A Curriculum for Excellence – nuts and bolts


 We had a meeting this afternoon where we were considering our Curriculum for Excellence strategy.

One of the concerns voiced by teachers, parents and pupils is what does ACFE actually mean?  There are concerns that it’s too woolly and won’t actually change people’s practice.

 Perhaps there’s something to be said for the government’s outcome agreement approach – which focusses on outcomes as opposed to processes. Here are some possible examples:

All teachers can identify aspects of their practice which they have developed in response to A Curriculum for Excellence;

Every child (without additional support for learning needs) reaches a functional level of literacy and numeracy by the age of 9;

All schools will have revised their curriculum to take account of the principles of co-creation of the curriculum, personalisation and flexibility;

90% of children will engage in extra-curricular activities; communty activities or vuluntary activities.

The point being that schools woukld be free to develop the processes to achieve these outcomes. The additional beneift would be that parents, teachers and pupils would gain a clear insight into the purpose of ACfE which is perhaps difficult to gain from a mantra like recitation of the four capacities.

Seven Sides of Educational leadership – seminar

My Photosculpting.ppt

I’ve been invited to lead two seminars on the Seven Sides of Educational Leadership at the Association of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland national conference this Friday.  Here’s an outline of what I might be doing. Learning Intention – We are going to learn how to use the seven sides of educational leadership to help us develop change strategies in our own working environments.

 Success criteria –  

  1. We will explore how metaphor can be used to represent change theories
  2. We will develop an understanding of how the various metaphors used in the seven sides of educational leadership relate to a particular type of educational leadership and culture
  3. We will examine a change strategy we have embarked upon in the past or present and use the seven sides to identify how we might develop our strategy
  4. We will identify which of the metaphors we are most at ease with and examine how we might make more use of other approaches
  5. We will discuss and shape the development of the seven sides approach.

Learning tasks

Part 1 – metaphors for school cultures

Think of three schools that you have worked in – identify a metaphor for each of the school cultures eg “It was a fortress”

Share these metaphors with a partner.

Share these with then group.

Are there any common metaphors?

Why did you use different metaphors for each school – what made the school like that?

Part 2 – metaphors for leadership approaches

Come up with a metaphor for your own behaviour as leader in your own school-“ I am the ………………………..”

Share your metaphor with a different partner.

Share these metaphors with the group.

What does that metaphor tell you about your leadership approach?

Part 3 –multiple metaphors and different leadership cultures

Why multiple metaphors?

Explore alternative metaphors and how these change the overall culture – Maggie Thatcher;  Tesco; Virgin

Part 4 – introducing the Seven Sides – photographs to lead into explanation = no detailed text

I will provide an example of a change strategy in Eat Lothian referring to the seven sides.

Part 5 –  developing a change strategy to suit your circumstances

Think of a task you are currently engaged in at your school.

Use the seven sides to shade in the amount of focus any aspect requires now in order to move it forwards.

Take another seven sides and shade it in assuming that this stage has been successful and you are 12 months on.

Discuss people’s strategies

Part 6 – refine the seven sides of educational leadership – challenge, suggest and discount elements or all of the proposed approach  


Developing a developmental approach


It’s peculiar how sometimes things just seem to come together in an unexpected and unplanned manner but I had a meeting today where that very thing happened – and I would put it down in no small part to the discipline of keeping a Learning Log.

The various elements of this web of connections are as follows:

  1. My observations of classes with a focus on learning intention and learning task;
  2. The early years Active Learning approach which I have observed having such a positive effect upon children’s learning;
  3. The developmental approach being used in Maths Recovery;
  4. Our strategic decision to place Learning and Teaching at the heart of A Curriculum for Excellence;
  5. The notion of universal and targeted intervention strategies.
  6. The importance of children being functionally competent by the age of 8-9 to access the rest of the curriculum
  7. Our emerging early years strategy which will link pre-school education; child care; nursery and early years at primary school; and focussed care for vulnerable children and families

There are probably many other possible connections but the above will suffice for the purposes of this post.

The meeting I had this afternoon was with Mike Jess and June Murray, from Edinburgh University and some colleagues from our Active Schools Team. The focus of the meeting was the Basic Moves programme which has been operating in East Lothian Schools promotes an innovative approach towards teaching physical education.


“The Basic Moves Programme sets out to help all children develop the basic movement competence that lays the foundation for lifelong physical activity. The importance of basic movement competence cannot be overemphasised as it means children are able to pass through the proficiency barrier between the simple activities of early childhood and the more complex activities of late childhood witconfidence. As Seefeldt, Haubenstricker and Reuchlien (1979, cited in Graham, Holt, Hale and Parker, 2001, p. 32) have said,

Children who possess inadequate motor skills are often relegated to a life of exclusion from organised and free play experiences of their peers, and subsequently, to a lifetime of inactivity because of their frustrations in early movement behaviour.

Simply, developing children’s basic movement competence as the foundation for a lifetime of physical activity cannot be left to chance and must become the focus of children’s programmes in the future (Jess and Collins, 2003)……

The programme is based on the need for adults and children to have a shared understanding of the Basic Movement Framework and for adults to consistently offer children developmentally appropriate, inclusive and integrated experiences that lead them to develop this critical foundation. Children’s basic movement competence has been left to chance for far too long and we must now take the opportunity to rectify this situation once and for all.”

The purpose of of our meeting this afternoon was to consider the next steps when the current programme in East Lothian comes to an end in 2009.

Emerging from the meeting was a fledgling strategy which begins to tie together some of the strands I mentioned at the begining of this post:

1.      Basic Moves needs to be embedded within our evolving developmental approach towards ensuring that every child reaches a level of competence in literacy, numeracy, movement, and social and emotional development to enable them to fully access the educational opportunities provided for them beyond the age of 8.


2.      The strategy needs to adopt a focus upon pedagogy and a shared understanding of a developmental approach which builds from where children are starting from.


3.      We need to develop and implement a range of proactive intervention strategies which target and support children whose rate of development might be compromised by socioeconomic reasons or other family circumstances.




Job Opportunity

I’m on the steering group of the Dynamic Earth/ Scottish Seabird Centre Outreach Programme

Krista McKinsey, the current schools communicator, has done a wonderful job but is leaving us in September to take up a job at Durham University.

At the steering group meeting on Friday we explored how we might go about replacing her.

One of the options we came up with was a four day a week secondment for an East Lothian Teacher for a six month period on the first instance but hopefully extending to 18 months.

This could form an important part of our Curriculum for Excellence Strategy – links with science and environment – and would also give the person some very worthwhile management experience – which would be in line with our Leadership Network Programme.

Information will be coming out to schools this week but for those who might be interested here’s a sneak preview of the job outline.


Creative Arts and Education Advisory Group


We held our second meeting of our Arts and Education Advisory Group.

This large group will attempt to develop and drive our strategy for integrating the arts and education into a seamless whole which promotes engagement, quality of performance and links with the community from the age of 3-18.

Our intention is to allow our strategy to evolve – so we spent today brainstorming all of the various artistic and creative activities which take place in our communities for young people aged 3-18. What became apparent is that there are an enormous range of diverse activities in which young people can participate.

The however is that this range of activities is often – though not always – ad hoc and often lacking routes for progression either within the school system or into the community.

For our next meeting we intend to map these activities both in a matrix format and a more literal geographic format.

As we concluded – we are not starting from scratch but all too often new strategies ignore existing practice and opportunities. Using the grounded strategy approach we intend to build from where we are and begin to gradually fill in the gaps and develop links between the activities and opportunities which currently exist.

“A Space to Grow?”


How would you like to work in a place which set itself out as “A Space to Grow”?

A place where you could:

Achieve your personal goals;

Provide an outstanding service;

Fulfil your sense of vocation.

A place where your employers:

cared for your personal welfare and well-being;

focussed upon the impact of their service to users;

were flexible and willing to take decisions based upon consideration of circumstances – as opposed to being locked down by policy;

trusts that their employees want to do their best;

encouraged innovative and entrepreneurial practice to meet the needs of service users.

Sound a good place to be?

Well that’s an insight into what we got up to today at our first Leadership Team meeting for East Lothian Council’s Chief Officers.

Alex McCrorie – our new Acting Chief Executive – clearly set out a new agenda of change and opportunity where we are determined to listen, respond and work with our users and colleagues to improve the quaility of service we provide.

Despite the challenge provided by recent circumstances and the on-going concern over single status I was – in common with my colleagues – excited by the prospect of creating a new and vibrant culture for East Lothian Council.

A culture which is shared across all services and which shapes the practice and behaviour of all leaders in our organisation.

A culture  where we learn from our short-term experiences and translate them into new forms of practice.

A culture in which people can take pride and satisfaction in supporting, benefitting from, and promoting.

Leadership Strategy?


It was just an innocent question but it triggered a fascinating and very productive discussion this morning.

The questioner had been Dee Torrance who had invited me to speak to the most recent cohort of SQH candidates at Peebles Hydro Hotel.  As well enjoyed a cup of coffee after the session she popped the question:

“So what is your leadership strategy?”

I don’t think anyone in East Lothian would have asked that question such has been the focus on leadership development. But as I attempted to answer her question it occurred to me that all I was talking about were the opportunities which we now offer to our leaders and prospective leaders.  What came out was a list: HT conferences; PT conferences; Depute conferences; leadership seminars; coaching; mentoring; core CPD; exchange programme; SQH, etc, etc.

Dee’s question popped into my mind this morning when I met with some colleagues 3 HTs – Patrica McCall, Dorothy Bartholomew and Freda Ross, Maureen Jobson (Quality Improvement Manager, Learning and Teaching), and Kirsty McRae (Staff Development C-ordinator). The purpose of our meeting was to consider the idea of core CPD for HTs and our HT conference programme for next year.

As we started the discussion we fell into the same trap that I had fallen into at Peebles -i.e.  listing activities.

By repeating Dee’s question we started to give some form and purpose to the potentially diverse list of activities.

What emerged was as follows:

East Lothian Education Leadership Strategy (draft)

Our Leadership strategy provides a context for the range of development opportunities we provide for leaders at all levels within the East Lothian education service.

Leadership development activities can fall into one of four inter-related categories:

    1. Management
    2. Learning and Teaching
    3. People and culture
    4. Nurture and well-being

Management – this category has a strong knowledge focus – where leaders are provided with the knowledge necessary to fulfil many of the other aspects of their job.

Examples would include – Finance procedures and systems; IT; Personnel policies and procedures; “Getting things Done”

By having a depth of knowledge and competence in these areas leaders develop confidence that their practice enables them to comply with regulation and demands of the job which often carry a significant stress burden.

There is a need for all HTs to regularly update their skills and knowledge in relation to these areas. It is our intention to offer a programme of seminars in the course of each academic year. HTs will be expected to attend two of these sessions in any one year.

Learning and Teaching – this category will include all development activities which relate to the improving the learning and teaching process.

People and culture – this category will underpin many of the leadership development activities within  the other categories although we may offer particular activities which directly relate to the leadership culture to which we aspire in the East Lothian education service.

Nurture and well-being- this category includes all those activities which enable us to nurture and promote the personal well-being of our leaders. Examples would include coaching, mentoring and health at work.

Leadership Training Delivery – As a rule of thumb we reckon that we should make best use of our existing leaders within East Lothian to ensure that we share good practice, capture wisdom, raise self-esteem by asking them to lead 80% of sessions. In order to prevent our service from becoming too insular approximately 20% of Leadership development sessions should be led by people external to East Lothian.

This is obviously work in progress but I reckon we can flesh this out over the next few weeks into  something which will give our Leadership programme some real bite.

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”.

Translating policy into practice – a “tartan” approach

We held our 3-18 Strategic Learning and Teaching Group this afternoon. The key strategic item was how we translate our Learning and Teaching policy into consistent practice in our schools.

The “traditional” management approach to such a conundrum would be to issue an instruction that it should be implemented by all teachers – as Captain Picard (for Trekkies out there) might have said, “Make it so” – if only it was that simple.

The beauty of our group is that it is made up of people representing all levels in education in East Lothian: 6 Head Teachers; 6 classroom teachers; 4 Quality Improvement Officers; 3 Education Support Officers; 1 Educational Psychologist; 1 Head of Education; 2 Librarians; and 1 LTS New Technologies Research Practitioner. The richness of perspectives provided by such representation means that “simplistic”, “managerial”, “top-down” strategies are much less likely to emerge – and so it was today.

Following a tremendous discussion and small group brainstorming session focussing on – how we translate policy into practice? – the following stategy began to emerge.

We reckon that real change in practice depends upon following:

  1. shared and distributed responsibility for improving and leading the development of learning and teaching
  2. the generation of a momentum which will feed and drive the change process
  3. the creation and membership of groups which extend beyond people with similar experience/expertise/interest/
  4. the identification of short-term points of focus – rather than just trying to implement the whole policy all the time
  5. constant reminders of what we are attempting to achieve – awareness raising
  6. a flexible approach which takes account of context and people
  7. absolute willingness to get rid of all “closed” doors – sharing
  8. the encouragement and modelling of professional reflection
  9. the use of technology to share ideas and support our teams/communities
  10. the promotion of the concept of teachers as learners

Each of the above can be fleshed out and developed but a sucessful strategy would need to have all of the above features if policy is to be translated into practice.

A successful strategy would also have to recognise and tackle the following barriers:

  1. time limitations
  2. the pressures exerted by the existing secondary school curriculum
  3. the physical barriers presented by school design

For those of you wondering what on earth the “tartan” approach might be – then my apologies, but I just can’t help thinking in pcitures.  On listening to my colleagues talking this afternoon – particularly when speaking about the impact “learning Teams” have had in East Lothian I couldn’t help but imagine sub-sets or venn diagrams where people can belong to one group but also belong to others, e.g

 So a secondary teacher might be a member of a department, part of a group of teachers developing an aspect of learning and teaching across their school; and also a member of a group made up of primary and secondary colleagues.

However, rather than lots of circles the thought of tartan popped into my mind – I suppose it could be a matrix – but that seems a tired metaphor. Tartan is made up of vertical and horizontal lines – and so perhaps might our strategy? By creating networks of people at various levels, sectors, areas of interest, etc, we create a community which is connected, aware and self-sustaining – where leadership can come from anywhere on the tartan.

PS – it’s East Lothian tartan.

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?