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Showing posts from 2017

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…

New term with nowhere to go, but still lots to do

Well, this is strange. The new school year has begun in Scotland, but for the first time in twenty five years I am not part of it. Having stepped down from my role as headteacher of two schools in April, I am having to reconsider my daily routines and activity, in a way I have not had to do throughout my career in schools. As a teacher or school leader, so much of your time allocation is determined by your role. Not only that, those roles are so demanding, that it can be difficult to create the time for yourself and your personal aspirations and interests. The way I managed to achieve this, to some extent, was to combine my professional role with my personal aspirations and interests. Easier to do, when you love your work.

My first term being out of school, had been filled with completing my forthcoming book, 'Practitioner Enquiry: Professional Development with Impact for Teachers, Schools and Systems', which as the title suggests looks at practitioner enquiry and professional…

Keep on running!

In my last post I wrote about the importance of teacher agency, as well as the facilitation and development of this by school leaders and teachers at all levels. In this post I wish to turn my attention to another key disposition and quality to be found in the most accomplished teachers. That of, adaptive expertise.

There are various definitions to be found of what is meant by adaptive expertise. Most talk of an individual's ability to solve problems, through the use of knowledge already gained, and applying this in different ways to solve problems, and meet changing situations. In education, we can consider it being about understanding the complexity of learning and of dealing with, and responding to issues, or dealing with situations where the responses and outcomes are different to those expected.

Helen Timperley has identified adaptive experts as being 'deeply knowledgeable about both the content of what is taught and how to teach it.' Whilst Timperley and others recog…

Looking forward to true teacher agency

My last post on this blog was at the end of June. I remember apologising at the time for my lack of activity on the blog due to my attention being focused on the book I was writing at the time. Well, the book is finished, and has been sent off to the publishers. I have spent much of my time since my retirement as a headteacher in April, focused on getting on with the book. The date for submission of the manuscript to the publishers had been agreed as the end of July, and I had found it very difficult to make much headway whilst I was still focused on being a full-time headteacher. Therefore, most of the book has been written in the last four months, as book writing has dominated each day since then. At least I now had the time to focus.

The book is about Practitioner Enquiry, something I have been engaged with over the last eight years. It has a working title of 'Practitioner Enquiry: Professional development for impact' but don't be surprised if the title changes slightly…

School leadership: stop shooting ourselves in the foot!

Let me say at the start of this post that I was a school leader for over 18 years and I loved almost every minute of it. School leadership was challenging, intellectually, emotionally and physically at times, but that was always a part of the allure for me. I entered teaching wanting to make a difference. I became a school leader to be able to make more of a difference, for more learners and families. I am not alone in this view and I have met, and worked with, many colleagues who feel exactly the way I do, about their role, the challenges and the opportunities it presents.

Yet, we have a problem in Scotland, and elsewhere, in that we are struggling to get people to apply for school leadership positions, especially headteacher ones. Why? is a question many of us within the system, and our employers, have been asking for some time now. When school leadership roles become available, there is often a dearth of suitable applicants.The answers people have come up with point to the nature o…

Scottish education governance announcement

John Swinney has today made his long expected announcement regarding the governance structure he wishes to introduce into Scottish education. This announcement followed a consultation on his proposals and his determination that Scottish education needs to improve, and part of the way of achieving this is by giving headteachers, teachers and parents more say in what goes on in their schools, As you can imagine, there has been a lot of resistance to his proposals, especially from local authorities, who have an almost 100% responsibility for public schools at the moment.

When he stood up in the Scottish parliament, Mr Swinney announced that his new governance structure would be underpinned by three 'key pillars. These are to be enhanced career and development opportunities for teachers combined with a Headteacher Charter, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and Local Government.

The 'statutory Headteacher Charter' would sit at the heart of these reforms he said and this would…

Professional development that goes beyond compliance

I have not been posting much recently, as I am concentrating on the book I am currently writing about practitioner enquiry. However, I am still keeping an eye on things via Twitter, and through one or two groups and organisations I am working with. Last week I was considering professional learning as part of my own writing, but also because of a group I am working with was considering Professional Standards in Scotland, and a Twitter chat I took part in about teacher engagement with research. When these were combined with latest pronouncements from Scottish Government and Education Scotland, I thought I needed to post something before another 'initiative' built up too much of a head of steam or momentum with little comment.

Some of the most respected names in educational research have had their say about what the best professional learning looks like in education.

Helen Timperley has said, ' It is no longer acceptable for professionals in schools to do their individual bes…

Twitter for professional development in education

Having been an active user of Twitter for some time now, I have come to see the power of this platform to aid my professional development and grow my thinking. Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves and many others, have demonstrated the power, and necessity,  of 'focused collaboration' to school and professional development. Twitter is another way that educators can extend that collaboration beyond the daily physical limitations of where they work and live, and the colleagues they meet, and work with, face to face. That is not to say it is without its faults and issues, just as there will be issues in your day to day interactions with the people you collaborate or work with. But, for me, the advantages of adding another layer of collaboration through Twitter, far outweigh the disadvantages. As with any actions or interactions you need to engage critically, reflectively and thoughtfully. I am seeing more and more new colleagues dipping their toes in the waters of Twitter, and it is t…

Professional development to produce the self-improving system

If you are a teacher, school leader or system leader, what does effective professional development look and feel like to you?

Our thoughts around professional development have certainly changed during my own time as a school leader. When I first became a school leader, and previously as a teacher, professional development consisted of a smorgasbord of training and activity that we dipped into as and when we pleased. Sometimes this was linked to school development, but often there was little or no such link. Basically, you picked something you fancied doing, then hoped your headteacher, or school, had enough Continuous Professional Development (CPD) funding to allow you to attend. If the answer was a positive one, off you went, with little if any demand for you to demonstrate the impact of your training, or to disseminate any insights gained amongst colleagues. This was professional development based on personal choice, and was characterised as being most often done toyou, rather than

All that glitters is not gold

As an educator, my aim is to help all the learners in the schools I lead to discover their talents and achieve their potential. I recognise them all as individuals and aim for them to retain their individuality as they grow and develop. One of my schools has 'Go For Gold!' as a school motto, put in place by a previous headteacher and pupils. I have never used this too much, as I have always had concerns about some of the messages it sends out. But this year, we took this as the theme for all our assemblies, and have shaped these around the qualities and dispositions we all need to be the very best we can be. So we have talked about collaboration, perseverance, persistence, resilience, and pupils have shared successes and achievements they have had both in school and outside. Some of these have involved pupils in winning medals and trophies, but many more have been about personal achievements that are more intrinsically valued than extrinsically recognised.


However, I still fe…

Becoming semi-detached

Since I made the decision to retire from my Headteacher role before Christmas, I have found myself in a really strange position, both professionally and personally. I have become semi-detached from both my professional persona, and my personal one.

Since my imminent departure  became common knowledge, and I began to get my head round this change, I have found myself in a number of  almost surreal situations, where I am still thinking and acting as a headteacher, but at the same time I have been thinking of my future, as well as the next incumbent in my role. Sometimes this has made decision making easier, and sometimes decisions have become more difficult to make.

Decisions about future activities, that are to happen after the Easter break, have been a little easier. Some I have been able to ignore, delay or leave to the next person in post to consider. Trying to second guess what any new school leader may want to do, is difficult, and probably  undesirable. I still have to lead the …

Unblocking those JAMs in the system

I attended a headteacher meeting this week, where amongst the discussions and dialogue, was consideration of what we might do in schools to help close attainment gaps, especially for those at risk because of deprivation factors. This does feel like a never-ending conversation that we have, but has particular significance at the moment given the national political agenda for education.  The Scottish Government have announced the provision of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) based on free school meals entitlement, which is to be paid directly to schools, as part of their strategy in driving forward excellence and delivering greater equity across the system. No matter what you think about this as a policy, there is no doubt that most schools are going to be in receipt of significant extra amounts of cash to help them deliver what the government, and schools themselves, are looking for.


Of course, as with all such funding there are strings attached, and it is clear that headteachers and schools…

Just doing the best we can, continually

I was intrigued to see on Twitter last week a debate about whether Ofsted should be looking to remove gradings, and especially 'outstanding', given to schools following the inspection process. One person commented along the lines that if a school was performing to a 'good' standard, that should be enough. I tended to agree with them. In Scotland we don't have 'outstanding' schools, we have 'excellent' ones, as this is the top grading awarded in our inspection process. Something for some schools to feel proud of, others to aspire to and everyone else to feel inadequate about. Dylan Wiliam is often quoted as saying that 'teaching is the only profession where we know we are going to come in and know we are going to fail every day.' By this, he is simply pointing out that teaching, and learning, are very complex activities and with so many variables, that we can never get it absolutely right, for every pupil and on every day. We are doomed to a…