Creative Arts and Education Group – creating a dynamic


We held our first meeting of the Creative Arts and Education Group.

As has become a pattern for first meetings it was more of a conversation about what people thought should be the purpose of the group.

The essential focus of the group is to enable us to give some shape and consistency to the wide variety of creative arts for young people in East Lothian. We talked about entitlements for children and how we might link school based activities with out of school activities.

Our next meeting will try to emulate the 3-18 strategic Learning and Teaching group by extending its membership to create a “tartan” with horizontal and vertical connections which will also include parents and pupils. The more I think about this there is definitely something in having much larger groups than has been the conventional approach. I think the key is to make the group part of the process i.e. to create a dynamic itself by engaging a large number of people – such meetings become workshops and creative opportunities, rather than staid mechanisms only there to fulfil bureaucratic functions.

Our next meeting, which will have over 25 people in attendance,  will consider our purpose and the approach we wish to take towards the development of the creative arts and education.  We intend to evolve our strategy as opposed to go for any “big bang”.

Passion through achievement

I talked about ‘Passion through achievement’ at the recent
“Outdoor Connections” conference. My point had been that too often we think that it’s enough just to expose children to an activity for them to be ‘turned on’. I disagreed with this by arguing that we need to enable children to experience success (in their own terms) in an activity, if they are to develop an enduring passion for continued participation. In my opinion kids need to experience
‘mastery’ of an activity or subject (even at a very low level) and then build upon this – in an outdoor education context it might be as simple as managing not to capsize in a canoe; mastering a snowplough turn; finding your way round an orienteering course.

I was reminded of all this on
Wednesday of this week I met
Peter Hill at EdinburghUniversity. In his office I saw a pile of Scottish Physical Education Association (SPEA) journals. As I thumbed through the pile I recalled an article I’d co-written with colleagues (Carole Hall and Alastair Kidd) in 1994 entitled ‘The Earlston Method’.

We worked on the notion of ‘hooking’ children onto physical activity. For us, the ‘hook’ was our attempt to enable children to experience the ‘feeling’ or ‘joy’ an expert performer experiences. If children never get to experience the feeling of success, which would maintain or stimulate greater interest in the activity, then continued engagement is extremely unlikely.We also argued that too often children only catch glimpses of the ‘whole’ activity or ‘big picture’. More frequently they participate in lessons which are nothing more than ‘brightly coloured hoops’ (sometimes even not that brightly coloured). The kids jump through these hoops, rarely understanding or appreciating why they are doing the activity in question.

Does this line of argument have anything to do with the high levels of disengagement in the current secondary school curriculum?

For me, the challenge for the teacher is to provide that big picture and then to work out what the ‘hook’ might be and aim to provide opportunities for every child in the class to experience regular success at their own level.

So what might be some of the ‘hooks’ in history; maths; physics; languages; home economics; computing; geography; craft and design; music; art; religious education?

I intend to explore this line of thinking over the next few weeks

Conference – Outdoor Connections

Left home at 5.50am to get to Dundee for the conference. Edinburgh bypass was clogged at 6.30am!! Got to Dundee for 9.00am. My
presentation seemed to go down reasonably well. I had lunch with Heather Reid “BBC’s Heather the Weather”, who was chairing the event; Bernard McLeary, Chief Exec’ Learning and Teaching Scotland ;and Colin Brown, who is heading up the Curriculum for Excellence programme for the Scottish Executive. Also met some “old” chums – John Hall and Andy Wishart from Scottish Borders and Colin Tucker from Earlston High School and Ally Morgan, my former teaching tutor – 63 and looks younger than me!

Couldn’t stay for the afternoon session as I had to be back for the Prestonpans School Board cluster meeting. The evening event went well and these sessions seem to be very worthwhile. One particular point of note – only one person had heard of the A Curriculum for Excellence

Efficiency savings

9.00 – 10.30 Education Committee agenda setting meeting. This is a meeting with John Ross and Maureen Talac (convener and vice-convener of the education committee) about the papers that are to be presented at the next education committtee. We finished the meeting with an update of the budget suituation. It is likely that we will have to make a number of efficiency savings in order to enable the council to manage its budget. The consequences of the
Single Status & Equal Pay and the
government funding allocation to local authorities could have a
significant impact. It’s a key part of my job to manage any such efficiency savings and the next few couple of months are going to provide a challenge if savings have to be made.

10.30-1.00 Worked on development plan guidelines and correspondence.

1.00-1.45 Met with Liz Morris, EIS , to discuss one of her members.

2.00-4.00pm Sport and Education Group – agenda – Active School Co-ordinators update; Active schools Group update; Primary visiting specialists; cluster planning; East Lothian athletics track.

4.00-6.00 Caught up with Alan Blackie for a quick chat, made some phone calls to headteachers and finished correspondence

S6 Challenge

Friday 2nd December

8.15 – 9.45 Education Officer’s; Meeting – Sorted out the programme for the 25th January HT meeting. Each education officer gives an update of their week and any issue arising. This is becoming more focused as we go on and is helping to support more informed and purposeful practice.

10.00 Staff Briefing – I got some stick for wearing a black polo neck jumper – “Milk Tray” and “Bond, James Bond”. Introduced Alison Wishart and gave further updates.

11.00 Alex McCrorie – met to discuss the proposed changes to the Chief Officers’ Contract.

11.30pm Out to Dunbar Grammar for a quick pop in to the office for a cup of coffee. This is the first time I’ve been in the school since the beginning of term. It was good to see a few staff and to be warmly welcomed by the students I bumped into. I’ve deliberately been staying away from the school, as I know how hard it can be for someone acting-up when the incumbent keeps turning up on the door step. However, Paul Raffaelli is doing such a good job and I’ve been away long enough for it not to be the same issue as it might have been earlier in the term.

12.00pm – 1.30pm East Linton Primary School – Richard Wilson showed me me of the work he has been doing with pod casting and the use of associated software. I believe that technology can allow a small school tucked away in corner of East Lothian to take a leading role in education development on a national level.

1.45 – 3.00pm S6 Challenge. This involved teams from our secondary schools taking part in a range of outdoor challenges. The last task was to canoe down the Tyne with only broom handles as paddles – more time spent in the water than on it!! Congratulations to North Berwick but all teams deserve applause for their sporting endeavours and good humour. We are very lucky to have such a strong outdoor education team led by Alastair Seagroatt – particularly in comparison to some other authorities. You can’t measure how important a service like this is to schools – you just have to have faith.

3.15 – 5.15pm Back to office to catch up on e mails.