Exc-el Development

I’ve spoken to a few people this week who expressed some concern about the recent Exc-el board meeting.

The problem centres on the meaning people ascribe to a “Board”. Unintentionally such a term smacks of a hierarchical and controlling body.  On reflection I can see why people see such a thing as being contrary to the emerging principles of Exc-el which has been about organic growth and shared responsibility.

So how about the “Exc-el Advisory Group” or the “Exc-el Focus Group”?

Exc-el Board Meeting

We had our first Exc-el Board Meeting this afternoon.

Members of the group are: myself, Karen Robertson, David Gilmour and Elizabeth Cowan (ICT team); Ronnie Summers HT Musselburgh Grammar School; Lynn Lewis, class teacher, Pencaitland Primary; Ollie Bray, Depute HT, Musselburgh Grammar; Ewan MacIntosh, ICT team and LTS; Ann Johnston, Librarian, Dunbar Grammar; Dave Wharton, HT West Barns Primary; Tess Watson, Biology teacher, Knox Academy.

The group will be meeting on monthly basis for the rest of this session. We explored our vision for the next three years; how we take account of negative feelings towards blogging; an outcome focused CPD programme; project management programme for implementation; double site access edubuzz (pupils) and exc-el (others); and a business plan for a commercial spin off.

We agreed to invite 4 pupils to join our group but there is space for a parent member – any interest? Next meeting 26th February 4.00pm.

Last point – number of visitors acessing exc-el in December = 48,900

Amity 11: Blogging – a window on another world

I was captivated by the recent BBC series which tracked some our North Sea fishing fleet who fish out of Peterhead. Not least because the Doric was the dialect of my father and his family.

Since then I’ve been keeping up with Captain Jimmy Buchan’s blog. As an outsider I now have some understanding of the challenges and realities of his job.

This is often a forgotten benefit of keeping a blog – it provides a window on another person’s world – at a time when we are all so wrapped up in our own particular worlds. I think that’s why I’m so keen for different  stakeholders (there’s that word again!) keeping a blog on education from their perspective.

If you want to keep a blog contact David – it’s very easy and requires no techincal expertise (honest!)

Leading from the middle – (middle-up-down)

One of the key statements which has guided Exc-el is the notion that top-down dependent change rarely has the desired impact. One of Ewan’s recent posts about bottom-up training demonstrates how we are developing an alternative perspective to the change management process.

A number of things came together this week which might complement that approach.

Firstly, in conjunction with our neighbouring authorities in Midlothian and Scottish Borders we have been allocated money from the Scottish Executive to develop leadership capacity in our areas. A strategic decision has been taken to focus attention upon Principal Teachers – as “leaders of learning” and we intend to allocate a budget to support that focus.

Secondly, I’ve been doing some work on
“Knowledge Management” and linking that with following up on IkujiroNonaka’s work – who has influenced my thinking on the multiple metaphor model. Nonaka has argued for a much more positive role for middle managers in what he calls “Middle-up-down”

“We see middle managers playing a key role in facilitating the process of organizational knowledge creation. They serve as the strategic “knot” that binds top management with front-line managers. They work as a “bridge” between visionary ideals of the top and the often chaotic realities of business confronted by front-line workers. In the middle-up-down (MUD) model, top management creates a vision or a dream, while middle management develops more concrete concepts that front-line employees can understand and implement. The MUD model is not an either-or approach; it is an interactive process of both top-down and bottom-up. ”

Thirdly, I met with Professor Richard Kerley, of Queen Margaret Univesrity College, to follow up on our previous conversation. In the course of a very positive meeting we explored how we might work in partnership to develop a series of modules for “Leaders of Learning”. The idea would be to develop a course which could be delivered in a “blended learning” approach using face-to-face delivery and a virtual learning environment. These modules would equate with Masters level modules with each module carrying 15 points (180 points being necessary for a masters degree). The modules would be open to any member of staff who was already at Principal Teacher level or who aspired to PT. The focus would be unashamedly on management and leadership and capitalise on the expertise available in this area at the university.

Fourthly, I received a copy of a presentation given by Andreas Schleicher, OECD (Organisation for Economic and Development Organisation) from Colin Sutherland, currently seconded from his post as HT at North Berwick HS to the Scottish Executive. The powerpoint presentation gave some really strong messages about how we could go about improving attainment – with one of the key conclusions being that we need to need to create a “knowledge-rich” profession (how to improve learning) – with the obvious corrollary being that we need to improve our “knowledge management” – which, I would argue, sets out one of the key roles for middle managers.

All these connections promote the concept of Leading from the middle – I look forward to exploring this area with PT colleagues over the next few weeks when I meet with secondary PTs over a series of seminars.