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Showing posts from 2017

Empowering Schools Consultation in Scotland

The Cambridge dictionary defines consultation as follows:
a meeting to discuss something or to get advice or the process of discussing something with someone in order to get their advice or opinion about it.

The Scottish government likes to consult. At anyone time they seem to have quite a number of consultations ongoing. They have so many that they even have a separate section on their website detailing these. As I write this, they currently have twenty nine different consultations taking place. These range from 'Improving the Protection of Wild Mammals in Scotland' to a 'Consultation on Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People and Modern Apprentices.' Included in the current raft of consultations are quite a few that have an education focus or element including 'Extending Children's Rights-Guidance for education authorities and school staff on assessment of capacity and considerations of wellbeing of children who have attained 12 years of age in respect of…

How to protect your authentic leadership

In my last post I looked at some of the pitfalls that can beset school leaders as they settle into their role, or over time. In this one, I turn my attention to how school leaders can avoid the pitfalls and remain true to their original purpose and aims for their leadership. Having been a school leader for almost twenty years, I was proud that I was able to keep developing my leadership, but I still remained true to my values, beliefs and principles throughout my career. Such as stance is not without its difficulties or challenges, but I have met lots of leaders who have achieved exactly the same throughout their careers, despite the ever-changing demands of the systems and hierarchies in which they operated.

This begs the question, 'how do you ensure you stay true to your beliefs throughout your career?' By doing so, you can prevent your leadership mutating into practice and behaviours that you hardly recognise, and loses its authenticity.  The following are some suggestions …

School Leadership: time to smell the roses?

It is some time since I wrote anything on this blog directly about school leadership. Having left my post as a school leader some seven months ago, I think I have had some time to reflect more on leadership in schools from a different perspective. I have still been writing and thinking about schools since I stepped down for a notional retirement. I say 'notional' because it would seem that I am just as busy and engaged as I was before, but now it is 'my busy' not someone else's. Anyway, I have also kept in touch with lots of former colleagues and school leaders, either directly, face-to-face or virtually, through platforms like Twitter. During this engagement and over the time, I have been able to observe and think about school leadership a bit further, having the time and the headspace to do so.

There is no doubt that school leadership remains a challenging role for anyone to undertake, and I have nothing but admiration for anyone who steps up and into the role. T…

The Venus Flytrap of teaching and professional development

This post was prompted by a number of articles, reports, tweets and conversations I have seen or had recently. All of these were around teacher professional development and teacher professionalism. Some were by, or about, respected academics, and others were by teachers, school leaders, or those with an interest in education. However, there was a common thread or tone amongst them all. This was the frustration felt by many that there is still a persistent gap (yet another!) between what we know has the best chance of working in our schools, based on sound evidence or  research, and the practice and attitudes which still persist in many schools and classrooms. 
Why the Venus Flytrap metaphor then? 
As you may well know, the Venus Flytrap is a carnivorous plant that tempts prey, in the form of small flies and insects, through its attractive appearance, smells and the offer of easy food for them. When the unsuspecting fly or insect goes to investigate and lands on the plants pad-like le…

Another day, another policy change?

It would seem that the Scottish Government, and its Education Secretary John Swinney, are brimming with structural and systemic ideas for change in Scottish education. With their avowed aims of raising attainment and improving equity, they seem determined that they are the ones that will come up with the ideas of how to achieve this, rather than anyone actually working in schools, like teachers and headteachers for instance.

Yesterday, at another run-of-the-mill education conference in Edinburgh Mr Swinney stood up and seemed to promise that, within the new  statutory Headteachers' Charter currently being envisioned and drawn up by the government and Education Scotland, headteachers will no longer have to accept compulsory transfers of teachers, who are displaced from other schools, into their own. In answering a query about what he had said from Keir Bloomer, the chair of the Reform Scotland conference, Swinney stated  that headteachers would be given the ability to choose their …

Words

There is no doubting the power of words. They shape our thinking and our conversations, often revealing more than their simple literal meaning, especially when joined together, forming more complicated concepts. Combine those words with our actions and they become even more revealing, especially when the words we use do not match our actions. What do we believe when there is a mismatch between our words and our actions? For me it is our actions that reveal our true self. However, our words, our conversations, and the discourse around these, which inform, shape and colour our actions and our thinking. We do not act in a mindless vacuum. How we think and act is shaped, positively or negatively by words, and how we interpret them and the concepts they create.

The world of words tells us much about our actions, decisions and focus. With this in mind, I have been thinking a bit about the words that exist and are given primacy within our schools and education system, and what these reveal …

Structure and systems versuses learning, teaching and leadership

A couple of days ago Education Scotland announced that they planned to make changes to how they carried out school inspections as, 'the first step in a radical new way Education Scotland will work to support and drive improvement in schools.' This new 'radical' approach was to carry out more inspections, coupled with employment of new HMIEs and 'associate assessors' so that they could raise the number of inspections from the 180 expected to be undertaken this year, to a target figure of 250 for the following year. Amongst their stated aims was a desire to engage with every school in Scotland each year in order to support schools, teachers and school leaders and to drive forward improvement. They will also seek to include the 'younger voice' in inspections and include more use of learners in the inspection process, aiming to produce a How Good Is Our School (HGIOS) for young people to help them become engaged. (give me strength!) In addition, they will b…

Is it time to make the 'hidden curriculum' more visible and valued?

It has been recognised for some time now that there are two curriculums at play in any school or learning setting. Firstly, there is the formal curriculum and structures that shape the learning activities and experiences of the learners, which are common to schools and establishments across any system, as well systems themselves. These may include curricular areas, teaching strategies employed, school structures and the formal rules created by schools. The second however, is not so visible but is at play constantly across schools and systems. This is what has been described as the 'hidden curriculum'. This is the practices, experiences, attitudes, behaviours and biases that permeate any school, or system, and which send out messages to learners and families about what a school, or a system, really thinks is important as it brings true values, principles and ethics out into the open.

Having been a primary school leader for almost twenty years, I came to recognise the power and …

Some thoughts on Scottish education

This week I was asked if I would go along to speak to labour MSPs and MPs about Scottish education and schools. My brief was to talk about education. its current state, the reality of how the attainment gap can be tackled, how teachers can help government address the challenges of poverty, and how we might start to reinvest in our schools and our teaching staff. The politicians did not want to hear from the 'same people' who always spoke to them, and wanted to hear from someone 'fresh from the chalk-face'. I had forty five minutes, about twenty minutes input from me then a discussion and question and answer session. No pressure there then! Anyway, I gave it my best shot.

I started with a brief introduction to myself and my background, to give them some idea of who this person was, and why they might be able to help them and I tried to cover most of the following in my time slot.

I started with some the positives from our system.

Stuff we should be proud of:
Our learners …

Some more thoughts on closing gaps

There is a lot of talk, and action, going on at the moment in the Scottish education system, and others, around the closing of gaps and raising attainment. Indeed, the Scottish Government has directed a lot of resources, in terms of  finance, people and policy to try and address these persistent issues. Just about every school in Scotland started the new school year with extra funding through the Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) provided from Scottish Government direct to headteachers.

Unfortunately, the main criteria being used to allocate much of the funding being allocated is linked to free schools meals entitlement (FSM), and areas identified as having high levels of deprivation through the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). I say unfortunately, because the SIMD results in a 'post-code lottery' allocation to funding, with some areas getting substantial sums of money, whilst others get very little as a result of their rankings. Factors such as income levels, employmen…