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Showing posts from December, 2016

Some musings on inspections

Perhaps its the Christmas idleness kicking in, but I have been thinking over the last day or two about school inspections. This is probably because of tweets I have read over that time, but it is also undoubtedly linked to the fact that I am aware of at least two schools, pretty near to me, who are being inspected as soon as they return from the Christmas and New Year break. Why would anyone think that is an appropriate thing to do? One school will have inspectors arriving on the first day back and the other the following week. I am sure we can all imagine how these impending visits have impacted on school leaders and staff in the already hectic run-up to the Christmas holidays, and how they may also be feeling during those holidays. It feels to me that schools being inspected in this period, so soon after the break, are very much just seen as fodder for an organisational process that takes no notice of the impact on people of that process. 'We have a number of inspections to carr…

One more step

One More Step is a song we sing quite a lot in assemblies in Primary schools, usually at the start or the end of the school year. The words tell of taking another step on our own particular journeys, across the world and through time, 'From the old we travel to the new', and seem particularly apt for myself this week. I have decided that next term, following our return from the Christmas holidays, will be my last as a Headteacher. After eighteen years of headship, I feel now is the right time for another small step, or giant leap, on my own particular journey.


I have mixed emotions about my decision, but I do believe it is the right one for me at this time. I have always thought you know when it is time to move on, or time for a change. This is how I feel, and have been thinking this way for a few months now. I still love my job, and working daily with fabulous people, to help all our learners grow and develop. Headship is an intellectual, emotional and organisational challeng…

We might have the data, but have we got the answers?

I recently viewed a YouTube clip of Gert Biesta talking about 'Good Education in an Age of Measurement' from 2010. http://ln.is/www.youtube.com/jZYOT In this Biesta, who has worked in the Netherlands, England and Scotland and is now in Luxembourg, talks about the challenges faced by schools and systems to concentrate on providing a good education for their learners when we are very much in the middle of what he calls 'an age of measurement.' He traces the a real focus on measurement in schools back to Blair's Labour government of 1997, and notes how this was accompanied by the 'name and shame' culture of league tables and quite punitive inspection regimes. Though Blair was fond of saying his priorities were going to be 'education, education and education', Biesta and others were unable to detect any real concern for education as the focus became more and more about measurement and learning, at the expense of real education.

This measurement focus pr…

NIF levels and what they tell us

Last week it was PISA and this week we have had the National Improvement Framework (NIF) data published in Scotland. Taken at face value, we don't come out of this process very well, and the Scottish Government and Ministers have received pelters from other politicians and the media as a result. It almost made me feel sorry for them. But then again if you want to use such spurious data to justify your 'controversial' steps to improvement, perhaps I am being a little too generous at Christmas time. 'Beware what you wish for' applies to politicians as much as it does to the rest of us. My last post was about all my concerns regarding the PISA results and how they are used by politicians and others to justify re-shaping the curriculum and other structural changes. I do not intend to revisit those arguments here, but what of the NIF data?

Each school and local authority in Scotland was asked to state how many children had achieved the expected levels in P1, P4, P7 and …

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…

Things arent what they're supposed to be

Recently I had the pleasure of working with a group of teachers from another school who were just about to embark on their own journey with practitioner enquiry. I had taken along a couple of teachers so they could give first-hand accounts of practitioner enquiry as class teachers, warts and all. I was essentially the warm up act! My role was to share the big picture regarding practitioner enquiry, explain some of the research behind the approach, explore the process and identify some of the benefits and issues to be considered. I could do that.


I had never considered myself as a scary person before, but it seems that was what I was being seen as by some of my audience. This was encapsulated by the teacher who articulated her fears. 'This is like being back at university and carrying out research for my degree' she pleaded. 'Where do we find the time to carry out all this research that you suggest we should be doing' she asked. Her reaction was not untypical of others …