Linking evaluation with development planning


One of the tasks we need to complete this week is the Service Improvement Plan update.  This is the document which provides guidance to schools about any priorities they should be including in their own School Development Plan.

Our Service Improvement Plan covers a three-year timespan and uses the National Priorities as a scaffold to give our plan some sort of coherence and shape.

However, it struck us today that the National Priorities are perhaps not the best way to present our plan – particularly given Journey to Excellence and the revamped version of How Good is Our School?

As Graham Donaldson, HM Chief Inspector of Schools, wrote just last month in the foreword to the third version of HGiOS?:

“The set of quality indicators continue to provide the core tool for self-evaluation for all schools, but they are now complemented by the very useful materials in other parts of The Journey to Excellence series.”

I think this gives a strong clue as to the most appropriate route to take in relation to linking planning and evaluation – i.e. use the ten dimensions identified in the Journey to Excellence as a planning framework – and HGIOS? as the evaluation template. This is not to say that we ignore the National Priorities but just that these are now embedded within the other two documents.

We’ve hopefully have moved a long way towards promoting a strong self-evaluation culture in our schools and authority but we need to develop a framework for planning which gives schools enough flexibility to address their own specific needs whilst ensuring consistency of approach across East Lothian. Hopefully our ideas will enable there to be a clear and coherent link between the planning framework and the self-evaluation framework – which is not currently the case.

Is it safe?

We had been out at the weekend and I met two teachers who work in different local authorities – neither of which are East Lothian.

One teacher talked about their authority’s Curriculum for Excellence co-ordinator and the other referred to a School Review which she was going back to after the holidays. It made me think about what we do in comparison:

Curriculum for Excellence

  • What some other authorities do  –The Curriculum for Excellence Co-ordinator chimed with something which had been referred to in TESS a couple of weeks ago, in that most authorities now had a dedicated co-ordinator for Curriculum for Excellence.

  • What we do in East Lothian – We’ve gone for making a Curriculum for Excellence the responsibility for all of our authority team – myself included. 

  • Why we do it ? – We hope to permeate the thinking which underpins a Curriculum for Excellence across everything we do in schools. We also think that by making a single person responsible for an initiative reinforces an impression that it exists in isolation from everything else.

  • Potential downside – By spreading responsibility across a number of people there is a danger that no-one actually takes on responsibility for such an important development.

School Review

  • What some other authorities do – The School Review, which is like a local authority inspection requires a formal visit to the school by a review team which will also include some peer reviewers.

  • What we do in East Lothian  – In East Lothian we don’t have a school review process – our alternative is to develop our validation process whereby we rely upon the school’s own self- evaluation and use our evaluation visits which take place throughout the year to validate that evaluation.

  • Why we do it? – We are trying to develop the process of self-evaluation in our schools as we believe that such honest and rigorous evaluation has much more potential long-term benefit than a process where school review is “done” to the school.

  • Potential downside – Schools don’t actively engage in rigorous and honest self evaluation.  Our validation process might not pick that up compared with a “mini-inspection” which might lead to some schools to provide a standard of education which might be unsatisfactory.

So to the question “is it safe?” The connection between this question and the above two strategies might seem obscure but I happened to watch Marathon Man last night.  There is a scene in the film where Sir Laurence Olivier tortures, for want of a better word, Dustin Hoffman, whilst asking a recurring question – “is it safe?”

In our business we often make decisions about health and safety and work out risk assessments for trips or other potientially dangerous activities. But some of our other strategic decisions also carry a risk – such as the two examples quoted above.  What if they don’t work? Perhaps we should be taking a line which reduces risk?


School Standards and Quality Reports


We’ve completed the template which schools can use to complete their Standards and Quality report.

The background and rationale behind to this development can be accessed here

We will be launching the new format for all schools on the 21st March at our Head Teacher Conference.  Those schools who volunteered for the on-line version will receive additional training but all schools will be able to use the new format in a Microsoft Word version after the 21st March.

If you would like to see a draft version and be willing to provide some quick feedback just use the comment box. Thanks

Aspirations – might be scary?

During one of our meetings today we explored our aspirations for education in East Lothian.

The challenge was – if there were three things we would like to be excellent at in education in East lothian what would they be?

The answer? learning and teaching; self-evaluation; and leadership.  Arguably, if we got these three things operating at an excellent level then everything else would fall into place.

However, it was pointed out to me that such aspirations might actually scare people – “Are you saying that ‘very good’ isn’t good enough?”  I don’t think I was but what we’re keen to do is to lift the lid off our aspirations and really extend our current practice.  Hopefully it won’t be too scary along the way.


As I reported on prior to the holidays I’ve been working on an on-line version of our 2006 Standards and Quality Report. 

I have to admit to being quite pleased with the results so far although it will remain a draft version until the end of this month. 

Our hope is that this version will be a much more user friendly format for people to access information as and when they need it whilst significantly reducing costs and environmental impact.

We will still publish a short-hand version of the report and people can still receive a paper version of the report if they so desire but we will no longer be publishing a ‘glossy’ brochure.

We hope that readers can use the comments section for each indicator to make it a much more dynamic and interactive document than has been the case in the past.   

Please remember that this is a draft and still has a couple of sections still to be completed – the final levels of performance may yet change – depending upon feedback received.

You can access the report at Standards and Quality Report 2006

This report will from the bedrock of our next service improvement plan.

Standards and Quality Reports

I’ve been working on our Departmental Standards and Quality Report. I’m trying to set up a template which can be used by schools – with a view to reducing workload but improving the impact it makes.

One of the other differences is that I’ve used this blogging platform to present the plan on-line. There will be a front page with links for people to drill down if necessary. I’ll post a link here in a c ouple of days.

The key to the approach we’re developing is making use of the statements for quality indicators and using highlighter to show if we have evidence, possibly have evidence or just don’t agree, e.g.

How well do we meet the needs of our stakeholders?
QI 2.1 Impact on learners

This indicator relates to the impact of the education service on learners, including pre-school children, school-aged pupils and adult learners, focusing in particular on their current experiences. 


From this analysis – and in light of an absence of some data – we would score this as a 4 (Good).


SELS session at Knox Academy

I was invited to the Haddington Cluster to speak about our Student Evaluation of Learning System (SELS) . Watch a flash presentation on SELS here or the quickstart manual here

If you have a login and password you could access the Knox Academy questionnaire here at Knox Academy survey – on the other hand – if you don’t you won’t.

All East Lothian schools have this system in place to enable a robust self-evaluation process.

Here’s an actual table of results:

SELS table