So far so good

We are due to go off to Stormont Castle in half and hour but here are some thoughts which have struck me over the course of today.

I'll give more detail about the structure of the conference later but I don't have a good long term memory.

I may put these points down as separate entries when I get back but in the meantime here goes:

Do we need ICT co-ordinators (don't panic Karen) in schools? Do they provide a barrier to teachers engaging in ICT if it's someone elese's responsibility?

Could ICT co-ordinators be a limit to the growth of ICT use as it can only move as fast their capacity to support and lead? Could we create a more dynamic and enabling culture which encourages partnership, sharing and a more creative development culture where ICT is part of the Learning and Teaching Process as opposed to being something which exists outside that process.

During one of the talks someone talked about a "blended approach" – I like that in that it gets towards what we should aspire – i.e. both face-to-face and on-line engagement with learning.

The key to the future is the communication with other colleagues who share a common interest. If a teacher works in one school they might only have one or two people who are professional soulmates. It's possible through accessing people's blogs to find others who share a common perspective.

Should blogging be compulsory for all teachers? – why don't we ask all probationary teachers to keep a blog. Just as Guardian on-Line requires job applicants to have a web presence to judge their qualities as prospectiove employee then perhaps we could use blogs to from an important part of the selection process – or at least enable us to match up people with schools.

The danger with this is that pressure might arise from 'having' to keep a blog – However, the experience of keeping a blog would – arguably – prove to be a worthwhile professional learning experience.

Could we ask all those who wish to apply for promotion to keep a blog?

How about even setting applicants up with a blog which they would keep prior to being called for interview – even it was only for a week it would provide an insight into what makes the person tick – at the very least it would overcome some of the difficulties which are presneted through the traditional interview process.

Assessment of ICT capacities? – if a pupils can complete a project on-line, use photos, sound, text, correspond with others, search, select and use on-line resources – what else would they need to do?

I worry about spending all our time auditing the curriculum – particularly for ICT. Perhaps we should be enabling and empowering teachers as opposed to constntly checking for gaps and deficits in their practice.

Digital divide – the digital divide is a subset of the social divide – the digital divide is OUR problem.

Should we replace all desktops with laptops which pupils could take home?

How about a bi-polar approach towards change – i.e. both top down and bottom up. The top needs to enable and empower – the bottom needs to accept opportunities and innovate – it's a partnership!

I haven't had a chance to proof read this and no doubt some of the ideas are a bit off the wall but I don't want to lose anything.

Off to Stormont!



Value for money

Breakfast time in Belfast

I got into Belfast last night. The day had been taken up with a Directorate meeting from 8.15-9.30 – we made significant progress in the integration debate – then Education Committee in the morning. This was followed in the afternoon by scrutiny committee – we presented the SELS data on pupil opinion at P7 & S2. This information will prove to be critical over the next few years in helping us to plan and monitor developments in our service.

The title of this entry is value for money? Certainly some of my friends from home see this as a "jolly". Flights, accommodation and conference fees add up to a hefty sum. So I intend to try to make a judgement about the impact if the conference on myself and the strategic direction we are taking ICT in East Lothian.

The good thing about keeping a blog is that you can track how you have been influenced by certain events, meetings and people. My hope is that by Friday afternoon I'll be able to make a judgement one way or another. I'll try to update my blog throughout the next few days.

Off to breakfast.

PS I had a pint of the black stuff in The Crown – beautiful!!


I'm going to Belfast tomorrow for the
xchange conference.

I received this e mail today from Eddie Sloan – I'm sure he would welcome some responses from Scottish colleagues. I've invited him to keep a blog on Exc-el


Mon 5/6/06 4:50 AM


"eddie sloan" <>


Reply To:

Dear Don,

whilst looking at some educational blog sites I came across yours. My name
is Eddie Sloan and I'm a primary teacher in Adelaide, South Australia.
I thought I'd introduce myself.

I was born in Glasgow and came here when I was 8, that was 44 years ago.
I've been teaching here since 1976 and have seen some changes over that

I was looking at some of your blogs and felt that Scottish philosophies
may be similar to some of ours in Adelaide, eg. teaching for life long
learning and that we should teach students skills to learn not just expect
them to learn facts and figures.

Our state web site is called SACSA (South Australian Curriculum Standards
and Accountability) and has companion documents that may
be worth a look.

Eddie Sloan



Tuning in

Friday 2nd June

My Day – Education Officer's weekly update; team briefing; Stewart McKinnon, ED&R; North Berwick High School Leavers lunch; NBHS evaluation visit; a disciplinary hearing; my son's leavers' event at his school; Cath Purves' leaving do at Dunbar Grammar.

A busy day but one which was characterised by the fact that seven people admitted to reading my blog. It is all the more surprising in that I did not solicit that admission from any of them. You sometimes have to wonder about blogging but feedback like that does give you encouragement – name checks for Louise Holland and Alan Sommerville!

New blogging platform

We are experimenting with new blogging software.

I've had a go at setting up two new versions of Don's Blog

Don's Blog

Version 2
Don's Blog

We would hope to be able to set up users with accounts using either of the platforms. The only problem we can foresee is the search facility would be lost if blogs were held on another platfrom other than exc-el – am I right?


The status quo is not an option

We held our last HT conference of the session. The theme of the day was "A Curriculum For Excellence." Speakers were:
May Sweeney; HMIe Phil Denning – our new District Inspector; Paul Smyth from Research Machines – who spoke about SSDN; and
Ewan MacIntosh – whose presentation he has posted as a podcast.

Here is a summmary of my summary.

"Learning and Teaching is at the heart of A Curriculum for Excellence (ACE)" May Sweeney

This was very gratifying to hear, as we have placed our Learning and Teaching policy at the heart of our development. She also suggested that Assessment is For Learning (AiFL) needs to be embedded in ACE – once again our policy has at its core the building blocks which relate to formative assessment.

However, a policy means nothing unless it can be translated into reality -CONSISTENTLY – in all our classrooms. (I'll post our teacher self-evaluation tool here tomorrow.) Our challenge is to find ways of ensuring that it is consistently applied.

May Sweeney also pointed out that ACE is not a top down development model – which once again is one of our principles in developing practice in our schools. The reality is that ACE is already happening in many of our classrooms – it's not something which is new and totally foreign to our experiences. To this end we are holding a Celebrating Success event in September where schools will be asked to demonstrate examples of ACE which are already happening. The event will be held in the Brunton Hall, which will be split into four zones – each zone covering a different capacity.

I reflected on Ewan's presentation where he had challenged the traditional power structure in the classroom – I took this a step further by suggesting that we need to challenge the power structure at all levels within the education establishment – this doesn't mean that I'm advocating anarchy, but that people are engaged in helping to shape their practice. The bottom line is that we all need to give up some of our power, and leaders need to demonstrate through their own practice.

We were also encouraged to challenge the notion of being assessment led – which has been the bane of the secondary school curriculum. It's here that we come across the paradox which is ACE, i.e. will following the principles which underpin ACE lead to a drop in educational attainment.

I suggest we believe in the evidence and our own experience – where children are engaged in their learning then they learn more effectiveley – with a subsequent enhancement in their attainment. Our problem is that it would appear that children are more engaged in their learning within the primary environment. I referred to the one of our 5Cs – COLLEGIALITY – in relation to this and I was encouraged by the fact that HTs have been reinforcing the need for their teachers to learn from their colleagues in other sectors. Ewan had mentioned the need for more play – at all levels – this is now being reflected in the P1 curriculum which is now picking up on good practice from the nursery sector.

The point here is that we need to have faith in the power of effective teaching and learning. However, we can't fall into the trap that affflicated
progressive education in the 1960's where a lack of rigour and chellenge led to a worthwhile development being abandoned for a more traditional model.

May Sweeney had talked about curiculum organisers – such as "Me and my community" and using these as ways of encouraging inter-disciplinary projects. I linked this with the ideas we have been exploring in connection with
project work and inter-disciplinary work, whilst making best use of available technology.

Drawing my summary to an end I reflected upon what Phil Denning had been saying about the need to build sustainable communities – and the need for school to look at ways in which we can engage with partners outwith schools – COLLEGIALITY – particularly community learning and development. I linked this with our cluster based approach and referred to the notion of family resemblances as a way of considering how cluster could develop. – without uniformity. Clusters will be the key drivers for A Curriculum for Excellence in East lothian – which in turn is dependent upon all of us accepting COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY for its successeful delivery.


On the road

On the road for a lot of today – West Barns Primary sSchool for Dave Wharton's ED&R; LevenHall Nursery (Musselburgh) for Alison McNeil's ED&R; Meadowmill Sports Center for a meeting with Eamonn John and Beth McLeod about our PE, sport and physical activity strategy; Preston Lodge High School for meeting with management team to reflect upon porgress made in relation to the school's HMIe follow up report which we will have to submit in September – both Alson Wishart and I were impressed with the consistent progress which the school has made in many areas.

Back to the office for 4.30 to meet with the Principal Teachers of English. It was revealing to hear from the PTs about the issues which they are tackling and the strategies they are using to improve learning and teaching. We looked at our new Learning and Teaching Policy – it looks like there is big task for us in relation to making best use of ICT in the teaching of English.


I had planned to take a day off on Friday but as things turned out I had to come in to pick up on some business and it turned out be a worthwhile day.

Today has been taken up with the directorate meeting; my own ED&R with Alan Blackie; meeting with Bill Torrance the new EIS Local Secretary; and an ED&R with Liz Kerr – the HT of Haddington Nursery School.

One of the points which emerged during my chat with Liz was the issue of transition and how it is something which characterises a child's experience throughout their school career. As a secondary teacher transition tends to mean only one thing the move up from primary to secondary. However, Liz talked about transitions from nursery to primary which she manages within her own school and then the transition from infant school to upper primary. The challenge in all transitions is that we must try to avoid the fresh start approach. For example Liz's P3 pupils are involved in buddying their P1 pupils. Yet we tend to think of this as something that only older pupils can do. Liz has worked hard with colleagues at Kingsmeadow to make it a positive transition without it involving a step back – the key is people getting together.

One of the problems in schools – not all – is that teachers can tend to see a child only existing as they are at that point in front of them – e.g. S2 – with no history and no future beyond their presence in their classroom (
Alan Coady touched on this last week). If we could reinforce that we (teachers)are all involved in helping children navigate along a path on which we are all guides and not just a snapshot approach towards child development. I know this sounds particularly negative and I'm delighted to see progress in so many of our schools – nevertheless, it remains one of our biggest drawbacks. Finally – the greatest transition – which is all to often ignored is the one from school to work or further/higher education.

Last point – the school take P2 pupils on a residential experience – wow!! Thanks to Jill Wareham and her team.

Queen Margaret University College

QMUC is opening its new campus in East Lothian in August 2007. This presents exciting opportunities for all of us in East Lothian. I was at a presentation today about university and Jewel and Esk Valley College. Once again I was struck by comments made about how ill prepared young people are for university and even further education. Change in the school curriculum and the delivery of that curriculum is not an option – it has to happen and soon!

I really enjoyed meeting Elizabeth Cowan and Karen Robertson today – they updated me about e-live – we really have to start something similar in East Lothian – definitely next term. Their combined
weblog is worth looking at – welcome.

Hosted a brief farewell to our language assistants – including two from China.

Popped in to see David Scott this evening – he has his operation tomorrow at 8.00am – passed on everyone's best wishes – he was in good form and thanked everyone for their kind support.

Learning Stories

Employee and Development Review Meetings with Susan Smith at Tranent Nursery and Fiona Beveridge at Macmerry Primary. I was very interested to find out about learning stories from Susan – this is where nursery pupils keep a diary/record of their year in nursery – obviously their teachers and nurses have a significant role to play but I was struck by the idea of how similar learning stories are to what I was describing on this blog yesterday. Now if we could just explore a learning journal/story/project which followed a child up from nursery through until they leave secondary school!!

Both Susan and Fiona liked the idea of a headteachers manual.

I had a meeting over lunch about the development of a 360 degree review system for headteachers.

The afternoon was spent with the secondary headteachers. Very positive response to the Getting Things Done approach – looks like we will be following this up with all HTs who are interested next year; similar positive nod to the manual idea. All agreed with the investment in the upgrading of the bandwidth to schools – despite the investment. We had a discussion about our SQA budget which is currently held at the centre but which is due to be delegated to schools. As someone pointed out this does involve a transfer of risk – but at least HTs have some control over the presentation policy in schools – having said that we are going to look at developing authority guidleins on presentations. We also agreed that the authotrity shoucl develop guidlines for school uniform. All in all a very postive meeting.