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14/15 Nurture

  2014 has been another busy, exciting and challenging year. Some of the highlights have included:

  • Continuing to work with some excellent teachers and colleagues in both the schools I lead. We have pressed forward with our practitioner enquiry approaches to school and individual development. Four and a half years down this road and we are more committed and convinced than ever that we have chosen the right path for us. We have seen impressive impacts for our learners, for each teacher and for both schools. The totality of the curricular experience we deliver has continued to develop and we all understand how this is a continuous journey and process of growth, with no destination or finishing point. Seeing teachers of all ages and stages continue to grow and develop even more enthusiasm for what they do, and the impact they have, is one of the joys of school leadership. Hearing laughter in the staff-room so often is a key indicator for me of school well-being.
  • Seeing the successes and achievements of all our pupils, continues to be a highlight for me. Sometimes it can be difficult for teachers to see pupil progress when they are working with them every day. I can see this progress more clearly at times when I visit classrooms and work with pupils. When this is combined with all the 'harder' evidence and data we have, this allows me to be confident in the progress the pupils are making. I am particularly excited by the progress made by the pupils who have faced and overcome the most difficulties and barriers to their learning and personal development. My role continues to be one of providing the right conditions to give staff the support and encouragement they need to ensure all pupils continue to make progress.
  • Personally, I have been very engaged with the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and their initial Fellowship programme this year. This has been a terrific experience and has given me the opportunity to meet and work with some exceptional school leaders from around Scotland. As part of the programme, we have met with and engaged in professional dialogue and conversation with plenty of leading educational and leadership thinkers and practitioners. We started with Graham Donaldson and other stars of this year have included Alma Harris, Andy Hargreaves, Chris Chapman, Clive Dimmock, Margery McMahon and Sir Andrew Cubie. This engagement has helped me develop my thinking and understanding around school leadership and how school leaders can crucially create, or destroy, the right conditions for schools to thrive. More importantly, being part of this programme has kept my thinking and my practice fresh, up to date and in a continuous process of development, a crucial requirement for experienced headteachers. It has also allowed me to engage at a national level through meetings  and presenting at conferences across Scotland. My next step begins on Friday when I leave for the ICSEI in Cincinnati as part of a team talking about system development in Scottish education.
  • I have continued to Blog and further engage with educators all over the world on Twitter. This is an essential part of my professional development and collaboration. I am committed to collaboration and developing dialogue at all levels within education and leadership. I share and engage with colleagues all over the world from the comfort of my sofa at home, whenever I Have the time and opportunity, at no cost to me or my schools, apart from that time. I have learned so much more from these engagements than from most of the so-called professional development courses I have attended in my career. In a time of fewer and fewer resources, and increasing demands on my time, this on-line collaboration can only keep growing. One of the greatest pleasures of the year has been meeting some of my 'virtual' friends and colleagues and then continuing our conversations face to face.
  • Personally I have managed to keep a reasonable work-life balance, though this still remains harder to achieve at some times of the year than others. My wife and I spent six wonderful weeks in Western Australia visiting our youngest daughter and her partner in Perth. We had all sorts of memorable experiences and being 12000 miles away certainly helped me to switch off from the job and just remind myself again about what is really important, family. This is the first year as a headteacher where I had no contact with school until the week before we returned after the summer break. Guess what? The school didn't fall down and we have still achieved so much so far this school year. Who'd have thought? The extra bonus was that I returned truly refreshed and ready to go as we started school again in August. I won't be able to get down to Oz every summer, but I do hope to apply some of the lessons learned.
So what are my aims  for in 2015?
  • I will continue to focus on and use practitioner enquiry for development of schools and individuals. In 2015 I will hopefully be working with other schools to support them in their own journey. My staff are already supporting staff at another local school as they take their first tentative steps, and I will be working with headteachers and future leaders to help developing their understanding and practice around the use of enquiry approaches.
  • Hopefully, I will successfully complete my Fellowship programme with SCEL and become one of the first Fellows of the college. I would then like to maintain and develop my engagement at a national level to support others. I would like to present at more conferences and am hoping to present at my first teach meet in April. 
  • I will continue to Blog, though I might need to restrict my Twitter engagement a little if I am to achieve my aim of completing the writing of a second book. I am also hoping to produce and publish my first research paper with Dr Gillian Robinson of Edinburgh University around our work with practitioner enquiry. 
  • I need to keep thinking about the work/life balance thing, not only for myself but also for the staff who work in the schools I lead. One of my key roles continues to be the need to 'gatekeep' on their behalf and to look out for their wellbeing. Stressed teachers cannot achieve their best for the pupils they teach, they are only more likely to pass those stresses on to the learners.
  • I will remain determined to focus not on the things we don't get done, or achieve, but instead on all the brilliant things we do get done and do achieve!
  • Staff well-being will remain a priority, as will laughter.

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