Anne Browning/Don Ledingham

I was at a dinner recently where people were talking about writers who tried to write from the opposite gender’s perspective, i.e. a man writing as woman or a woman writing as a man.

It reminded me that it will be nearly two years since I created a fictitious blog under the name of Anne Browning entitled the Dominie’s Chronicle 

I wanted to examine how our education system might respond to an outbreak of H5N1 (bird flu) and was particularly interested to find out if the system could maintain itself against a backdrop where the bureaucracy and management structures were destroyed.

Without planning the story I let it unfold in a series of almost daily posts where I imagined myself as a female teacher in Edinburgh – I’d selected a female character as I didn’t want anyone to guess who was behind the project and also to try to explore the situation from a completely different perspective. At its height there were over 300 people a day logging on to follow the story but I eventually ran out of steam .  Looking back I don’t think I carried it off very well – some of the scenarios and actions were dubious to say the least.  Nevertheless, some of the things I explored about shared management, the role of schools in our communities, and trying to think from a woman’s point of view all made quite an impact upon me – even if my writing was a bit “clunky”.

For a three month period in my life I lived another identity and tried to imagine what it would have been like to live under such circumstances

You can perhaps imagine my reaction in April of this year when I opened a newspaper in Hong Kong on my way to New Zealand to find out that the flu pandemic had actually started.  Now that was definitely a case of having too much knowledge!!

Probationers and parental confidence

One of the issues facing schools these days is the concern expressed by some parents about a probationer teaching their child’s class.

A probationer is a newly qualified teacher (NQT) and in the past they would have just started teaching as a teacher – but without  any of the support systems we now have in place.

I would just like to reassure parents that the quality of new teachers coming into the profession has never been higher – nor has their commitment to develop their skills.

In that regard I need to mention Susan MacKay and Lisa Craig as two examples. Susan and Lisa were NQTs at Aberlady last year.  We were fortunate enought to be able to offer them permanent posts in the same school this year – and what an impact they are making in conjunction with their colleagues in the school.

This ties in with a session I led for half of the current NQTs on Thursday – again I was hugely impressed by their knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for the job – but perhaps the most important feature – and the one which gives me the most confidence about the future was their apparent determination to continue learning throughout their careers.

There is certainly something exciting developing within our schools at the moment as I listened to story after story of how newly qualified teachers were being encouraged and supported to develop their teaching skills  by their more experienced colleagues in our schools.  Thanks. 

Honesty and Leadership- Part 2


Following yesterday’s post I’ve been doing a little more reading about honesty and leadership.

Honesty is seen by many as a key factor in effective leadership 1,2, 3, 4

However, the recurring definition of honesty in most texts relates to trustworthiness of the leader.

I’m convinced that trustworthiness is a key factor in effective leadership but “truth” is a little bit more difficult to handle.

For truth – the whole truth – and nothing but the truth – can be exceptionally hurtful for those of us used to”white lies” – definition:

white lie n. A diplomatic or well-intentioned untruth.

I think we have become conditioned to telling “white lies” when dealing with personnel issues. We find ways to talk round an issue so that when we leave the room people are left wondering “Was I being told off – or complimented?”

Perhaps this is one of the key factors in effective leadership – the ability to tell the truth in such a way that people can still trust your judgement – even when the “truth” might be about you!

The danger here is that leaders might see this as a licence to criticise others under the cover of – “I must tell the truth”. What a leader such as Tim Brighouse has is the wisdom to judge when tell the truth and when to say nothing- the underlying purpose must always be driven by the interests of children.

Voluntary Teacher Exchange – “taking a chance”


I’ll be e-mailing all teachers in East Lothian in the next couple of days to relaunch our Voluntary Teacher Exchange programme. We hope to open this out to other members of staff at a later date.  I’d welcome any comments or queries regarding any of the following:



The Voluntary Teacher Exchange Programme evolved from a series of interviews with key members of East Lothian education service undertaken as part of the Exc-el programme.


The programme has the potential to:

1. Enable teachers to broaden their experience without making a permanent move to another school.

2. Spread good practice within East Lothian

3. Enhance/continue to improve the quality of teaching in schools in East Lothian.

4. Offer individually tailored packages of CPD to teachers.

5. Help teachers to investigate and experience areas of the profession which they might wish to develop, e.g. a support for learning teacher exchanging with a classroom teacher or a primary/secondary teacher exchanging workplaces.

6. Help teachers to develop their skills and reflect on their own teaching and learning.

7. Enable teachers who have maybe only worked in one school for a number of years to experience a different context.

8. It has the potential to refresh and invigorate participants.

Teacher Exchange – The Mechanics

1. All members of teaching staff (regardless of position) in East Lothian are eligible to apply for the Voluntary Teacher Exchange Programme. We may extend this opportunity to other members of staff at a later date.

2. Exchanges can extend from a single day to an academic year and can include exchanges between sectors, e.g. primary and secondary staff

3. Interested members of staff should receive the permission of their Headteacher prior to applying.

4. Applicants should complete and return the attached application form (in final version) to the department.

5. Where a Headteacher wishes to apply for an exchange they should contact the Head of Education directly.

6. The department will attempt to match up suitable exchange partners. 

7. If a teacher has a preferred echange partner they should indicate this on the application form. 

8. Where all parties, i.e. , teachers, headteachers and head of education, agree an exchange a series of pre-meetings and preparation briefings will take place.

9. The exchange will commence at the time agreed. Exchanges may be terminated by any of the parties (exchange partners or Headteachers) at any of the previously agreed review intervals, e.g. a three-month exchange might have review intervals on a fortnightly basis.

10. No travelling expenses or cover costs will be provided.

11. Exchange partners will continue on their existing pay and conditions of service.

12. A strict confidentiality clause will be inserted in the exchange agreement to protect exchange partners, colleagues, pupils and participating schools.

13. All exchange participants must submit a comprehensive report to the Head of Education at the end of their exchange to enable the programme to be developed and improved.

Leadership – Nature Vs Nurture or Nature Plus Nurture?

In a meeting this week we were exploring some of the essential criteria we might use for promoted posts such as Principal Teacher, Depute Head Teacher and Head Teacher.

For example –

Should anyone who wishes to become a Depute Head Teacher have been a Principal Teacher in more than one school?

Should a prospective Head Teacher have held promoted positions in more than one school?

Does someone have to have held a Depute Head Teacher’s post for a certain period of time before they can be considered for promotion to HT – e.g. three years?

The underlying assumption behind all of these possible criteria is that you cannot be regarded as being ready for promotion until you have “served your time” and “have experience of more than one school”. 

Some questions:

Does “serving time” in a promoted post really prepare people for the next step?

Does it mean that if I’ve done five years a Depute that I’m automatically ready for Headship?

What if the cut-off for consideration is three years and I’ve been in post 2 years and ten months – does two months make such a difference?

What if I’ve held a promoted post in a school where I’ve been given no autonomy by my Head Teacher – should that be the same as someone who has maybe taken on leadership responsibilities in another school but without being at the same promoted level?

All this takes me back to the title of this post Leadership – nature or nurture?

I do believe there are some innate traits which good leaders should have but that it’s not necessary to have the “full set”. – that’s where nurture comes in. Experience in a variety of posts does help – and can be considered essential in some cases – as long as the person is learning from these experiences.

We are relaunching our Exchange Programme next term where teachers/PTs/Deputes/ and HTs will be able to seek an exchange with a colleague in East Lothian in the coming session. Hopefully this will give some individuals who wish to broaden their experience the opportunity to do so within a nurturing environment.

(I’ll be exploring, in a separate post, what “experience” and why it might be a necessary criteria for job selection)

Link – nature versus nurture

Sad Person

My life must be really sad because I had a great day today completing our Service Improvement Plan update and our Standards and Quality Report. Sheila McKendrick and I worked from 9.15-4.00 with the documents projected onto a screen via a projector. We went through everything line by line and made incredible progress.

The process enabled us to tie a number of things together and hopefully people will find both documents useful and informative. We have tried to streamline everything. I think part of the satisfaction comes from just completing a job which had been hanging over me for a few weeks.

Met Kenny Mackay from 4.00-5.30 to provide feedback about his recent interview for the acting HT at Niorth Berwick.

Tranent Schools

Into work at 7.30am. Bit of backlog of work needing completed. Good news when my 9.00am appointment was cancelled. 10.00am met with Zoe Thomson of Personnel who took me through a number of on-going personnel matters. I’m starting to realise why it’s important that we have clear and well structured personnel policies. All too often problems arise when people have made the rules up for themselves and got into difficulties when things haven’t turned out as expected. I’m also more conscious of the need for people have equality of opportunity across the authority – and that it’s my job to ensure that this is upheld.

11.00am meeting with our scorecard group. We have almost completed this task and will be able to table a spreadsheet at our next meeting of the key indicators which the council should use to measure the progress of the department, ranging from % of students gaining 5+ Standard Grade Credits to the % of students who are satisfied with their education. I think that by the time we’ve completed this scorecard that we’ll have a very useful tool.

Met Liz Morris at 12.00, Liz is the EIS District rep. We had useful meeting sharing our thoughts about education and our respective roles. I look forward to working with Liz in the coming year , although we both recognised that there will be times that we will have to agree to differ.

I had a quick meeting with Maureen Jobson at 1.40 to update me on a few issues. Out to Ross High school for the School of Ambition briefing. Unfortunately the meeting time had been changed and the school office had tried to get me before I left. I took the opportunity to visit Tranent Primary School, Tranent Nursery School and Tranent Infant School. Incredibly impressed with all three schools. In the Primary school I met Fiona Waddell, Headteacher, and a number of staff and their classes. A very vibrant atmosphere and stimulating learning environment. Then met Susan Smith at the Nursery. Susan wasn’t there at first but Heather showed me round. I was struck by their attention to detail and how they had managed to create a school which was much like a welcoming home than an institution. Visited the Homestart canter – very interesting and I will return for a more of a briefing on this important facility which brings together families who need a little bit of extra support and local volunteers. Finally, visited the Infant School where Jane Hannah took time out of a meeting to show me round the school. Even with the kids having left for the day I could see that this environment matched the other two schools – the community of Tranent is lucky to have three schools of such a high quality.

The fact that the three schools are due for closure and amalgamation into two new schools is even greater testimony to the professionalism of the staff and the Headteachers. Unfortunately the building work is to be delayed due to a problem with the tendering process. I’ll be attending a new school board meeting on the 13th September to discuss this issue with parents.

Back to RossHigh school at 4.00 to speak to Graham Parris, a PE teacher. Very impressed with his commitment to his professional development and reinforced my commitment to develop a system for identifying and nurturing our leadership talent.

Got back to the office at 5.00pm and tried to pick up on correspondence – failed miserably and filled my bag!! It’s been a really enjoyable day.