Skip to main content

What holiday?

Two weeks in since our return from the summer break and it is easy to ask the question that forms the title of this post. However, when I or others say this, I don't think this is a bad sign. Already it feels as though we haven't been away. Yet, we all have. As soon as staff returned to school they shared stories about what they had been up to over the summer break. I eagerly joined in, trying not to boast too much about my adventures in Australia. When the children came back, they did the same. We heard lots of tales about holidays, visits to grannies and grandads, camping, playing out and having fun, from children eager to share. Of course, there were those who didn't have much to tell about their break, or who didn't want to share. We must never forget that for some the long school holidays are not something to look forward to, and who are happier when they are over, so that they can get some familiar routine back into their otherwise chaotic lives. Generally, though, batteries had been re-charged and emotional and physical well-beings refreshed and everyone was ready to go.

Both staff and learners were, I'm sure, a mix of nervousness and excitement as the first day of thenew school year approached. Staff worried a little bit about whether they could still cut it, still deliver, no matter how experienced and how many times they had started a new school year. What if they could no longer teach? Learners were nervous about new teachers, new classmates, new classrooms and about whether they had forgotten everything they'd ever learned over the holidays. Some also worried because they found so much of school work and organisation difficult to deal with, even though they knew we understood this and had supported and helped them to deal with how they felt. Would we still be the same? What about new teachers, would they think the same? Some learners were starting school for the first time. Very young, but able to pick up the anxiety and nervousness of mums and dads, as they arrived on the first day. 

Staff were excited by the prospects of a new school year. New classes, new learning and new ideas teeming around inside their heads, as well as looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues they hadn't seen over the holidays. Learners excited  about new classes, different teachers, new learning and also being with all their friends and classmates again. There were lots of shiny new shoes, school bags, sweatshirts, pencil cases, haircuts amongst learners, and staff! I am sure all would have also liked to have had another week or two on holiday, especially as the weather has been generally sunny and hot since our return, but we were ready for the new school year.

I know this because of how quickly learners settled and staff started to produce. This week, our second, I have been so proud to see some of the learning that has been going on already in each class as I visited them all, in both the schools I lead. Our first-year primary pupils obviously feel comfortable and happy to come into, and be in each school. Our priority in the early days is always in allowing them to settle, get to know their teachers as well as the school and it's routines and rhythms. It helped that they and their parents all took part in regular transition activities last session, so they already knew us and the school well. Seeing them keen and eager to come into the school, with big smiles and bubbling excitement, tells us we have got them off to the best start of their school journey. The fact that we are embracing more of our nursery approaches to learning through play has, I am sure, made a difference too, and we need to keep developing this further. Visiting other classes and speaking to teachers, support staff and pupils, I found more evidence of how quickly we have returned to making progress in learning and re-establishing the individual communities and relationships in both schools. All of this is core business, keeping the main thing the main thing, as you might say.

In these first two weeks we have already started to move forward on school improvement plans, not because I have particularly been driving this, but because staff themselves identified some things they could do that would help them, as well as the schools. As I left school tonight I heard voices and laughter in a classroom and found four teachers, including an NQT, sitting collaboratively planning. I told them to go home. "Yeah, we will but we just want to finish off this bit of planning." The thing about that is that they understand they are not planning for me they are planning for themselves and their learners. They are doing this not because they have been told they have to, but because they want to. I know which motivator, or driver, I prefer. Earlier in the day I had been across to the other school I lead and found myself helping all the children make 'gardens on a plate' for the local flower show happening this weekend. They were working with school staff and members of the local community. Already I have seen parents and grannies in both school helping provide further learning opportunites for the children. After helping with the gardens I then had a meeting with the chair of the Parent Council to explore how she could help the school not just this year but in the future as well. This was amazingly affirming and inspiring to see and hear the pride in and commitment for the school from such parents.

In truth I feel that both schools are already buzzing with excitement and learning, and this will only increase in the coming weeks. It is like we have never been away as we continue to build on all we achieved last session. That is not down to me, but down to people. It's down to relationships, commitment, attitudes, values, ethos, culture and professional expertise. It is why I still love the job I do and the people I have the good fortune to work with, of all ages. Long may it continue, and it's my job to make sure it does, because all of this is what is required to give our learners the best chance to succeed, and that is the least they should expect from us all. 

How was my holiday? What holiday? 

Popular posts from this blog

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 …

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…

A PISA My Mind

When John Swinney stood up in the Scottish parliament this week and described the performance of Scottish Education as making for 'uncomfortable reading' and that 'radical reform' was needed, he no doubt did this in the belief he was speaking from an informed position. He went on to pledge to bring 'an unwavering focus on improvement' and promised to carry out further reforms 'no matter how controversial.' His message was loud and clear, our performance is not good enough and he was going to change this. I wonder if he ever thought about the impact of his very public pronouncements had on teachers and school leaders as they were heading into their schools the next day? I suspect not.

So, what 'informed' Mr Swinney's assessment of the Scottish education system? Was it from the hundreds of visits he had made to Scottish schools since his appointment in May of this year? Was it from the conversations he had with thousands of pupils, teachers an…