Midyis, PIPS and ASPECT

We made a decision last year to introduce Midyis baseline testing for all our secondary schools for a test which all S2 pupil sit. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been analysing the data and its has thrown up some very interesting results.

Such has been the success that we have now agreed to use the PIPs test for P5 and are now piloting a pre-school test.

All this data will allow us to identify any pupils who are obviously operating below their potential and enable us to actively track progress over their school career. Such information supplements the on-going assessments and judgements made by teachers.

We used Midyis at Dunbar Grammar School and it provided valuable supplementary information for parents and pupils when it came to course choice in terms if offering an accurate prediction of likely attainment at Standard Grade.

This example comes from New Zealand who have been using Midyis for many years: 

Dynamic Standards and Quality Reporting?

We have been trying to use this blogging platform to fulfil our statutory obligation to complete our Standards and Quality Report on education in East Lothian.

The reasons for exploring this format were threefold: improve accessibility to the report; cut down on environmental impact of producing a ‘glossy’ report; enable people to interact with the report.

However, another reason has emerged which wasn’t so obvious when starting out. Each year authorities and schools enter into the “reporting season” where they gather together evidence and spend a significant amount of time into pulling together the report. Yet there is an alternative!

What if the report became a dynamic document capable of being updated on an on-going basis? For example, an authority might only be able to award a level of performance for a quality indicator as being “good” but find that after a particular survey that it has gone up to being “very good”. Rather than waiting for the time for writing up the report the level of performance could be changed immediately.  In this way the report is accurately reflecting reality in ‘real-time’.

The on-line reporting format allows that level of responsiveness. It also turns the theory of on-going evaluation into a practice. 

As an after-thought – this format also has potential for pupil reporting where parents and pupils have “real time” access to progress. I know GLOW will be picking up on this but as a teacher I would have liked to have been able to enter pupils’ marks into a data base and for the marks and comments to be automatically transferred to the pupils’ on-line record. All instead of staying up to 3.00am completing reports!!


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.

“Knowing” each other

Prestonpans Primary School

Originally uploaded by Don Ledingham.

I visited Prestonpans Primary School this afternoon to find out about some of the exciting plans they have for the coming session. Learning and Teaching, Curriculum and Timetabling were all on the agenda. A member of staff challenged me to “know” the school better at a personal level.

I’ve been thinking about this “knowing” of a school.  From a teacher’s perspective – the “knowing” of a school depends on a person – in this case me – being in the school and knowing them as individuals before any judgement can be made about the school. At this level I can understand what people mean by this. When I was a teacher, or even a Principal Teacher – I had very little contact with the “Authority” save a few in-service days and later Principal Teacher Meetings. In fact I remember some colleagues at that time describing themselves as being self-employed people who happened to receive a cheque from the local authority at the end of the month.

This issue ties in neatly with a discussion I had with a colleague from a school today who talked about – “the authority” as a distinct entity – quite separate from their day-to-day business, i.e. “them” and “us”.

There’s something of a paradox here with the move to more of education budgets being devolved to schools, the number of people employed in the “centre” will become fewer and fewer. Yet unless people in school see a person – they don’t feel that the connection exists to make it anything other than “them” and “us”. I think this is where the relationship between social media and self evaluation begins to form an important alliance in helping us to create a different culture – which might meet teacher’s needs and yet enable the authority to “know” its schools in a robust and rigorous manner.

Over the last few months as more teachers and other colleagues in schools begin to blog I’ve been gaining an important insight into their worlds – and perhaps they are gaining an insight into mine. The sense of community, shared values and shared sense of purpose can be developed through social media in a way that would be impossible through traditional means. If we link this partnership dimension with a self-evaluation culture which starts with the child at the centre  i.e. “what are the outcomes for children?” and develop valid and reliable ways of evaluating our practice the role of the authority becomes twofold:

  1. Leading, supporting and verifying the development of such a culture;
  2. Adopting a proportionate approach towards school support, i.e. a focus on schools where the “outcomes for children” are not what might be expected. (The key to enabling the authority to fulfil such a role is the ability to access “real time” outcome data – which does link with my post this week about formative and summative assessment.)

Just as HMIe will, and are, starting to focus more upon an authority’s ability to know its schools – so the authority should focus more upon schools’ ability to know themselves. The role of the authority is therefore one of establishing the culture and practice of self-evaluation.

Having said all that we must recognise that personal contact is a key factor in helping us to create such a culture – that’s why I put one morning and one afternoon each week aside to visit schools – the highlight of my week – to look at learning and teaching.

Formative and Summative – entering the Dragon’s Den

A number of separate issues that I’ve been considering over the last few weeks came together in one meeting.

These issues were: accountability; formative assessment; attainment; enabling teachers to experiment; measurement; administration;venture capitalists; trust; learning and teaching; risk management; and consistency.

And so it was this week a group of us (head teachers and managers) looked at how we might go about creating cultures in our schools where head teachers relinquished some of their control and in so doing enabled teachers to experiment with their practice with a view to improving learning and teaching.

The “risk” for head teachers (and society) is that these changes to our practice might not result in any improvement in children’s attainment.  It’s funny how people react to such a query – and immediately adopt the higher moral ground by saying that education is so much more than attainment. But this put me in mind of my discussion with Rick Segal and how he, or a someone in Dragon’s Den, might react to a teacher who went into pitch for their new business idea – in this case formative assessment – to seek their support and financial investment.

One of the problems that we face in education is that we are all adopting – to a greater or lesser extent – the principles and techniques of formative assessment – we are convinced by the logic, the rhetoric and the fact that the reaction of pupils is extremely positive. Yet what would the Dragon’s Den investor’s want to see before they invested their hard cash? The answer is obvious to everyone – evidence – hard numbers – reliable, objective and valid data. Where do we get such data? – summative assessment in the form of tests; external examinations; assessment free from teacher influence.

Teacher – “so you don’t trust me then”

Dragon – “Yes I don’t trust you – no more than I would trust someone who was trying to get me to invest in a new vacuum cleaner which will sell for $500 but doesn’t know if people will buy it or how much you will make in the first year. Where are the figures?”

Teacher – “I can tell you that pupils are engaging in lessons more than ever before. I’ve given them questionniares and the reponses are really positive. Parents are telling me that their children having never been as enthusiastic about learning. Class behaviour has improved and I don’t nearly give out as many punishment exercises.

Dragon – “OK but maybe your just entertaining the kids. Maybe they are having fun but after a few years of this they will become bored and you’ll have to come up with something different.”

Teacher – “So what you want is for me to test your child to find out if they know and understand more and have more skills and show you the results”

Dragon – “Exactly”

Teacher – “But don’t you understand that this runs completely counter to what we are trying do with children – and will undermine the positive benefits of formative assessment”

Dragon – “Not at all – I’m convinced by the logic and rhetoric of formative assessment – it’s just that I don’t understand you’re reluctance to collect the hard data”

Teacher – “If you focus on the “hard numbers” then I will just shift my attention to achieving the results and pay no attention to the processes of teaching and learning. In other words I’ll give you you’re numbers but it will corrupt what we’re doing”

Dragon – “So what you are really saying is that you don’t actually believe in your product – it won’t sell – it won’t generate the numbers? In that case Im afraid I won’t invest”

My apologies if this seems a bit long winded but this seems to get to the heart of the matter. My point is that we need to have faith in what we are doing but realise that there is a need to gather the numbers – through summative assessment. It’s part of the intellectual process, the science of teaching, the business of reflective practice.

If we don’t then it will only be a few short years before some reactionary force uses another conflicting set of ideas and rhetoric to shift our practice in an opposite direction.

The point is that we must engage with teachers to develop an understanding that the “numbers” are necessary – but that if they use the “numbers” and continue to develop their practice that they will move so far beyond any “accountability as a line of conseqeunce ” that their practice will be liberated, rewarding and self-sustaining. In such an environment the head teacher would be well advised to relinquish control because it would be teachers who would interrogate the data imbued with a hunger to improve their practice.

I’d like to work in a school like that – what’s more I’d like my child to be taught in a school like that.

STACS or not?

9.30-11.45 Out to see Willie Galbraith at Preston Lodge to finish off our chat about examination results at the school.

We focused on our authority generated figures which group results by subject for all schools and use the %of S4 as the standard comparison. Both Willie and myself agree that this gets rid of the discrepancies which can occur when the statistics relate to the the number taking the subject. For example one department might ony have 18 pupils taking a course – which would equate to 10% of S4. If 9 pupils gained a credit this would be 50% of the pupils taking the subject but only 5% if set against the S4 year group. By using the % of S4 roll figure you are able to get a much more reliable figure to use to compare one school against another. Quite honestly I feel these tables are more effective than the charts and box plots which STACS provide.

12.15-1.00 Met with Helen McMillan to discuss Early Years and Childcare. I agreed with Helen that we need to clarify our strategic intent in respect to this area and I need to spend some time on this with colleagues.

1.10-1.50 Gillian Reilly and Clare O'Sullivan. We are going to set up a coaching pilot for the remaiinder of this session for 2 mebers of the department, 6 Headteachers and 9 teachers. All the evidence would seem to suggest that the coaching model can significantly help people to manage their lives more effectively and in turn get more out of their jobs. Gillian and Clare are going to write up a final propsal for agreement by AJB.

2.00-3.00 WAN (wide area network) Project meeting This is a group which has been set up to manage the upgrading of the network to schools. We rea using the PRINCE2 project management system. The project team will oversee the upgrading of the netwoork to schools – minimum spec 2mgb to primaries and 8 mgb to secondary schools.

4.00-5.00 Met a headteacher to discuss peronal issues

National Priorities

2 ½ hour drive to Dundee to take part in a National Priorities seminar. The drive was worth it. I particularly enjoyed Carolyn Hutchison presentation and the three presentations from Angus, East Renfrewshire and Glasgow about how they go about gathering and analyzing 5-14 results. East Renfrewshire use the Edinburgh Assessment Unit to gather baseline data through standardized tests. Angus use Midys and Pipys. Given that we have already decided to use Midyis I was interested to find our more about the Angus scheme. I liked how control of the system seems to be in the hands of teachers and Headteachers – as opposed to something being “done” to them. I hope to invite someone from Angus to make a presentation to our nursery/primary executive meeting. I wonder. Their database makes use of Filemaker Pro, I wonder of there is any potential in of making use of Freemis to create an on-line system?

Then a presentation on Future Learning and Teaching funding. We have one scheme being funded – our Learning Teams – but other authorities, such as East Renfrewshire have five. I think we need to reflect upon some of our plans for the coming year and look to submit some applications.

Ian Fullerton

7.30-10.30 In early to do some preparation work for a number of bits and pieces to come this week.

11.00-1.30 Met with Colin Sutherland, HT North Berwick High School, Liz McLean, ELC architect and Ian Fullerton, Legend. We were talking about the anticipated increase in NBHS's roll over the next few years and the need for additional space. Ian is our Principal Officer – Strategic Planning and has responsibility for tracking pupil numbers, working with developers and architects for planning new schools or extensions and advising the Directorate on pupil intake management. Ian is a master of spreadsheets and his work is highly regarded throughout the authority and beyond. Unfortunately he supports a rather inferior English football team whose name I can't remember!

Ian and Liz left at 12.15 which enabled Colin and I to complete the first evaluation report on North Berwick High School which focuses on attainment and the standards and quality report. North Berwick has outstanding examination results and compares very favourably with it's comparator schools in other authorities. This is a great testimony to Colin's leadership and the efforts of all of the staff and students.

The focus of our discussion was on the gap between a pupil's potential and their final attainment. I've asked Colin to analyse the targets set for each of NBHS S4 student and their eventual attainment in the actual exams. When these figures are gathered together you can identify the % of a year group who are targeted for 5+ Standard Grades and then compare it with the % that gained 5+ in the actual exams.. I know from experience that this gap can range from 10-20% – the challenge for all of us in education is to close the gap between what we see as potential in a child and their eventual attainment. It will be interesting to reflect upon these figures in all out schools.

Back to the office for 2.00-3.30pm LNCT – Local Negiatiing Committee for Teachers – agenda – 35 hour working week; role of business managers; budget; finance officers for primaries.

4.00 Sheila McKendrick – met to discuss national priority spending and funding for a creative links officer. Sheila provides excellent advice and support and occasionally manages to keep my feet on the ground!

4.30pm Met with primary hedteacher regarding fbudget issues.

5.00-6.15 Met with Raymy Boyle to reflect upon Integrated Community Schools and our visions for the future i.e. What would the best Integrated Community School in Scotland really look like?


8.30-10.00am Directorate Meeting – Lindsey Dick from Corporate governance came to the first part of the meeting. She is keen to implement a more flexible approach towards planning to fit in with different departments’ requirements whilst ensuring that there is some sort of corporate approach – particularly one which makes it clear how things tie together. I welcomed this as we previously had to write a service improvement plan and a separate business plan. The new system will only require us to pick out the key features of our service improvement plan – something which will save time and unnecessary effort.

10.00-10.30 Met Alastair Seagrott – Head of Outdoor Education about the Mark Scott Leadership awards which we will be supporting. This award will enable 12 east Lothian senior pupils to access training from Outward Bound. We also agreed to hold a seminar early in the new year to explore how outdoor education can contribute to Curroiculum for Excellence.

10.30-11.30 Alan Blackie and I met to discuss the restructuring of the department in some detail.

12.00-1.00 Sharon Saunders – Head of Personnel and Clare O’Sullivan – our consultant – met me to go over the various proposals for the restructuring of the department. The cluster-based working paper which we completed last week has gone a long way to identifying what it is we are trying to achieve when we talk about improving the service – particularly in relation to the notion of collective responsibility.

1.00-3.30pm Met with education officers to discuss examination statistics and how we would like to work with schools in the future. There is no way we can go back to subject specific advisors but perhaps there are a range of options we could explore to help subjects to better support themselves. Our commitment to look at results from a subject perspective across the authority has some potential to reinforce the idea of collaborative working. We considered picking three subjects (perhaps Maths, Geography and Art and Design) this session to look at different development models – very useful discussion.

4.00-5.30pm Masterclass meeting at Prestonpans Education Centre – Got there a bit late but we engaged in a worthwhile discussion. I’d like the group to take a lead role in translating our ICT policy into practice with a focus upon the teaching and learning process. The group seemed keen to take on this role with the ICT Management Group being more focused upon the hardware, support and budget end.

We agreed to set a up group which will meet on the 20th December to take this matter forwards.

There is a need for us to establish a basic classroom entitlement for every teacher in the authority – even before we look at some of the other exciting possibilities for ICT. I referred to this a “low tech – high Tech” approach in other words lets have the fundamentals in place before getting carried away e.g. robust connections systems, good support systems, better use of existing software and baseline hardware in every classroom.

Prestonpans Primary

Met with David Scott and Donald McGillivary fro the Association of Headteachers Scotland (AHTS) from 8.30 – 10.00am. Very enjoyable meeting and characterised what I hope will be my relationship with unions. We solved a lot of problems and they made some very useful suggestions. One of the key suggestions was that we develop a set of guidelines which would help teachers and headteachers to manage students who have behaviour problems.

Then met Helen McMillan about Early Years budget. We had had a finance meeting when helen had been on holiday and shifted some money from childcare strategy to nursery schools to cover the nursery nurse payrise. I apologised to Helen for not having discussed this with her on her return to work but it had slipped my mind. It reinfroced for me the importance of really getting on top of the budget, as the suggestion had been made during the meeting and had not been properly thought through prior to the meeting.

Out to Prestonpans Primary School for another drop in visit. Florence Brydon took it in her stride and after a cup of coffee and chat showed me round the school. Met some really great kids who had some real spark about themselves. The teachers seemed very committed to their jobs and I got the feel of a place which was determined to give every child the best start in life they could. The school canteen has won awards for healthy eating and I'm sure Jamie Oliver would have been impressed.

Back to office to meet with Pauline Sales about developing a database for recording complaints and incidents of bullying. Pauline will contact Angus, Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire and North Lanarkshire Councils to find out about their attainment evaluation procedures. Colin Sutherland, HT North Berwick, Pauline and myself are looking to imrpove our evaluation procedures and these councils are reckoned to be amongst the best in Scotland.

The met Norma Mcpherson – our Maths support officer and Ronnie Summers – HT Musselburgh Grammar – about 5-14 maths results. Norma has done some really interesting analyses of maths results and was able to share that with Ronnie. We agreed that perhaps the most important thing we can do to improve maths attainment is to cincentrate on formative assessment and the creation of an interactove learning environment.

Then 45 mins with Alan Ross about the philosophy behind integrated children's services – once again very stimulating and challenging.

Straight from there to third depute's seminar. Another great session – of course that's my opinion. We reflected again upon the luck involved in gaining promotion. Agreement that we need a proactive means of identifying talent. It was also a common feature that almost everyone had acted up at some stage in their career. Chris Peyton – North Berwick – talked about a system in Beeslack where one of the assistant heads was always an acting appointment – I really liked this idea. The proposed coaching system was also well received.

Back home for a parents' night for my youngest son. Why was I so upset by a teacher who was chewing a sweet as he spoke to us? Must be getting old!

PS I've updated Wednesday's entry by adding my Tuesday weblog