioritised the need for links to be established between schools and the Further Education and Higher Education sectors. The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence guidelines require all schools to make positive changes to their curriculum at all levels, with a particular focus upon making the senior phase more related to employability and lifelong learning. Those priorities, together with the More Choices More Chances agenda for promoting positive destinations for all school leavers, combine to provide a unique alignment of circumstances for partners in our respective fields to collaborate in finding new ways of delivering and connecting learning experiences for young people.
Our plan is to combine three elements for the Academy: vocational, business, and academic. These aspects are not hierarchical but are rather inter-related, i.e. a person can be working on a single aspect, work through from one aspect to another, or combine two or three of the aspects at any one time.
The Academy will have 45 students in a single cohort, made up of 15 students from each of the three schools serving the areas of highest levels of multiple deprivation in East Lothian. Within each cohort one third will be focusing upon vocational routes, one third on business, and one third on academic.
The Academy will have three year group cohorts :Year 1 equivalent to S4 (15/16 year olds); Year 2 – S5 (16/17 year olds); and Year 3 (17/18 year olds). Graduation from the Academy can occur at the conclusion of any one year.
Access to the Academy will be open to any student attending any of the three schools within the prototype programme. Students and their parents will be introduced to the Academy at the end of S2 and invited to apply to join the application year programme. This programme will involve students attending three evening sessions over the course of the coming year, one at a hub school; one at the college and one at the university. In addition they will have their commitment to personal study, academic progress and any work experience monitored throughout the year. A final interview at the end of S3 will select the 15 students from each school, with the proportions following the previously explained vocational, business, and academic criteria. The most important selection criterion will be evidence of personal commitment, e.g. attendance, timekeeping, dedication to a personal interest.
The Academy curriculum will be a combination of existing school-based courses which can be related to hospitality and tourism, and some compulsory and elective units which will be delivered in the evening at nominated schools, the college, or university. We have considered the possibility of offering some courses before the start of the school day, thereby reflecting some of the realities of working in the industry and also maximising the assets in our schools.
As students progress through the Academy we will seek to enhance their school curriculum with college, or university based courses/modules, with a greater proportion of their time being spent outside school as they progress.
Of course, one of the vital elements missing from this description relates to the role of employers and the world of work. Our intention is to form strategic partnerships with a number of prestige companies involved in the hospitality and tourism industry. Through linking with their training divisions and drawing upon their expertise we would intend to create a very high quality learning experience which will be worthwhile in it’s own right, regardless of a student’s eventual employment destination, but also one which is eventually seen to be a of high regard by future employers in the industry.
We would see work experience to be a fundamental part of the Academy programme with the hope that some students will eventually graduate into full time employment with some of the placement employers.
Our next steps are to continue with our deliberations and seek to establish partnerships with employers to involve them in the design phase. In addition we will work with the Funding Council, the Scottish Government and local individuals. Our strategic steering team will be complemented by an operational group who will work out the details of the programme, consult with young people, parents and employers, and prepare for the first cohort to commence in September 2012.
We see the benefit of this project to extend beyond those who might participate. By establishing strong links between schools, the college and university, and employers we begin to create a new form of learning experience for young people and explore new forms of collaborative delivery which blurs the distinctions between providers and employers. By creating a motivated group of students, who have a strong commitment to personal learning within and beyond school, we shall create a group who will influence others by their behaviour.
Finally, the Academy concept has the potential to be replicated in other schools and in other fields of study and industry, which may reflect local opportunities and connections.

Tactics – the forgotten element of leadership

“If a goal requires a strategy, and a strategy requires tactics, then knowing which tactics to select lie at the heart of effective leadership.”

Listen to any conversation or presentation relating to educational leadership and you won’t have to wait long until a magical word is intoned and others sagely nod in agreement. That word, of course, is strategy.

Yet listen out for a reference to tactics and you’ll have a long wait.

As I reflect on the best educational leaders I’ve worked with and for, the most distinguishing factor in their success was that they could work out how to translate a goal into a reality. The reason they were successful was that they had learned – through experience – to select the most effective actions which will overcome the obstacles to achievement.

Such tactical thinking differs significantly from the accepted critical path analysis concept of project management – which tends to see achievement of a goal to be a linear deployment of a series of steps, often exemplified by comparing with how we go about making a cup of coffee.

The reality is that successful change needs a much more sophisticated application of inter-connected tactical actions.

Headteacher Pay: England Vs Scotland

Given today’s Scotland Vs England world cup rugby fixture (we’ll not refer to the result) I thought it might be of interest to try to compare headteacher pay between the two countries.

The English pay scales are set out in  Pay and Conditions for Teachers in England Wales and I’ll use this document as the basis for what follows.

In this example I will  use a secondary school of 900 students, split equally into six year groups of 150 students..

The English system is based upon the concept of pupil units.

For example a student in Key Stage 3 – equivalent to S1 – S2 (12-14 yrs) – is worth 9 units; a student in Key Stage 4  (14-16 yrs)  is worth 11 units; and a student in Key Stage 5 (16-18 yrs) is worth 13 units.

Using the 150 students in each year group this translates into 9,900 units.

The units are then compared to a school group table – for the sake of this exercise I’m only going to refer to the scales for schools outwith the London area.

The scales are:

Group                             Pay range

1  –  up to 1000            £42,379 – £56,950

2  – up to 2,200            £44,525  – £61,288

3 – up to 3,500             £48,024 – £65,953

4  – up to 5,000            £51,614 – £70,991

5  – up to 7,500            £56,950 – £78,298

6   – up to 11,000         £61,288  – £86,365

7  – up to 17,000          £65,963 – £95,213

8  – beyond 17,000       £75,725 – £105,097

In our example, the headteacher of a school of 900 students would be paid – at the top end – and most of them seem to be at that level £86,365, whereas in Scotland the pay is a maximum £66,000 for an identical school.

The final level of a headteachers’ pay is determined by the Governing Body (i.e. parents) within the scales set out above – although there is some leeway for awarding additional discretionary payments.

There are addditional scales of pay for headteachers of “special schools” but for the sake of simplicity I’ve ignored them in this comparision.


There does not seem to be a significant difference between the level of pay for basic grade teachers in England and Scotland but there are very significant differences in the pay of headteachers – particularly at secondary level. English headteachers would appear to be  paid between 20 – 30% more than their Scottish counterparts.

The key differences in terms of expectation is that the English school governing body can set performance targets that they expect the headteacher to achieve, and the fact that English Headteachers have a greater range of devolved responsibilities than their Scottish counterparts.