8.30 am Met Clare O’Sullevan, the consultant helping the department with its restructuring process. Alan Ross joined us for the first 45 minutes. I get the feeling we are beginnning to make some real progress. Undoubtedly there are going to have to be some key decisions made in the next few weeks but the signs are looking positive that we will create something that will enable us all to carry out responsibilities more effectively
11.00am Out to Brunton Hall to watch 350 P1s take part in a musical performance in conjunction with the RSNO. I have to admit to being intrigued as to how so many five year olds would respond to such a challenge. In the event it was a great success and I thought the sympathetic way in which the professional musicians worked with the children was a great credit to the initiative. It just goes to show that we should have high expectations for our chiildren and not be afraid to take on such ambitious projects.
Back to the office for a meeting with Helen McMillan and Pauline Homer about the impact of the proposed cut in their budget. I am distressed about this situation and I'm looking at ways in which we can try to reinstate this funding. I'm going out with Pauline on Thursday afternoon to look at a couple of child care and out of school clubs we are running.
Straight out of here to a meeting of the 3-14 Assessment Group. This proved to be a very productive meeting with a couple of key ideas being generated. Firstly, we will be looking at two standardised tests for our P4 cohort. The two options are NFER and the MIDYIS equivalent for that age group. We will make two presentations at the next HT meeting scheduled for the 25th January and make a decision there.
The second idea was in relation to the external moderation of 5-14 results. We started off with one thing and by the end of the discussion had shaped up something which might just work. The basic concept will involve six schools (4 primary and 2 secondary) being selected at random to partciapate in the exercise. We will focus on moderating one particular curricular area, probably writing in the first instance. A group of students will be chosen, at random, from a particular year group, e.g P3 in primary and S1 in seondary. Their work would packaged up and sent into the department. A group of teachers and department staff (probably no more than 4) would meet for a couple of days and review the material. Where ther is an apparent discrepancy in a schools massemment it would be taken up by the appropriate education officer but in the main we would be looking at the level of consistency across the authority. At the same time the exercise gives confidence that levsl of attainment are reliable – someting which noone of us are particularly confident of at the moment.
Met with an HT after the meeting then worked on a cluster working paper before tomorrow's meeting of the primary/secondary executive.
What do you make of the following?
DEVELOPING A CLUSTER BASED APPROACH
Current cluster practice is characterised, to a greater or lesser extent, by the following:
Schools within a cluster tend to operate discretely more frequently than they do in partnership
There is a tendency to perceive schools to be in competition with each other
Cluster meetings often lack focus
Clusters are seen by some as being peripheral to their core business
Clusters are not seen to be providing a proper interface between the schools and the department
Schools rarely take collective responsibility for all of the children in the cluster
Cluster representation on authority groups is often ad hoc or not present
THE FUTURE OF CLUSTER PRACTICE
We propose that future cluster practice should be characterised by:
· COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
CONSISTENCY: There will be an expectation that there will be some consistency of practice within a cluster and between clusters. The drive for that consistency should be led by a commitment to provide the best quality of learning experience for every child in our care, as opposed to a slavish adherence to uniformity for its own sake.
CONTINUITY: There will be a need to ensure continuity of learning experience within a cluster, particularly at key transitions, e.g. nursery to infant; infant to upper primary; primary to lower secondary and lower secondary to upper secondary.
COLLEGIALITY: For clusters to operate successfully there is a need to recognisethe importance of personal commitment to the process. Cluster effectiveness will be compromised if any one Headteacher gives a half-hearted contribution. Collegiality should be encouraged amongst all staff within a cluster.
CREATIVITY: Clusters will be encouraged to adopt an enterprising approach towards their practice. Ideas should be generated, applied and shared at cluster level. In this way we will promote a learning approach across the authority with clusters developing and sharing new solutions rather than waiting for solutions or good ideas to be generated from the centre.
COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY: This is arguably the greatest challenge to our existing practice. Current practice reinforces the separation between schools, even in the same cluster. Headteachers are often isolated and carry the burden of responsibility for the all that goes on in their school. We are seeking to change this practice by encouraging Headteachers to see themselves as having a shared responsibility for every child in their cluster. By sharing practice, problems and solutions we hope to generate a more sustainable model which will capitalise on the strengths of co-operative practice.