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Showing posts from 2019

Treating the symptoms, never the cause

I have again been thinking about education, and some of the frustrations built into our systems. It would seem as school teacher or school leader in Scotland and the UK, and I am sure elsewhere, we can be easy targets for other sections of society, especially when they are looking to score political points, sell newspapers or deflect from deficiencies elsewhere. I think they can also take advantage of our inability or unwillingness to push back too much, lest it impacts directly on our learners.

Education is crucial to the wellbeing of all societies, to mankind and the planet as a whole. It is right that education systems, and their schools reflect the best parts of the societies and cultures in which they exist. Schools and education cannot exist in some sort of vacuum, independent of the context in which they are located. Education systems are a reflection of the wider society they represent. It is also crucial that such education systems look to keep developing within their context…

Sharing practitioner enquiry results

One of the issues that can sometimes get in the way of staff thinking around practitioner enquiry is the expectation that we somehow share our results, either at the end of a particular enquiry focus, or even during the process itself. In my experience some staff can feel very threatened or insecure about sharing their findings, outcomes and insights from any enquiry process, no matter how hard senior leaders might strive to allay such fears. This post is an exploration of  why we might wish to share, as well as some simple ways that you can disseminate outcomes, that are relatively straightforward, but are nevertheless powerful tools within the enquiry process.

The first thing I would say is that we all need to see collaboration and sharing as key elements of any enquiry, not something that is bolted on at the end. For our enquiries to have the greatest impact, for ourselves, colleagues, schools, and  even the system, we need to be collaborating and sharing, not functioning in isolat…

Scottish education on the brink of profound change in professional learning

As most schools in Scotland have now returned for the new school session after the summer break, this is a time of great excitement and refocused activity in all schools. Teachers have had the summer break to recover from their exertions, and demands placed on them, during the previous school year, and have no doubt been anticipating the year ahead, as the summer holidays drew to a close.

I was in a Secondary school last Monday working with staff from that school and their feeder primary schools. It was great to feel the buzz and excitement people were generally feeling about the year ahead. Most staff I spoke to articulated how excited they were to get going again, and about the year ahead. I remember that buzz myself from when I was still in school, both as a teacher and headteacher. I never lost that throughout my career, and it is one of the things I miss most about not being in a school, especially at this time of the year.

As children returned over the rest of this week, the sen…

Evaluation: a process, not an event

Throughout my time as a school leader, and since, I have wrestled with the challenge of evaluation, in terms of measuring the impact of change, in a way which is meaningful and useful . Early in my career, such evaluation was very much viewed as an event, or events, that happened towards the end of a project, or piece of work, usually occurring towards the end of a school year. This was often a time filled with lots of scrabbling around looking for 'evidence' that could be put into some sort of report aimed at different different audiences. It felt stressful, concocted at times and often disconnected from the whole change agenda. Evaluation was a thing to be endured at the end of something else, with its main purpose consisting of proving you had been doing something to different people. Some of these would take what you gave them, and put that into their own 'evaluation report' for a cluster of schools, a local authority, or even a national system.

A major issue with …

Don't look back in anger!

I was a pain at school. I mean as a pupil, rather than as a teacher or headteacher. Though I suppose there are some colleagues and former line-managers that might wish to dispute that second point. Anyway, getting back to my school days, I was a perfect example of a hyper-active, mouthy, under-performing kid that teachers - then and now - can dread having in their classes. I liked to play to the audience of my peers, to get a laugh, often at some physical cost to myself. This was the era of rampant corporal punishment in education, and my antics often resulted in exasperated teachers resorting to physical punishment, trying to beat some sense and compliance into me, whilst also using the same 'strategy' to enhance my academic performance.


   I was thinking of this last week following the annual Connect, Scotland lecture given by Carol Craig creator of the Centre for Confidence and Well-Being. The theme of Carol's lecture was around Resilience and how we might go about d…

Why we might need more tortoises and fewer hares in education

We have heard Aesop's fable of 'The Tortoise and the Hare.' In this tale with a message, a tortoise challenges an arrogant hare to a race. The hare quickly leaves the tortoise behind. Being so confident,  he decides to have a sleep midway through the race. When the hare wakes, he finds the tortoise, who has kept slowly moving forward, has arrived before him, and has won. A common interpretation of the message of this fable is 'slow and steady wins the race.'

Thinking of schools and education, I believe we celebrate hares too much, and tortoises not enough. School systems are full of people racing to do lots of things, as quickly as possible. Education is not a race. Education is a relentless process of personal enlightenment, growth and development. There is no end point. In that case, it is through adopting the dispositions and characteristics of the tortoise in Aesop's fable that we are most likely to keep making strong, steady progress. Such a relentless ap…

Improving versus proving

During the first two months of 2019 I have been able to attend a number of professional learning events across Scotland. What has been impressive about these events is, not only the breadth and range of development activity taking place across the system, but also the commitment, professionalism and determination of people to getting better at what they do.

What such events also provide, is the opportunity to develop my own thinking and understanding, through listening to the experiences of others and engage in a dialogue around the issues, experiences and insights of different participants. I believe that professional learning with the greatest impacts, should produce changes in facilitators and leaders, not just the participants.

This week I was facilitating a session on parental engagement, on behalf of Connect the parent/teacher organisation in Scotland. This session was with school leaders, and others who had responsibility for this particular area of school development. What I …