Headteacher Pay: England Vs Scotland

Given today’s Scotland Vs England world cup rugby fixture (we’ll not refer to the result) I thought it might be of interest to try to compare headteacher pay between the two countries.

The English pay scales are set out in  Pay and Conditions for Teachers in England Wales and I’ll use this document as the basis for what follows.

In this example I will  use a secondary school of 900 students, split equally into six year groups of 150 students..

The English system is based upon the concept of pupil units.

For example a student in Key Stage 3 – equivalent to S1 – S2 (12-14 yrs) – is worth 9 units; a student in Key Stage 4  (14-16 yrs)  is worth 11 units; and a student in Key Stage 5 (16-18 yrs) is worth 13 units.

Using the 150 students in each year group this translates into 9,900 units.

The units are then compared to a school group table – for the sake of this exercise I’m only going to refer to the scales for schools outwith the London area.

The scales are:

Group                             Pay range

1  –  up to 1000            £42,379 – £56,950

2  – up to 2,200            £44,525  – £61,288

3 – up to 3,500             £48,024 – £65,953

4  – up to 5,000            £51,614 – £70,991

5  – up to 7,500            £56,950 – £78,298

6   – up to 11,000         £61,288  – £86,365

7  – up to 17,000          £65,963 – £95,213

8  – beyond 17,000       £75,725 – £105,097

In our example, the headteacher of a school of 900 students would be paid – at the top end – and most of them seem to be at that level £86,365, whereas in Scotland the pay is a maximum £66,000 for an identical school.

The final level of a headteachers’ pay is determined by the Governing Body (i.e. parents) within the scales set out above – although there is some leeway for awarding additional discretionary payments.

There are addditional scales of pay for headteachers of “special schools” but for the sake of simplicity I’ve ignored them in this comparision.


There does not seem to be a significant difference between the level of pay for basic grade teachers in England and Scotland but there are very significant differences in the pay of headteachers – particularly at secondary level. English headteachers would appear to be  paid between 20 – 30% more than their Scottish counterparts.

The key differences in terms of expectation is that the English school governing body can set performance targets that they expect the headteacher to achieve, and the fact that English Headteachers have a greater range of devolved responsibilities than their Scottish counterparts.

Release them if you dare

See – Curriculum for Excellence – senior phase options

Option 37. No parent/teacher meetings in senior phase – replace with student/teacher review meetings – parents can shadow.

This might appear to one of the more extreme options to be considered but it’s worth holding back on an immediate reaction until further explained.

By the time students get into the senior phase (the last three years of upper secondary school education) they will have spent 13 years in the formal education system – with at least one, if not two, parent teacher consultations/interviews each year.

Parents are keen throughout that period to know how their child is progressing, know how they can help their child, and generally show an interest in their child’s education. In the early years of education this can be very helpful and builds a strong partnership between the student , the school and the parent.

Yet we still think that by attending parents evenings with our 16 or 17 year old child and think that we can influence them when we get home to up their rate of study or change their attitude to school. Some hope! (I know – because I was that parent!)

So perhaps it is time to consider alternatives?

I wrote a poem when my brother’s son was born which seems quite appropriate for this topic:


Take your child by the hand

and hold the future there

Keep him upright if you can

Release him if you dare

It’s this last line which most of us as parents have difficulty with, i.e. letting go. 

Yet within a year or two they are off to university, or college, or employment and we no longer have the influence we thought we had when they were at school.

So why is it that we don’t try to prepare young people for that transition from the claustrophobic atmosphere of  parental control (even if it is a fallacy)  – where we are metaphorically sitting on our child’s shoulder?

The concept of helicopter parents  has been well documented in the world of higher education – or “overparenting” – yet we, as parents, have been conditioned over the previous 15 years to think that we have to step in to protect and shape our child’s future.

Perhaps we need to consider breaking this umbilical cord whilst our children are still at school and get them to take more responsibility for their own progress? It’s at this point that the change from parent/teacher consultations to student/teacher consultations begins to take on more of logical perspective.

The idea would be based on a dialogue between the teacher and the student, at a time when the parent is available, but where the parent shadows their child and doesn’t interview the teacher.

In this way the responsibility for the learning process shifts from the parent to the child and the learning partnership between the teacher and the student is reinforced.

Of course, I know that many teachers and students would find this observed discussion to be extremely difficult. The tongue-tied student and the teacher who is uncomfortable speaking to the student as an equal is very easy to imagine. But if well managed through a conversation template. e.g Student: “this how I feel I’m doing in this  subject”; “This is how you could help me learn better” and Teacher: “You seem to be having problems with ……..” and “You are showing real promise in ………” and “If you were to try to ……………….”

The role of the parent is essentially observational but could have a concluding element where the student speaks to their parent in front of the teacher about their progress or otherwise.

I know this seems like a radical idea but when you see how ill-prepared young people really are for going off into the world of higher education or employment then anything which prepares them to be more independent and responsible learners has to be a good thing.




Dr Harry Burns on “Support from the Start”

Photo of Dr Harry Burns

Dr Harry Burns

This powerful video shows Dr Harry Burns, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, speaking at length about early intervention and East Lothian’s joint Support from the Start development.

He was the speaking in the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh, at the invitation of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, who kindly shared this recording.

Dr Burns speaks for the first 45 minutes of the video.

Parental Involvement: When does support turn into unwelcome intervention?

The comments I’ve received in the last week in response to my post on parental involvement  in the education of their children have been exceptionally useful in helping me to begin to clarify my own position on this critically important issue.

It’s worth quoting again the finding that:

Differences in parental involvement have a much bigger impact on achievement than differences associated with the effects of school in the primary age range.

The holy grail in educational terms must be when these two elements, ie, parental involvement and the schooling process, operate at the optimum level, come into alignment and complement each other to enable a child to achieve at the highest level possible.

There would appear to be five inter-connected challenges presented by such a seemingly simple aspiration:

  1. The quality of education provided by the school
  2. The extent to which parents are equipped with the skills, have the knowledge, or the inclination to be able to provide the level of home support which makes the difference;
  3. The variation in the challenges facing parents in terms of their home circumstances to enable them to contribute fully to their child’s education.
  4. The quality and commitment to communicate (two-way) with parents about the educational process necessary to establish a constructive partnership; and
  5. The extent to which parents are equipped with the confidence, knowledge or inclination to actively engage with their child’s school.

In the traditional educational environment the school will tend to focus upon Number 1. i.e. trying to improve the level at which they operate, and Number 4. i.e. establishing communication channels with parents. Aside from these aspects it is relatively rare for schools to engage in any of the other aspects which might be seen to be “beyond our sphere of influence”.

In the paper I referred to in my last post it was clear that “spontaneous” parental involvement, was much more effective than the “top down” intervention approach. Sheila Laing countered that with a superb example:

At Forthview, we pay for a teacher to work with parents and carers 3 days per week. This teacher has a wide remit to engage parents and carers by providing learning and social activities for parents with children and for parents. This is a top down initiative because we have instigated it but the approach is a wealth, grass roots approach that recognises we are all learners and parents know best how they want to learn and to be involved in their child’s learning. Activities, programmes and opportunities are set up that parents initiate. Their ideas lead us forward and we facilitate those in partnership with them. This has led to very high levels of parental engagement and family learning in Forthview. 

It’s worth quoting Sheila again when she describes the “wealth model” for family learning:

………..educational establishments generally approach parents with a deficit approach – ‘we are the educationalists and we can show you how to educate your child’ – rather than embracing a wealth model of the learning that occurs in families, where we look at the wealth of learning that goes on in all families. Once we do that, we can work in equitable partnership with parents and carers.

Sheila obviously speaks with passion, knowledge and experience in relation to this matter and we would do well to heed her advice.  Of course other schools may well say how do we replicate this if we can’t afford to employ a dedicated teacher to do this?  All too often good ideas never get beyond this stage if they are seen to be dependent upon additional resources.

For me so much could be achieved by a shift in our focus to address all of the challenges I set out earlier.  But how can a school with limited resources extend beyond the already stretched boundaries of educational involvement.  It’s at this point that I wonder if we could tap into the community resource provided by the parental body and beyond?

I’ve always been impressed by the Home-Start concept where trained volunteers help to increase the confidence and independence of families by:

  • Visiting families in their own homes to offer support, friendship and practical assistance
  • Reassuring parents that their childcare problems are not unusual or unique
  • Encouraging parents’ strengths and emotional well-being for the ultimate benefit of their children
  • Trying to get the fun back into family life

The Home-Start model focuses upon families who are experiencing a level of vulnerability for whatever reason.  But the concept of volunteer support is one which interests me.

On an educational level Family Learningwould seem to have very exciting potential and has made a significant impact in Edinburgh.  This quotation from Professor Elsa Auerbach captures the approach and underpins much of Sheila Laing’s work.

“Family Learning in Edinburgh is an exemplary model of building on family strengths in order to address the challenges they face. Based on a recognition of the key role of the shaping of the socio-economic context in shaping possibilities for families and communities, it is grounded in the view that families can only challenge the forces which shape their lives when their strengths and cultural practices are valued. As such, it enacts an empowering approach to family learning.”

The Home-Start and Family Learning Approaches have much to commend them and I will continue to research both areas. But might it be possible for a school to establish a model of practice which enabled parents to “pass on” their parenting skills to the next generation of parents (in this sense I’m talking about school generations, i.e. 4-6 years)? 

My idea – for what it’s worth – is to suggest that a school creates an environment which is dedicated to seeing the educational process as a true partnership in the education of the child between the school and the parents. Now let me admit at this point that I’ve used such a phrase on many previous occasions both as a Head Teacher and Head of Education – but what I have in mind is a step change beyond what I’ve imagined in the past.

There would be many elements to such a partnership which would involve the use of technology to open up classrooms, very different forms of parental inter-action with the school and teachers and a shift in the balance for responsibility for parental involvement in education matters from the school to the parents (I’m not advocating that school abdicate responsibility for this area – just shift the balance). 

The practical idea I have in mind to go along with such a shift would be to create a buddy/supporter/advocate/befriender system where a more experienced parent – who’s been through the system – would link with a less-experienced parent to provide support and a listening ear.

The key to the success of such a venture would be in line with the view expressed by Elsa Auerbach where the existing family strengths are valued and we don’t set out to “fix” them because they don’t conform to what we believe are the “correct” way to bring up kids.  Obviously such an approach is fraught with difficulties and training would be required. But I don’t see this approach only being of benefit to those families who might be regarded as “vulnerable”. Many parents would benefit from the support of someone – “who’s been this way before”.

Above all else such an approach shifts the existing power relationship in schools where it’s the school or the authority who set out to develop parental partnership strategies – the model I have in mind is one where it is the community itself which sets out to support itself.

Last point – and it’s taken some to get here – relates to the title of this post.  The huge challenge presented by the model I’m suggesting is that it might only serve  to create another “top down” intervention process in different form – as opposed to model where parents feel they are welcomed into a “family” where they are valued for themselves.


Supporting parental involvement to improve children’s achievement

I had a phone call from a parent this week asking for advice.  The person is a member of their child’s school’s Parents’ Council. She had joined the Council with a view to learning how she can support her child’s learning and also to help the school.

Her concern centred around her perceived lack of focus on learning and teaching and the role of parents in helping to develop that key purpose.  In her opinion the Parents’ Council was almost exclusively focused upon what might be described as the “technical” aspects of the school, i.e. budgets, class sizes, composite classes, maintenance issues, resources.

Such was her concern that she felt she would be left with no alternative but to resign as she felt she couldn’t raise this matter with the Parents’ Council as she described her interest, in her own words, as “softer” issues to do with learning, than the more substantive issues of budget, class sizes, etc.  

I promised to give this matter more thought and was given her permission to refer to the phone call in this Learning Log.

I think I understand why Parents’ Councils perhaps focus on those issues which are more “black and white” than the complex business of how we help our children achieve.  Not that I’m suggesting that concern for class sizes, or composite classes, or budget don’t have any connection with the quality of the learning experience. But it’s just that by their very nature they can give a concrete rallying point around which parents can gather and feel they are doing something constructive to support the school.

Perhaps the challenge is to strike a balance between the “technical” issues with the “developmental” issues?  Research into parental involvement in education conclusively supports our intuitive understanding that parents make a difference in terms of children’s educational outcomes . So what type of parental involvment makes a difference? I came across this research paper which explored the impact of parental involvment and distinguished between two types of parental involvement:

Spontaneous activity and induced activity are very different phenomena. The former is entirely voluntary whilst the latter might not be, at least initially.

Spontaneous activity is quintessentially ‘bottom up’; it is grass roots in origin, self motivated and self sustained.

Intervention programmes are, almost by definition, initiated by some non-parental source. They are, at least initially, ‘top down’. They are played out characteristically to solve some problem (in this case a perceived insufficiency of parental involvement). pg 85

Such research has shown that the “top down” interventions do not have the impact of “bottom-up” spontaneous parental involvement.

The authors go on to describe the features of spontaneous parental involvment:

9.2 Research on spontaneous parental involvement has revealed a range of activities in which parents engage to promote their children’s educational progress. These include:
– at home pre-school good parenting providing for security, intellectual stimulation and a good self concept
– at home enduring modelling of constructive social and educational aspirations and values relating to personal fulfillment and good citizenship
contacting the child’s teacher to learn about the school’s rules and procedures, the  curriculum, homework, assessment and the like
visits to school to discuss issues and concerns as these arise
participation in school events such as fêtes
working in the school in support of teachers (for example in preparing lesson materials, supervising sports activities) and otherwise promoting the school in the community
taking part in school management and governance

Evidence indicates that  parental involvement has a significant effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors (such as social class, maternal education and poverty) have been take out of the equation between children’s aptitudes and their achievement.

In fact one of the key findings of research is that

“Differences in parental involvement have a much bigger impact on achievement than differences associated with the effects of school in the primary age range.  Pg 86, 9.2.2

If the key factor in achievement is parental involvement then how might we create an environment which supports and enables all parents to be involved in the development of their child?

Yet such research presents a dilemma for someone in my position, i.e. if “top-down” interventions intended to improve parental involvement don’t work, how do we “at the top” support “bottom-up” self motivated parental involvement which do have such a positive effect on the outcomes for children?

The other factor to be considered here is how such an agenda might be perceived by parents who might be focused upon the “technical” issues of budgets, class sizes, etc. Quite rightly someone in my position needs to be held accountable and I would support parents’ right to question and discuss such matters. However, it might be worth reflecting upon how we might balance such “technical” concerns with an equal focus upon supporting parental involvement in the “developmental” issues relating to child development and the learning process.

At this point in time time I’m unsure about how to go ahead  but I do hope to discuss this with the East Lothian Parents’ Councils Association to consider if there are any steps we might take to collectively address this issue. 

School Gate


 Flickr – landofnod

Back to work today after a great two week holiday without any contact with the web.  It’s been the longest time I’ve been disconnected for over three years and I can’t say I missed it.

Having said that there have been lot of ideas floating around my head over this period and I look forward to trying to post about them over the next few weeks.

It was a pleasure to get an e-mail from Sarah Ebner who has just started a parental perspective blog entitled School Gate for Timesonline. It set me to thinking again why – or it certainly seems that way to me –  that it’s always mums who seem to blog about education from a parental point of view.  Where are all the dads??? 

Community-Based School Management

Over the last few weeks I’ve been continuing to exploring the concept of school based management.

Some authorities in Scotland have implemented the concept of Learning Communities based around the secondary school  and the local primary schools, Glasgow runs New Learning Communities, Falkirk has Integrated learning communities and South Lanarkshire has Learning Communities.

Each of these schemes has very positive features, most notably in relation to the integration of other services to support vulnerable children and to co-ordinate developments across local schools.

However, there would appear to be scope to develop these schemes by exploring further devolution of budgetary control and employment of staff within the community of schools.

I haven’t been able to find many international examples of such a development aside from on in Madagascar which might suggest that such a idea is not that practical but in the interests promoting a dialectic of possible worlds I thought I might take the Learning Community concept and extend it to community-based management of schools.

Would it be possible for a local authority to establish a concordat with a group of local primary schools and their associated secondary school and devolve all budgets to a Learning Community Board of Management? 

A Head Teacher from the schools would take on the position of Chief Operating Officer.  The Board of Management would have representatives from the parents, staff, local community, elected members, health service, police, community learning and social services.

The biggest problem I see with this idea is the fear from some schools that they get subsumed within a larger community and lose their identity.  Yet the potential for every member of staff being employed by the Learning Community and the possibility of using the collective resources in much more coherent manner than at present might allow real progresss to made on promoting education as a true progression from 3-18 and the associated ownership of the school and the wider educational agenda by the local community.

You’re Welcome

East Lothian Council, in partnership with Lothian and Borders Police, will be hosting a series of Internet safety and responsible use training sessions for parents with pupils in P5 – S6 across the county.  This is in response to growing concerns, expressed by individual parents and parent councils, about how to make sure young people use the internet safely and responsibly. The sessions are also designed to show parents how they can protect their youngsters from on-line dangers.

The training sessions will be led by Ollie Bray (Depute Head at Musselburgh Grammar School) and PC David Gunn from Lothian and Borders Police. Both Mr Bray and Mr Gunn are accredited Ambassadors of the Child Exploitation Online Protection Agency (CEOP).

The training session has already been piloted within the Musselburgh Cluster and received positive response from over 200 parents. The content of the evening includes background information on new technologies and information about computers and mobile phones and the law. But the main part of the presentation involves Mr Bray taking the parents into some ‘real’ social networking spaces that young people use. This includes Habba Hotel, Teenspot, MSN Instant Messenger and Bebo. The session also gives advice on how you can protect your home computer and advice on on-line gaming.

Everybody who attends the training will have access to a comprehensive on-line handout.

The sessions will be held at:

    ·       Preston Lodge High- 3 June 2008
    ·       Ross High – 10 June 2008
    ·       Dunbar Grammar – 11 June 2008
    ·       Knox Academy – 18 June 2008
    ·       North Berwick High – 24 June 2008

All training sessions will take place between 7 – 9pm.

Ollie Bray, Depute Head at Musselburgh Grammar School, says:
‘This is a very exciting time for East Lothian to be leading the way in Internet Training for staff, parents, families and pupils.  We are going to use the feedback we gain from these sessions to inform good practice nationally through the Scottish Learning Festival.’

These evenings will start promptly at 7pm and have a limited availability. If you have any queries or you would like to book a place on one of these sessions, please email Tess Watson, (Acting Education Support Officer) at twatson@eastlothian.gov.uk or log onto http:www.edubuzz.org/blogs/internetsafety

Shared Ownership?


In the spirit of provoking a dialectic of possible worlds I came across an interesting model of football club ownership this weekend when I read about Ebbsfleet  United Football Club:

Fans’ community website MyFootballClub has agreed a deal to take over Blue Square Premier outfit Ebbsfleet United.

The 20,000 MyFootballClub members have each paid £35 to provide a £700,000 takeover pot and they will all own an equal share in the club.

In a landmark for English football, members will vote on player selection, transfers and all major decisions. BBC November 2007

 It’s interesting to reflect upon David Sullivan’s reservations about the scheme:

 “My heart says it’s marvellous that fans can own a club and vote on any decision of consequence, but in reality it won’t work.

 Contrast that with the fact the team recently won the FA Trophy Final and appear to be going from strength to strength.

And my point? – would it work for schools???

School Based Management 1

I’m attending the Association of Directors of Social Work conference in Crieff.

One the key themes emerging is that of personalisation of services to users. The social work field is light years ahead of education in terms of using a mixed economy system for delivering services, by commissioning others from the private and voluntary sector to provide a wide range of short and laong term requirements.

As I was listening to the presentations my mind turned to how education might develop such a model.  It’s been something I’ve been considering for a while but the cogs seemed to click together this morning.

The starting point for this is how do we really devolve services to our communities?

What follows is definitely “blue sky” and might be disconcerting for some but I’ve found that sometimes we need to start from the extreme perspective if we are to shift our ground.

The local authority would set the local outcomes which schools would have to work towards.

Each child would carry an educational value credit which directly related to money which would go to the school. All other current budgets would be rolled together and added to the educational value credit.

If a child left the school the money would follow them – even part way through a year.

The school would deliver – though a contract – the educational service for the local authority in that community.  If the outcomes were not achieved in a given period of time then another service deliverer would have to be employed.

The school would purchase services from the local authority – or other providers e.g. finance support, personnel, staff development and even quality improvement and assurance.

The authority would maintain responsibility for strategic estate planning, such a new school buildings but all other items would be devolved.

Schools in a community could combine their resources to purchase a service from elsewhere.

The pupil support function could also be delivered by a independent unit commissioned by the authority and underpinned by a contract arrangement.

Parents would have a significant role in the strategic direction and monitoring of the school and would be involved in the review of outcomes at the end of a contract period. 

I know one of the major concerns would be the fragmentation of the current system which is building very vibrant learning communities where schools work together. However, if we believe that partnership working improves outcomes – and outcomes will be used to judge the effectiveness of a school – then the leverage for it to happen will be even greater than it currently is. In a similar way the need to engage with other agencies would be built into the outcome agreement.