Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Words

There is no doubting the power of words. They shape our thinking and our conversations, often revealing more than their simple literal meaning, especially when joined together, forming more complicated concepts. Combine those words with our actions and they become even more revealing, especially when the words we use do not match our actions. What do we believe when there is a mismatch between our words and our actions? For me it is our actions that reveal our true self. However, our words, our conversations, and the discourse around these, which inform, shape and colour our actions and our thinking. We do not act in a mindless vacuum. How we think and act is shaped, positively or negatively by words, and how we interpret them and the concepts they create.

The world of words tells us much about our actions, decisions and focus. With this in mind, I have been thinking a bit about the words that exist and are given primacy within our schools and education system, and what these reveal …

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…

Is it time to make the 'hidden curriculum' more visible and valued?

It has been recognised for some time now that there are two curriculums at play in any school or learning setting. Firstly, there is the formal curriculum and structures that shape the learning activities and experiences of the learners, which are common to schools and establishments across any system, as well systems themselves. These may include curricular areas, teaching strategies employed, school structures and the formal rules created by schools. The second however, is not so visible but is at play constantly across schools and systems. This is what has been described as the 'hidden curriculum'. This is the practices, experiences, attitudes, behaviours and biases that permeate any school, or system, and which send out messages to learners and families about what a school, or a system, really thinks is important as it brings true values, principles and ethics out into the open.

Having been a primary school leader for almost twenty years, I came to recognise the power and …

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 …

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…