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Showing posts from 2017

Another year of change, but is anything different?

As we come to the end of another year, it is often a time of reflection on the year past and all we have achieved, as well as the disappointments, personal and professional. At the start of any year, twelve months seems like a long time away. However, as adults you soon come to understand how quickly that time will disappear, especially when you are busy and have lots you want to do. In education, as in other sectors, we are always thinking and planning ahead of ourselves. A lot of our thinking is often focused on the future, whilst our bodies, and responsive reactions, remain firmly fixed in the present. We can spend our working lives consumed by the future, and all those things yet to appear over imagined and real horizons. This is especially so if you have a formal leadership role. Too often perhaps, we fail to stay in the moment, mindful of all our current experiences, and how these are changing us, or we dwell to long in the past, especially on things that have gone wrong, rather…

When do we start to push back?

It is fair to say that, as ever, there is lots going on in the Scottish education system, and many others. There are structural changes being put into place in education systems across the globe. Scotland has been embracing the education reform movement for the last three or so years, certainly since Nicola Sturgeon was appointed First Minister in 2014. She took office asking the electorate to judge her and her government on what they achieved in transforming the education system. To many observers, her call to arms around education sounded very familiar to Tony Blair's battle cry of 'Education, education, education' as he identified his priorities prior to being elected UK Prime Minister in 1997. Blair was to  begin a process of structural reform in English education which was to lead to academies, higher accountability, competition and privatisation, and which were enthusiastically embraced and enhanced by Conservative governments that followed.

Blair's agenda, and …

Inside the black box revisted (again)

'Inside the black box', written by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam was written in 1998 and consisted of nineteen pages. How come  this pamphlet, because you can hardly call it a book, has had such major impacts in education systems in the UK and across the world?

The answer lies in the content, which was to herald the focus on formative assessment in classrooms and schools across many systems, but particularly here in the UK.

My earliest memories of hearing about formative assessment was, first of all at an In-Service day for teachers with our local authority, in which we were told there had been some new research written about how we could all improve our teaching, and we were to start getting the learners involved actively in learning, deciding what they wanted to learn, and that we would all be doing this from now on. The second, was seeing Dylan Wiliam on a TV programme talking about formative assessment, and the techniques teachers could use in their classrooms. The teachers …

Informed by research, but which research?

For many years as a school leader I tried to engage with, and use, research evidence to inform the actions we took in our schools to improve learning and teaching. I have always been an avid reader and consumer of professional reading, both as a teacher and later, when I became a school leader. When we took a collective decision to embrace practitioner enquiry as a vehicle for professional and school development, myself and colleagues began to extend this reading into more academic writing, as well as research papers. However, the more I read, and the more I engaged with researchers, academics and university staff, the more murky became the picture I was looking at.

The old Mark Twain adage about there being 'Lies, damned lies, and statistics' could equally be applied to research, especially in the complex world of education and learning. It would seem, to my poor layman eyes, with respect to research in this field, that you can find evidence from across the globe that will te…

Are we there yet?

I will provide you with my answer, to the question posed in the title to this post, straight away. No we aren't! However, I do think it is important we keep asking the question of our schools and our education systems, just as often as the young passengers in any car journey of over fifteen minutes.
The 'there' I speak of in education is the achievement of equity for all our learners and families. Our attention span, and desire to answer this question in the affirmative, needs to be longer, but just as relentless, as any inquisition by youthful travellers.  
We have had a focus on equity and social justice in our education system for over ten years in Scotland, and possibly even longer in other systems across the globe. In Scotland we can go back to 2001 to find the Scottish government taking the first steps to address issues for children and their families with multiple needs, which was to lead to Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) a policy and strategy designed t…

Empowering Schools Consultation in Scotland

The Cambridge dictionary defines consultation as follows:
a meeting to discuss something or to get advice or the process of discussing something with someone in order to get their advice or opinion about it.

The Scottish government likes to consult. At anyone time they seem to have quite a number of consultations ongoing. They have so many that they even have a separate section on their website detailing these. As I write this, they currently have twenty nine different consultations taking place. These range from 'Improving the Protection of Wild Mammals in Scotland' to a 'Consultation on Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People and Modern Apprentices.' Included in the current raft of consultations are quite a few that have an education focus or element including 'Extending Children's Rights-Guidance for education authorities and school staff on assessment of capacity and considerations of wellbeing of children who have attained 12 years of age in respect of…

How to protect your authentic leadership

In my last post I looked at some of the pitfalls that can beset school leaders as they settle into their role, or over time. In this one, I turn my attention to how school leaders can avoid the pitfalls and remain true to their original purpose and aims for their leadership. Having been a school leader for almost twenty years, I was proud that I was able to keep developing my leadership, but I still remained true to my values, beliefs and principles throughout my career. Such as stance is not without its difficulties or challenges, but I have met lots of leaders who have achieved exactly the same throughout their careers, despite the ever-changing demands of the systems and hierarchies in which they operated.

This begs the question, 'how do you ensure you stay true to your beliefs throughout your career?' By doing so, you can prevent your leadership mutating into practice and behaviours that you hardly recognise, and loses its authenticity.  The following are some suggestions …

School Leadership: time to smell the roses?

It is some time since I wrote anything on this blog directly about school leadership. Having left my post as a school leader some seven months ago, I think I have had some time to reflect more on leadership in schools from a different perspective. I have still been writing and thinking about schools since I stepped down for a notional retirement. I say 'notional' because it would seem that I am just as busy and engaged as I was before, but now it is 'my busy' not someone else's. Anyway, I have also kept in touch with lots of former colleagues and school leaders, either directly, face-to-face or virtually, through platforms like Twitter. During this engagement and over the time, I have been able to observe and think about school leadership a bit further, having the time and the headspace to do so.

There is no doubt that school leadership remains a challenging role for anyone to undertake, and I have nothing but admiration for anyone who steps up and into the role. T…