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.

Whitecraig Primary School

Diary: 8.15 Met with an unsuccessful candidate from Friday's interviews to give feedback. I've learned to take copious notes during interviews in order to help me give productive feedback; met with member's of Chief Exec's office to discuss a range of issues relating to the department; met with the unions and employee development to look at our plans for 360 degree competence framework for next session. Every one has agreed in principle to the system and we were looking at how we tie it into the employee and development and review system; met with Derek Haywood and Anthony Gillespie to go over budgets; met with Liz Morris and Gael Gillan of the EUIS and LNCT to agree agenda for the next LNCT meeting; out to Whitecraig Primary School for Sheena Richardson's ED&R, a tour of the school and a chat with the staff.

During my tour of the school I discussed the use of interactive whitecoards with John Dagger – Whitecraig is our only school to have one in every classroom. John showed me how he uses it in class and but I was even more amazed to see Primary 2 pupils keeping their own webpages – similar to Bebo but in a protected environment – I've asked John if he will keep a blog on his work in class – get in touch with him for more info'.

In my meeting with the staff I reinfrorced the dramatic improvements which have been made by the school in the last session. Some attainment levels have gone up by 20% and there is a tangible improvement in the ethos of the school – a real team success.. I mentioned how our focus is on learning and teaching in the authority and that this will relate well to the efforts being made by the school.

Sheena is currently one of the HTs who is participating in our coaching programme – she confirmed that this strategy is very useful and it will be important for us to build on this success next session.


Friday 16th June

Diary: Quality Improvement Team Update; Department briefing; Meeting with David Gilmour to plan further developments in Exc-el (P.S We have an Exc-el Board meeting this coming Tuesday at John Muir House 4.00 – if you'd like to be part of the discussions please accept this as an open invitation to attend – we should finish about 5.30pm); met with a teacher and their union rep; Sheila McKendrick to finalise questions for Acting HT interview; Ross High School Acting Headteacher Interviews.

I received an interesting e mail from a colleague and parent about some of the things I've been saying about technology and children's learning. In my recent conference presentation about
citizenship I referred to the fact that both my sons spend a lot of time of Bebo – I was making the point that this is voluntary, engaging, and enabled them to be part of a community – quite aside from the skills they were developing – schools need to tap into this engagement or their learning environment will become ever more distant from the reality which children experience in the outside world.

Here's the e-mail (I have been given permission from the writer to post it here) – comments welcome:

"Had a thought on the engaged/not engaged at school item. I think that it
can be the case that young people become disengaged because the web
world they inhabit- and some are there for many hours a day- is more
about their agenda than the education agenda? Does that make sense? If a
person can spend time designing/creating/talking to friends etc on a
page on the web maybe this 'zones them out' for the hard lesson that
learning isn't always about what they want? If we could gain a balance
between the technology and the teaching maybe we could reel these
youngsters in again? I often think that young people expect a lot
because that is what the rest of the world says they should have. The
culture of being successful and 'be all you can be because you can' is
misleading. What is success? Money? I often chat to my children about these web items and I think it is
about balance of time spent on it – we also live in an 'instant' world
nowadays. Do you know who your children text/talk to? I don't anymore!
Mobile phones take care of that. Visual stimuli are what they want to
have – they can become desensitised as well – life doesn't affect them
as it happens in isolation – in their rooms or alone somewhere. Parents
worry that they will log on to do some research and end up being
sidetracked into a chat place. I have always encouraged the thought that a bit of graft and a set of
good results will offer choice – the more choice we have as we leave the
world of school will allow us to 'be all we can be'. This isn't what it
should be but the wide world is a hard place and that is how we are
often judged. Choice is important. One path is not always best.
Adaptability is a good thing."

I won't offer my response at this time – but it's great to get such feedback about posts on my blog. It's just this kind of dialogue that helps to shape our practice and future policy.


Colin Sutherland

Chief Officer's Group Meeting this morning – this involves the chief officers from health, police, education and children's services. Our task is to ensure co-ordination of our various roles to help support young people and their families. We had a discussion about our capacity to write the integrated childrens' services plan. In the last few years the main responsibility for drawing together the plan has been taken up by childrens' services. We explored a number of ways in which this burden could be distributed or given to a "lead officer" who we might appoint using our changing childrens services fund. I wasn't too keen on this idea as I feel that there is a danger that all parties merely hand over responsibility to the individual and integration only happens in name only. I'm also dead set against plans which take weeks to put together but have very little impact on our practice. Before I could stop myself I had volunteered to take the lead role to draw up the plan. I'd like to discuss an alternative approach towards integrated childrens' service planning with the Scottish Exec'. We will discuss this further at Directorate level.

Lunch with Colin Sutherland, currently seconded to the Scottish Executive to manage the STACS programme, from his post as headteacher at North Berwick High School. I was fascinated to hear from Colin how they plan to change the ways in which schools are grouped into comparator schools. It sounds like the new system will be a lot fairer – I won't list them hear as I don't know if this is common knowledge – is it Colin? We also explored how we might link some of Colin's work with our SELS project – we discussed the possibility of trying to find correlations between pupil opinions and outputs from schools – hopefully Colin can join one of our sub-groups which will emanate from our 3-18 Learning and Teaching Strategic Group.

Back to the office for quick meeting to prepare for next week's LNCT meeting. then out to Gullane Primary School for an ED&R (employee development and review) with Maureen Tremmel. I was really impressed by the school and enjoyed discussing a wide range of issues with Maureen – I don't know who gets more out of these meetings – me, or the person getting the ED&R?

Here's a first go at the
MMM model I've had a go at three plans using the multiple metaphor outlines. The green infill indicates priority ways of approaching the task. The next stage would be to write a narrative for each of the plans.


Managing Change model

TUESDAY 14/6/06

The day was taken up with a meeting with Donald McGillivray of the Association of Hedteachers and Deputes Scotland – Donald wanted to go over some of the concerns his members had about some of the documentation which had gone out to schools recently about staff representative groups. We managed to clear things up and I'll be writing out to schools with confromation at our next LNCT (local negotiating committee for teachers).

Then on to the last nursery/primary headteachers' meeting of the sesssion – we were able to reflect upon the incredible amount of wiork we have got through in the past year. I was particularly pleased to hear how postive people were about the new development planning process we've put in place.

Finance meeting with anthiny Gillespie and Derek Haywood – there are still some issues to clear up about the next year's budget but hopefully all will be completed by this time next week.

Departmental Management Team meeting in the afternoon – it's the function of this group to look at matters which link education and children's services. Sheila Ainslie explained what's happening with ELIS – East Lothian Inclusion Service – this has real potential to become a much more significant part in our better integrated services plans.

I managed to get an hour and half at my desk – and had a few quick meetings with folk who popped in to see me. One of whom was Tom Renwick, a former colleague, who now runs Maths on Track

I couldn't update my blog last night – some technical problem – but spent an hour playing aroundwith the
multiple metaphor model of change and trying to develop a planning tool which people could use to set out a strategy for complex change projects. I'll post the model here in the next few days.

Citizenship Conference

I spoke at the Citizenship co-ordinators conference in Edinburgh this morning. The session was filmed so I might be able to post my first videocast some time soon. The response from the audience was fairly positive.

I attended a workshop session about philosophy for children. I liked the way the focus was upon teaching children to think – I believe this has potential in our schools and may link with our extreme learning ideas. Apparently Fife Council are also developing materials.

In the evening I attended the Ross High School Celebration of Success evening – a super night with the highlight being Helen Alexander's address.

School Openings

Started the day with a Directorate meeting.

All our secondary schools were officially opened this mornig. The main event took place at Knox Academy. First Minister Jack McConnell perfromed the ceremony which had been very wel organised by Janis Craig and her team. The pupils were a great credit to the school.

I went from there to Musselburgh Grammar to take part in their opening – followed by a tour of the school.

Back to the office for a great meeting of our 3-18 Assessment Group This group is going to renamed in the new session as the 3-18 Learning and Teaching Strategic Group – it will oversee a range of developments identified in our Service Improvement Plan. We identified a range of sub groups which will hopefully involve up to 40 teachers plus some pupils and parents depending upon the topic.

Filled my bag with three days worth of correspondence and left for home.



The conference finished at 1.00pm and my flight back home isn't until 5.30. In response to my original question about
value for money I would have to say that it has been – it's given me a bit of space to play with some ideas; listen to others; meet new people and experience Belfast – you must visit!! – the final judgement will probably be more difficult to measure as you never really know how your thinking has been changed by the ideas and conversations you've had.

I'm speaking at a Citizenship Co-ordinators meeting on Tuesday in Edinburgh – I thought I'd use this time to jot down some ideas for my presentation which is entitled "Promoting a culture of Citizenship" The conference theme is embedding citizenship.

I think I'm going to explore the concept of citizenship from two perspectives – pupils as citizens and teacher as citizens.

I'll kick off with a bebo screen shot of my sons' BOBO spaces – they live in a connected community – despite the fact that we live in rural environment. How does school prepare them for this reality – or even take account of it?

From there to this website and the community of teachers who are sharing their experiences via blogs. We are citizens – in our own schools but – and this is what excites me – to a larger community outwith our schools – i we could just connect people.

I'll then link these two forms of citizenship and argue that citizenship comes through engagement – there's no way I'll be a voluntary citizen unless I feel something for my community – in this case the school. I'll then suggest that engagement comes through empowerment – I have to have a voice! I have to have some ownership of what's going on and even more importantly I need to be able to see that my voice is being heard.

Then to blogs and comments and the SELS data we have been generating via on-line questonnaires with all P7 and S2 pupils in East Lothian – and how these voices are shaping what we do.

From there I'll jump to vehicles for citizenship – I'll make reference to things such as the Dunbar trip to the WW1 battlefields cemetries for all their S3 pupils and the impact it makes on them as citizens; sport; performing arts; uniform; outdoor education; play; social events.

Then reference to Gretna football club and their chairman's Brookes Milseon's perspective on their role in the community – let's call it organisational citizenship – are schools citizens of their community? – or does their membership stop at the gates?

I''ll then talk a bit about "tranfersable citizenship" or perhaps that should read non-transferable citizenship" – there are kids in our schools who are model citizens but who in the local community can cause havoc – why? surely we should expect the "skills" of citizenship to be transferable?

Finally, I'll ask about citizenship for all. How easy is it for a pupil who comes from a disadvantaged background to feel the same about his community as another person who has a more supportive home environment – in all the forms that that support might come?

My final word will be about the hook for citzenship is much more likely to take place for both teachers and pupils if they are treated with unconditional positive regard? Any comments? What's missing? – or am I off beam?


Managing Change

This morning’s session looked at strategies for managing ICT. I enjoyed listening to Kathleen Gormley, Principal, St Cecilia’s College, Derry. She is obviously and outstanding leader and provided and inspirational perspective on successful school leadership.

Kathleen outlined 6 steps of a strategic map for change. These steps were:

  1. Vision;
  2. Planning;
  3. Partnership;
  4. Development;
  5. Leadership;
  6. Learning Environment.

She then quoted Kotter 1996 “Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces satisfactory results”

On hearing Kathleen speak I don’t think she really sees these steps as being sequential or separate but the quote certainly gives that impression.

This set me to thinking – what is my strategic map for change?

My problem is that I see change as being messy – if you try to make it too rational and scientific I believe you are destined to fail. I thought back to how I led the change process as a headteacher and now as a Head of Education. I know this flies in the face of all accepted practice but I would like to suggest a multiple metaphor model for change management – MMM? (aghh mixed metaphors the English teachers cry!!!)

Please regard this as a work in progress and I’d love to hear from you if you have suggestions for amendments or additions – or if you just plain disagree.

My multiple metaphor model for change has seven metaphors – why seven? -well why not – it was the number which Alan McLuskey used yesterday, it worked for Steven Covey and there were seven brides for …..

My metaphors are:

  1. Gardening – with apologies to Vygotsky
  2. Sculpting
  3. House Building
  4. Child rearing
  5. Hill walking
  6. Inventing
  7. Belonging

Gardening – gardening needs long term thinking, we need to defer reward just as the gardener does with faith that our efforts will be rewarded; we need to spend time preparing the gound; there are environmental factors which conspire to ruin our crops; we need to tend our crop- weeding, supporting, feeding, watering and selective removal of plants which aren't flourishing; there is a reward at the end of the day but there is also pleasure to be had in the process – and so it can be with the process of collaborative change.

Sculpting – a sculptress has a vision; they are creative; they have an expertise; they adapt their ideas in response to the material they are working with; there is a finished product which people appreciate; the finished product might be very different from the original vision.

House building – we select a design or a commision an architect; we take affordablity, convenience, personal requirements into account; the build has a timescale; it involves integrating different groups with a variety of expertise; there is a snagging process once the build is complete and people have moved in.

Child rearing – I once wrote a piece of doggerel about my son and the pleasure I got from holding his hand:

Take your child by the hand

And hold the future there

Keep him upright if you can

Release him if you dare

Change management can be like this – we need to nurture, encourage, support, provide opportunities to succeed and fail; provide unconditional positive regard; and eventually release from our control.

Hill Walking – we might have a map, or we might have a guide, or just follow signposts; we use a compass to help us know which direction we are going in; we have appropriate equipment, foood and water, perhaps a means of shelter, a communication tool; we let people know where we intend to go in case we get lost – but the view from the top of the hill makes everything worthwhile.

Inventing – when faced with a need human beings have a capacity to invent a solution – Scots have a reputation as inventors; we need to be prepared to step into uncharted territory, use our expertise and come up with ways of doing things which have never been done before.

Belonging – people need to belong; we need to take pride in our comunity – Belfast has reinforced this with the people taking an enormous pride in their community; people are valued within their own community; a community shares values – above all a sense of belonging is built upon a mutual sense of trust.

For me change management is a sophisticated combination of all these metaphors where we might merge any number of them together to fulfil our goals.

I intend to develop these metaphors as The Seven Sides of Educational Leadership.


There were two very interesting presentations this morning. Alan McCluskey from the Swiss Agency for ICT in education spoke about The 7 tacit lessons which schools teach children:

  1. Knowledge is scarce
  2. Learning needs a specific place and specific time (lessons in classrooms)
  3. Knowledge is best learnt in disconnected little pieces (lessons)
  4. To learn you need the help of an approved expert i.e. a teacher
  5. To learn you need to follow a path determined by a learning expert (a course of study)
  6. You need an expert to assess your progress (a teacher)
  7. You can attribute a meaningful numerical value to the value of learning (marks, grades, degrees)

I really enjoyed Alan’s ironic exploration of the principles which do seem to underpin the schooling process. Alan’s encouraged us to question our existing practice and to challange ther tacit principles which seem to currently drive the curriculum and our teaching.

Alan was followed by Dr Jerry Weast, Superintentdent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Massachusetts.

This was a complete reverse of the previous speaker and for me provided an interesting contrast.

Jerry told us how his system is results driven, with measuring of attainment at regular intervals being critical in keeping parents and the public happy by being able to demonstrate continual improvement. This is important for Jerry, as without their support the funding would be restricted and they would lose teachers – who, he reinforced, were the critical components in the success of their education system.

In the ensuing debate I made a point and asked a question.

My point was to repeat a something I’ve mentioned on this blog before. I expressed my appreciation of the counterpoint provided by the two speakers. I mentioned that probably all of us in the audience would empathise with Alan’s seven tacit lessons and that we would wish to aspire to this potentially utopian view.

However, I recognised the reality which Jerry faced on a day to day basis. I then drew the link with how progressive education was dismissed as being ineffective because it did not have a positive impact upon attainment. The danger we face in our move towards Alan’s perspective is that the reactionary dark forces gather together to enforce a return to “traditional” teaching methodologies in which the tacit lessons underpin all practice.

My question to Jerry was how he would go about moving towards a learning system which reflected Alan’s utopia, whilst maintaining attainment levels. Jerry’s response concentrated on the need to satisfy his public who provide his funding – only 1 in 4 has any active engagement with education through having a child in school.

I actually think this gets to the heart of the challenge facing schools, education authorities and governments who all agree that they need to change to face up to our changing world – yet the reactionary forces are out there waiting to pounce at the first sign of any slide in what is perceived to be “good” practice. It’s the job of all of us to inform and engage with parents about the changes which are taking place in schools – we need to demonstrate that we can be trusted to change our practice and that their children won’t suffer. I know this sounds a bit to pragmatic for the revolutionaries out there but we need to evolve our practice in a well managed transformation – if we don’t then we haven’t learnt the lesson from the Progressive education.