Is the grass always greener?

 

I had two conversations today where people made a case that other authorities were providing more resources for particular aspects of education than we do for the same aspects in East Lothian.

I must admit that this is probably one of the most challenging parts of the job as any kind of justification or explanation on my part always sounds like an excuse or bureaucratic “spin”. The reality is that some authorities will spend more on some parts of education than we do in East Lothian – just as we will spend more than they do on other aspects. 

The recently published  Local Authority Spending on Education for 2005-2006 gives some indication of where East Lothian sits in comparison with other authorities but even with such a publication it’s sometimes difficult to make comparisons – such are the different structures for delivering education.

I think this underpins why ‘transparency’ is one of the key principles we are trying to live up to in East Lothian – “what you see is what we get”.  There is still work to be done before we really get to the point where every aspect of funding is crystal clear.

Public Service Reform: A New Agenda for Education and Children’s Services

I’m attending a 24 hour conference on public service reform.

Colin Mair – CEO of the Improvement Service for Scottish Local Government set out the national context:

The comprehensive spending review of government spending will result in flat financial settlements to the public sector over the foreseeable future. The result of this will be limited real growth of budgets.

Set against this will be a rising objective demand for specialist services for those with acute needs – which will require public services to prioritise where money is spent.

Paralleling these demands is the political change which will take place next year which is more likely to be much less politically aligned.

Colin set out a number of challenges which will be presented by the above:

Efficient Government:

“Focus on efficiency – not cuts”
“Review business processes”
“Share service development”
“Minimise duplication and overheads”
“Efficiency needs to become a core value” Integrated service Delivery:

“Focus on outcomes”
“Organise around the service NOT around the producers”
“Improve ease of access”
“ Share customer information”
“Re-engineer the customer service chain” – lost me on that one

Strategic issues:

“Consider numbers, capacity, boundaries, utility”
“Look for links within and between sectors”
“Organic evolution Vs Big Bang” – Big Bang wastes peoples lives + costs more
“Are you fit for purpose?”

Challenges:

“How is a demand led system managed with a cash limited budget?”
“”Consider the costs of integration Vs Collaborative Gain” – not integration at all costs
“”How do you create a momentum for evolutionary change?”

Opportunites:

“There are coherent and agreed principles of reform”
“We recognise that there needs to be variable operating contexts” – not uniformity for its own sake
“The improvement Service will support local innovation”
“There is a climate for change and space for change” – can we take it?

The bottom line here is that everyone of us involved in Public Service will be affected by these issues over the next few years. I always reckon it’s better to be actively involved in the change process as opposed to waiting for it to be ‘done’ to you.

Finance Scrutiny and Advisory Group

Over the last term we have established a Finance Advisory and Scrutiny Group. This group is made up of Headteachers (4), myself, our strategic business manager, rep’ from finance, Manager Teaching and Learning, Manager Inclusion and Equality, Admin’ support rep, teaching unions rep’ and a parental rep’.

The function of the group is to do “exactly what is says on the tin” – scrutinise budgets and provide advice , by identifying where money comes from and how it is allocated to all the budget headings for the department.  Given that we are talking about a budget of 71 million GBP this is no small matter. The group has met on four occasions to date and is still trying to get to grips with understanding all the various budget streams and budget headings. I think there’s always some doubt in people’s minds about whether or not all the funding that should be going to education is actually finding its way to support that function.

The group asks some very challenging questions but their role in helping to provide a very clear strategic steer for how budgets should be allocated over the next few years has already proved invaluable.

Standard for Headship

8.30-10.00 Directorate Meeting: Helen McMillan was at the meeting to discuss Early Years and Childcare, with particular reference to line management issues. The remainder of the meeting was taken up with routine business matters.

10.00 – 10.30 Met Maureen Jobson to reflect upon
The Standard for Headship – this is a useful document and sets out clearly the expectations for school leaders.

11.00-12.00 Met with a member of staff to discuss an issue.

12.00-12.30 Met Valerie Irving to discuss education officer remits – only Ruth Munro to go, then we will discuss the new remits colectively.

1.00-1.40 Maureen Jobson to go over Early Years issues

2.00-3.30 Sport and Education Meeting – this was a challenging meeting – the impact of the decision to break the link between the visiting specialist and the classroom teacher due to budget savings was discussed. It’s an interesting position to be in but I’m determined to continue to provide accurate and honest accounts of budget situations and the challenges they will present to all of us.

4.-00-4.45 Popped round to Meadowpark – our severe and complex unit for primary age children. The staff wanted to express their desire for the facility to remain in Haddington, as opposed to the planned move to tranent which has been on the cards for the last five years. I did not hold out any false hope but I promised to provide answers to all of their queries and suggestions. I was very impressed by the passionate views and obvious commitment to the needs of our children.

Primary PT Seminars

9.15-10.00 Directorate Meeting- focussed on the Better Integrated Services Paper. We agreed in principle to reflect upon how we can best deliver Staged Assessment and Intervention. We are going to organise an event for our co-ordinators of pupil support in schools, a number of HTs and a range of reps from children's services. The intended outcome of the event will be to have devised a service which we can implement to best meet the needs of children in our communities. Alan Ross and I will meet to sketch out the day prior to involving others.

10.00-12.15 Continued working on the departmental budget. I’ve put together an analysis of the situation and have sent to to finance for clarification. As I’ve stated previously I’m not prepared to release figures unless I’m confident they won’t change at a later date.

12.30-1.30 Met with a Principal Teacher to give some advice about interviews

1.30-2.00 Continued work on budget

2.00-2.30 Agenda setting meeting for Policy and Procedures Review Panel meeting.

2.30-3.30 Phone calls and correspondence

3.30-4.15 Met with Angus McRury, HT of Innerwick and fellow blogger

4.15-5.30 First Primary School Principal Teacher seminar. I was really struck by the overwhelming sense of duty which characterised the people round the table. Amongst many other things we explored how Exc-el could open the door to parents and others on the real world of teachers. The feedback seemed very positive and this is definitely a forum we should be continuing. It was suggested that we arrange a 4.15-6.15 meeting for all PTs. Why not share your ideas for an agenda/focus on our
wikispace?

Educational Psychology Service – contribution

TFT Number 2

Check out the new part of the site written by our Educational Psychology Service entitled –
Everything you wanted to know about Teaching and Learning and ………..more. I think this is a tremendous resource and demonstrates how educational psychologists can play a central role in developing teaching and learning. All too often Educational Psychologists’ knowledge and expertise is only used in a very limited manner for a small number of children with specific needs – hopefully this starts to redress the balance. Please give us feedback on this part of the site.

My first TFT has stimulated some debate – do you agree that
“children need to be liked”?

8.30-10.00 Directorate Meeting with Alan Ross and Alan Blackie -some of the issues covered: comunity centre review; attendance at national conferences/presentations; cheif exec visit; dsm guidelines; business plans and scorecards; preparation for committee meetings.

10.00-11.00 Met with Anthony Gillespie to go over the budget paper which was presented to council on Thursday. It provides a series of challenges for the department to operate within budget but we already have some clear ideas about how we will proceed. Anthony is going to give me a more detailed breakdown so that we can finalise budgets for schools as soon as possible. The key to effective budget management is the provision of clear and unambiguous information about how much money you are going to have to work with. The worst thing anybody can do is say “perhaps”. Over the next few weeks we will need to provide that level of clarity (and honesty) for schools even if the message is a difficult one.

11.00-12.00 Pre-vocational meeting – Alison Wishart; Jennifer Tulloch; Wendy McAdie and Gordon Landells from JEVC met me to discuss pre-vocational work and lijnks with Jewel and Esk Valley College. Our Pre-vocational strategic group has decided upon some courses of action – drop S3 provision for next year; explore Friday afternoon provision for S3 which would avoid them missing classes; pilot satellite programme in couple of communities.

12.00-12.20 quick bite of lunch with Alson Wishart.

12.30-1.00 met with reps from Careers Scotland to sign new contract.

2.00-2.30 Met with HMIe to discuss Additional Support for Learning.

3.00-4.00 variety of meetings re’ finance and schools rolls.

Budget preparation

I had hoped to get along to the Prestonpans cluster meeting this morning but we have to submit proposed efficiency savings and their consequences by Monday lunchtime. Spent all morning working with Derek Haywood with assistance from Anthony Gillespie and Alan Borthwick.

1.00-2.00 Met with Alan Ross and Sheila McKendrick to shape our presentations about inclusion at next week's HT conference

2.00-3.00 LNCT preparation meeting

3.30-4.15 Out to Prestonpans Infant school to apologise to Jean Gardiner for missing this mornings meeting. Managed to have a chat with a few staff – it reminded me how important it is that I keep in close contact with teachers.

4.15 Popped in to David Allan for ten minutes – David was the former HT at Preston Lodge High School.

4.30- 5.00 Prsntation to Detemined to Succeed primary reps about exc-el and the new part of the website which they will be able to access.

5.10-6.00 Round to see Willie Galbraith at PLHS. Wise words of counsel. It was good to hear that Willie sees staff in East Lothian to be deeply committed to the concept of inclusion.

Induction

9.00-9.30 Met Seonad McGillivary, HT Stoneyhill, and Debbie Beveridge, HT Wallyford. They are in the office all day to participate in our new induction programme for HTs. In addition to meeting me they met, Alan Blackie; Carolyn Walker from Personnel; Derek Haywood; and Carolyn Smith, Finance. I managed to have lunch with them and showed them our plans for development planning and project management tracking – seemed to be well received.

10.00-11.00 Willie White came into the office to brief about a conference about Outdoor Education to be held in Dundee in March. I’ve been asked to give a headteacher’s perspective on outdoor education. I’ve accepted and hope to talk about the importance of such activities and how they should be regarded as core activities in the curriculum as opposed to “extra”

11.00-12.00 completed the development plan guidelines

12.00 -1.00 lunch with Seonad and Debbie

2.00-4.00 Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group – we used the project manager system for the first time. It was very well received and should allow us to ensure our action plan is properly implmented. Our agenda in the future will be to review each of the action points and focus on aresa of difficulty.

4.-5.00 Met with Anthony Gillespie, Finance and Derek Haywood and Alan Borthwick to go over how we intend to fund the additional non-contact time for teachers next session. I was pleased that we seemed to have worked out a way to ensure that funding from the executive will be passed on to schools to ensure that all teachers have 300 minutes non-contact time.

5.00-5.30 Chat with Valerie Irving about the restructuring process and how we intend to allocate duties to our Quality Improvement Officers next session. I hope to job size each of the tasks need to be done in terms of the time likely to be required. Each QIO will have a minimum number of points to reach in terms of their duties – perhaps 50. Some schools might be worth 4 points- others only 1. QIOs will have combination of school duties linked to a cluster and generic duties which will extend across the authority. Schools and generic duties will be tallied up and in this way we should ensure some equity of duties and workload. I reckon people will stay with the same duties for a three year period but a review will take place every year.

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

Philip Rycroft

9-12.00 Business Continuity scenario exercise This exercise had been set up by Steven McLachlan (the Council’s Emergency Planning Officer) and Chris Lawson (our Health and Safety Officer). When I first met Steven and Chris to chat about emergency planning I was worried that we didn’t seem to have any emergency plans in place in the event of a school being destroyed, etc. The point of the exercise was to work through such a scenario with a view to pinpointing our weaknesses and hopefully taking some action to address them. The event was a great success and certainly did prove that there are a number of things that we could put in place which would help us in the event of such an emergency.

12.30-1.00pmMeeting with Jill Dryburgh , Chair of the East Lothian Early Years and Childcare Partnership about our failure to fulfil our promise relating to early tears due to budget reductions to pay for the nursery nurse pay rise. I think the meeting was useful but the committee is keen to find out more about why funds have been redirected form their original target.

1.30- 5.00pm Meeting with Philip Rycroft, Head of Schools, Scottish Executive. Alan Borthwick, responsible for all our job-sizing, NQTs and students, came with me and Donald Henderson, Head of Teacher’s Division was also in attendance. I’ll post up the results of our chat next week once I’ve had a chance to confirm a few points.