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Showing posts from 2015

Nurture 15/16

2015

I wrote my first Nurture post last year. (14/15 Nurture 31/12/14) When I look back at my aims for 2015, I I managed to achieve most of them. I didn't really reduce my time on Twitter and this is probably explains why I didn't get on with writing another book, or with writing my paper with Gillian Robinson from Edinburgh University. Gillian and I did manage to sit down a couple of times and start pulling something together, but in the end we were both so busy we never got round to completing what we intended. Mind you, we have identified a number of papers we could write about our experiences with practitioner enquiry, and we have recently completed a recorded interview for the University website about our work together. Small steps forward.

My year started with a visit to Cincinnati for the ICSEI conference. A tremendous experience for me as I had the chance to rub shoulders and engage with many of the world's leading educational thinkers and researchers. The 2016 IC…

Six signs of a high performing school

There have been many attempts to define what the characteristics of high performing schools might be. Indeed, I have met, and read, many who profess to know just what makes such a school. Of course, I have developed my own thoughts on this, based on my own experiences. Some of these will concur with the thoughts of others, and some will be different. I am sure you will have your own thoughts and ideas. As usual, I share these not to say they are absolute and right, but more to stimulate your own thinking, after all we all work in education and you would think we would be able to identify either what we are doing already or what we aspire to do to make our schools the best they can be for all our learners.
My top six.
1) You can tell a high performing school as soon as you walk through the doors. Not by what is going on in the classrooms, important though that is and more of it later. No, I am talking about something a bit more ethereal, the atmosphere. How do you feel when you walk in t…

The Six Qualities of Educational Leadership

I wrote a post a few weeks ago (The six tasks of leadership 12/12/15) following an article about Sir Tim Brighouse, who had identified what he thought were the six key tasks for school leaders. My own list was a bit different to Tim's but it also set me thinking about what might be the qualities you would look for in high performing school leaders. I give you my six as a stimulus for discussion and perhaps your own consideration of what qualities we should look for in school leaders.


The first is authenticity. I believe all school leaders need to be authentic and to really walk the walk of their talk. There can be nothing so dispiriting for school community members than being led by a leader who says one thing but does another. Remember to say what you mean and mean what you say.I think the highest performing leaders possess emotional awareness. They know themselves well and they know the people they lead well too. They understand the importance of relationships and how to tap into…

Improving Schools In Scotland - An OECD Perspective

The report from the OECD, commissioned by the Scottish Government, that looked at Scottish Schools, the education system and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) has been published this week. I, and others, have been quite dismayed already by a lot of the coverage of this report in the printed media. Predictably, they seemed to have ignored a lot of the very positive messages contained in this report and have instead focused on the areas the OECD team felt we should address to make our schools even better and the Scottish system truly world class.
I would like to redress the balance a bit by detailing some of the many positive messages fro Scottish schools, our system and the curriculum which were high-lighted in the report.
They started by identifying much that was positive about CfE. This included:
A 21st century agenda of knowledge and competence The holistic approach of 3-18 yrs grounded in the four capacities  Real professional engagement, trust and consensus An enthusiasm for teaching and …

Wellbeing a must for 2016!

As I write this post, I am sat in my office at the end of another extremely busy calendar year in school, and for all schools. When are they not? Like most school leaders, teachers and support staff, I am tired. The run up to Christmas is one of the most tiring periods in any school, but also one of the most exciting. I wouldn't want to lose any of this excitement and the opportunities pupils have to shine in so many ways. This year though, we did make one or two adjustments to our Christmas performances to lessen the stress for pupils, staff and parents. I am pleased to say that these worked well, and everyone was pleased by the outcomes. In the two schools I lead we have had to deal with various staffing issues including long and short-term staff illnesses, pregnancies and changes caused by redeployments and retrials. We have had an HMIE inspection in one school and all the while we have been trying to move forward with our school development plans, whilst dealing with a shiftin…

The six tasks of leadership

Saw a tweet today detailing Tim Brighouse's 'Six Tasks of Leadership'. I really enjoy Tim's work and his approach so it was no surprise that I agreed that the six tasks he prioritised were all important. However, my own six would be slightly different, so I thought I would offer them here as a stimulus for everyone to consider their own top six tasks.

Mine are: 1) Be values driven                2) Recognise the importance of, and build, relationships                3) Lead learning, not instruction                4) Support and be actively involved in professional development that is school based and a     continuous process                5) Develop teacher agency, adaptive expertise and dispersed leadership                6) Measure everything in terms of impact for learners
It is not easy to select your top six tasks of school leadership, but it's a useful exercise to help you identify your own drivers.
What are yours?

See the person

I am a regular reader of the 'Secret Teacher' column in The Guardian newspaper. This is published every Saturday morning and is written by a different anonymous teacher each week. Like many, I have moaned and groaned about the tone and the content of many of these articles. Many are used by individuals to moan and groan about what goes on in their school, issues with the system or education in general. A lot of the articles say a lot more about the people who wrote them, rather than any of the the issues, some of which are quite serious. In Scotland we often characterise meetings where everyone just seems to see them as an opportunity to moan as 'meet and greets', 'greet' being a Scottish term for crying.
However, there does seem to be an underlying trend of issues that are grounds for concern for all of us in schools, and especially leadership teams. This week's 'Secret Teacher' writes of her experience of being away from her middle leadership role …

From caterpillar to headteacher: episode four secondary modern and an introduction to the belt!

I arrived at Western Boys Secondary Modern School with low aspirations and lower self-esteem, as far as school was concerned. I had failed my 11+ exam in primary school and here I was in a school full of the system's failures. Western Boys was attached to Western Girls, and Western Infants, but all were separate and there would certainly be no mixing of secondary boys and secondary girls. We wouldn't be able to deal with that distraction. What we needed was discipline, especially now National Service was no more, and plenty of it. The system had decided we were going to be the mine workers, shipyard workers, factory workers and labourers of the future and we would be prepared accordingly. The boys and girls who had gone off to the Grammar School or the Technical School could obviously cope with being mixed together, after all they were going to be the managers, the senior civil servants, the academics and the business owners of the future and already knew how to behave. They h…

Command and control or something more meaningful?

Monitoring and observation visits by senior managers would seem to be commonplace in most schools. They are supposed to provide some assurance to managers and others that the quality of teaching and learning is of a satisfactory standard, though Dylan Wiliam and others have demonstrated that no-one is quite sure what this actually looks like. Such visits have become the norm and they have traditionally focused on the teacher. I have felt for a long time that a lot of these are are more about 'command and control' mindsets, and a continuation of inspection processes, rather than genuine attempts to improve teaching and learning experiences for pupils. Each year schools will produce a diary and programme of monitoring and observation activities that will happen over the course of the school year. This is supposed to be part of an open and transparent process that all can see and understand. A lot of schools even detail the roles and expectations for all in the process. In many, …

From caterpillar to headteacher: episode three, another school and I begin to discover school is not fair

I imagine there was quite a party when I left Western Infants School, to move on to Carville Primary. That party was probably led and paid for by the headteacher, who I had got to know quite well, judging by the amount of time I spent in her office. Anyway, 'new beginnings...' as they say.
Carville was situated at the south of the town and involved a walk of about one and a half miles through Wallsend, across the High Street and down to the school. It was strange to me that I had to go there, as only about four hundred yards away from the bottom of Jubilee street, where we lived, was Buddle Primary school. But, it would seem that was not an option. So Carville it was. Carville school was not far from the river, the Tyne, and you could see the cranes and buildings of the shipyards from the school yard. Pupils were pulled in from all around the area. Most of this was what would now be called social housing, but near the school were some streets of private housing and so I was abo…

From caterpillar to headteacher - episode 2 where I continue my primary education and begin to not like school

This is my second post in which I explore my journey from childhood to headship.
At the end of my last post I had begun my early primary education at the Jubilee Infants school, Wallsend, but had few strong memories from the experience. Mind you it was some fifty odd years ago and so I could be excused for not recalling too much. As ever though, the memories I have, and continue to have, about all my schooling, are very much based on emotional ones, rather than cognitive. They are all times when I was very happy, or unhappy, or excited, or interested, or disinterested or bored, and often when I must have been a right pain for those trying to 'educate' me. Most, I suppose, are also connected to people rather than events. School friends, enemies, teachers, good and bad, my parents and my family.
I was a contradiction as a young child, robust and independent in many ways, but also subject to some illness and particularly fitting. No-one actually linked the fits I used to suffer fro…

From caterpillar to Headteacher: where I share my earliest memories in education and life

This post is hopefully the first of a series, and they aim to ask and answer the question of, How did I become the Headteacher I am today?

As I believe we are all a product of our experiences, good and bad, and to consider where I am now, I think we need to go right back in time to where it all began. Wallsend. Not perhaps the most suitably named starting point for any journey, but this is where my life journey began. Wallsend is on Tyneside, and was in Northumberland when I was a child, now I think it's in North Tyneside, though I know it hasn't moved. As it name indicates, Wallsend is at the end of a wall, Hadrian's wall to be precise, and it's Roman name was Segedunum. 
I was born into a working class family, where my father worked in the local coal mine, my mother worked part time for a local grocery chain in their shop on Wallsen High Street and I was the youngest of two children, my sister being two years older than me. We were both born in the early 1950s and s…

Austerity, education and losing sight of learners

Since Nicola Sturgeon' announcement that standardised testing was to be reintroduced into all Scottish primary schools and the early years of secondary schools, as a key component of the National Improvement Framework, much has been written in the media, blog posts, by academics and some organisations that must make for very uncomfortable reading for the Scottish Government. The vast majority of what has been written is opposed to the reintroduction of standardised testing as a tool to drive forward improvements in our schools, both in terms of attainment and closing the gap between the attainment of the most privileged and the least. President Obama signalled last week that even in the USA, with the 'No Child Left Behind' agenda, they have gone too far and American children are over assessed and under taught. Worse, the programme aims, which were to raise attainment and to close the equity gap, have not been delivered. Recent research has shown that the equity gap in the …