Reflections – Day 8

Importance of Collaboration and team work

I joined the Central Team in 2006 when it was transitioning from being the Education Service Unit (EDSU).  I began working with Elaine Magor, Tricia Boyd, John MacPhee, Fiona Johnston, Lesley Allan and Rosemary Ward as the Early Years/Primary and Gaelic team. We reported directly to Carol Evans (Walker) as our Head of Education. This was a real time of development and a time to meet the changing demands of quality assurance, pedagogical improvement and introduction of Curriculum for Excellence. The Secondary team under the leadership of Ronnie Gould, Head of Education comprised of David Bain, Mathew Boyle, Kathryn Wilke and Fiona Campbell. We were quite a team and Chris Shirley had the responsibility for licking us all into shape.

One of the major early developments was the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).  We took the road show of CfE out across Argyll and Bute and travelled by car, ferry and plane. These were really interesting and exciting times. Leading up full in-service days across the 3-18 learning environments and looking at CfE. I learned so much about team working and that we had so much to offer each other. The collaboration that we demonstrated ensured that Argyll and Bute was in many ways ahead of the pack and in fact leading on many aspects of CfE including Interdisciplinary Learning. No mean feat for an authority which has similar sized coastline as France.

During the last 10 years I have held a variety of posts within the team from Quality Improvement Officer, Quality Improvement Manager, Education Manager to Head of Service and Chief Education Officer. During the time within the central team I have learned so much from collaborating with colleagues both at the centre and across the council. Within my current role I am delighted to lead the following teams of Digital Technologies, Community Learning and Development, Early Years, Inclusion and Equalities and Education Psychological Service. Collaborating with the mangers for each area has been rewarding and real privilege. At the heart of these areas has been the ability to collaborate with wider teams across various agencies. One of the most successful collaborations has been with Tricia Renfrew, Acting Head of Children Services. Tricia has been open to a collaborative approach to provision of Children Services and together we have achieved much.  I have had the opportunity to serve both locally and nationally on committees and boards to influence many of the key initiatives for our children and young people.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives were introduced to Scottish Education in 2018. Argyll and Bute is part of Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives were set up with the aim to enhance collaboration and to improve the teaching and learning for all young people across Scotland. The Northern Alliance is a regional improvement collaborative made up of eight local authorities as follows:

Aberdeen City


Argyll and Bute




Western Isles


As Chief Education Officer I play a key role in the Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative (NARIC) which covers the biggest rural area in Scotland.

I have spent my career within education in the context of a rural authority and as such have a very strong understanding and knowledge of the role of the rural school. I have been a lifelong rural resident, a pupil in a rural school, a class teacher, principal teacher and head teacher of very remote schools, a parent in a rural school, and currently Chief Education Officer in a rural local authority.

Rural Scotland accounts for 98% of the land mass of Scotland and 17% of the population are resident there. Rural schools have a complicated relationship between their communities and the national policy agenda for Education. The nature of small rural schools being embedded within their local communities brings expectations and demands.  Education policy-makers and practitioners must understand their place in a much larger and interconnected manner in relation to social, economic and environmental influences. The importance of place and space in the delivery of rural education is an important factor on the achievements of the young people involved.

I am aware of the wealth of experience I have within rural education and in 2015 I began my journey into examining rural education through an academic lens. I studied rural education at masters level and shared this research with colleagues in the Northern Alliance and presented on the importance of rural education at the Scottish Parliament in February 2019. My colleague Louise Connor and I were delighted to fly the flag for Argyll and Bute.

The literature review I carried out in the spring of 2019 with regard to rural education in Scotland yielded very little current Scottish research within the period from 2007 to 2019 and has led me on to my next academic journey an Educational Doctorate (part time) at Strathclyde University.  I am committed to ensuring that the role of rural education should be fully understood and am enjoying the collaboration on this work both nationally and internationally.

My journey has always been collaborative and working with others. The team supporting me has always been important. I cannot finish my ramblings and memories without thanking two very special people. Susan Tyre is an amazing colleague who is School Support Manager within the Education Service. She is the most amazing support and ensures our schools have the support that they need from chopping down trees, to nesting seagulls to the guidance and PPE needed to ensure the safe opening of the schools. Susan faces each request with her sunny, can do attitude and has the children and young people at the heart of all she does. Susan has always been there to support me in all sorts of ways. The other important colleague and friend is Maggie Jeffrey. Maggie is my PA and has worked with me for a very long time. She is my right hand woman and has kept me in the right place, with the right papers and managed my diary to ensure that we get the absolute best we can get out of each day. It is vital to ensure that you never get so swamped with meetings that you are so busy that you cannot actually achieve anything.

On my last working day on Friday 18th December I was so delighted to have a socially distancing lunch with both these ladies and will be a special memory for ever engraved on my mind.

In wandering through my memories over the past weeks I have omitted to mention one very special team. Team Paterson. My husband, my two daughters and my son in law have all been there for me over the years. They have laughed with me, celebrated with me, cried with me, picked me up and most of all shown love, respect, pride and care in everything I have done. Without their encouragement I would never have been able to take on many of the roles that I have and also not had the success that I have enjoyed. The really epitomise the skills associated with being a team. They have always been there helping and encouraging me to fly.

I wish Team Argyll and Bute Education Service the very best in the coming years and months, we are all faced with real challenges, but knowing the people of Argyll and Bute as I do, there will be a positive approach and there will be light at the end of this particular dark road.

Reflections – Day 7

Early Years

One of the biggest changes in my career has been in the Early Years. This has of course delighted me as it is my biggest passion area within Education. The  Government had an objective of providing a free pre-school place for every 4 year old child by 1998/99 and for every 3 year old by 2002. However Scotland has had many important early childhood education pioneers: initially and early, the philanthropist Robert Owen, who is famed for saying:

“At no age is the desire of knowledge stronger than in childhood” Robert Owen (1781-1858).

By the early years of the 20th Century Nursery Schools and Child Gardens were opening in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. The development of provision for children was matched by new courses to educate teachers: infant and nursery teacher specialisms developed as an additional year of teacher education. The primary influence of the family was increasingly understood. Working with families must therefore be a vital component of putting policies into practice.

However pre 1997 there was little formal and council led Early Years provision in Argyll and Bute. The main Pre School Provision was in the form of voluntary groups and community play groups. When my own children were little I was heavily involved with the Scottish Playgroup Association.  The early years of school were already a great interest for me but my fascination for the very early years began with the involvement with SPA.

In 1997 the development of Pre School Units within our schools began to meet the government policy drive. Margaret Lauder was the Pre School Officer who led these developments in Argyll and Bute. Margaret was so committed to early years she decided to extend her family and have another baby. Margaret then job shared with Alison MacKenzie and these two exceptionally talented and committed professionals taught me lots about the world of Care Commission, legal aspects and building requirements. They both valued my early years pedagogy and we formed a good team for those initial days of developing Early Years in Argyll and Bute. Since those early days the area has really grown and developed and become a national infrastructure. I have been really fortunate to have led developments in early years both locally and nationally Early Years.

The years from mid 1990s saw a rapid increase in the importance of Early Years and were influenced in new statutory policy. Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 most of our laws that affect children and their families are now enacted in Edinburgh rather than in London, and most of the legislation that affects children today has been introduced following. More time to discuss and agree laws affecting Scotland has resulted in a substantial body of new legislation impacting on children, such as the Additional Support for Learning legislation and the Children’s Hearings Act, aimed at improving the lives of our youngest citizens.

Children (Scotland) Act 1995 Local authorities must produce “children’s services plans” (s.19), must provide day care for “children in need‟ and can provide day care for other children (s.27)
Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (as amended in 2000) As amended, places a duty on local authorities to provide early education.
Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 asp 8 (as amended) Established the Scottish Social Services Council which registers staff
Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended 2009) The local authority has a power to provide additional support to any child living in their area. However, they must provide additional support to: school children (including pre-school education) provided by or in partnership with the local authority and to disabled children under school age who are brought to their attention

My initial leadership activity with Early Years in Argyll and Bute were at teacher, senior teacher, depute head teacher and head teacher. I had the responsibility of developing the “new” Pre 5 Provision in Inveraray and as such became a regularly contributor to the growing local authority policies and guidelines. I remember a very heated conversation with an associate inspector for HMIe who could not understand why the Pre 5 in Inveraray was not run in a similar way to her own nursery in Edinburgh. There began a deep conviction to ensuring our rural context is taken into account in all national policy.

In 2008 the Scottish Government set out a vision for early years services in Scotland to ensure that children get ‘the best start in life’. The Early Years Framework recognised that what happens to children in their earliest years says much about our society and is key to outcomes in adult life. This is supported by a wide range of research evidence from education, health, justice and economic experts. The framework was about giving all our children the best start in life.

To meet the needs of taking forward the Early Years reviewed the governance system and created a new post of a Quality Improvement Manager to manage the new multi-agency approach. I began this role in June 2007.

In response to The Early Years Framework, agenda Douglas Hendry, Director of Community Services instigated the merger of the two elements of the early years services which traditionally sat within Education and Children and Families.  A new post of Quality Improvement Manager was created in June 2007 and I was fortunate enough to take forward this exciting role to be the strategic lead for children in Argyll and Bute aged 0-8 years.  My main responsibilities were:

  • To develop an integrated Early Years Service which provides quality, engagement and early intervention in light of developing national picture.
  • To provide challenge and support to schools and early years providers to ensure highest quality management and provision.
  • To contribute policy and service development for Early Years by supporting the Heads of Service (Children and Families and Education).

I led the Early Years Service through a time of change implementing a service review at the heart of this work were the commitment to quality, engagement and intervention. I had wider responsibility as a senior officer within Children and Families for working with in the GIRFEC model.  This opportunity widened my knowledge and ensured that I had a wider view on delivery of services. I led the Early Years theme in the Validated Self Evaluation undertaken by Argyll and Bute Education Service.  The result of this self-evaluation identified the Early Years sector as strong, making very positive impact on children and their families and in a very good place for further developments. Throughout this work I was supported by the amazing Early Years team

The basis of the work and the core of the vision and values was based on the impact of early interventions. The photo of the two brains of a child which indicated neglect was and continues to be a real wake up call for me. This influential project has been the long term evaluation of the 1960’s American High Scope Perry Pre-school project. In 1962, 64 children aged 3 and 4 who were considered at risk of failing at school were provided with high quality pre-school education.

The importance of early intervention has become a real focus for Scotland and the Heckman Curve demonstrates that “early interventions promote economic efficiency and reduce lifetime inequality” but: “early investments must be followed by later investments if maximum value is to be realised” (Heckman, 2008).

The commitment to the long term investment in Early Years has seen growth on the provision offered and as at August 2020 Argyll and Bute were on target to meet the implementation of the National Early Years programme for 1140 hours of Early Learning and Childcare. Our provision is built on our access to the environment, our culture and our partnership working. One of the commitments is for 50% access to the outdoors. All of our provision has looked at how to ensure this is in place and I am delighted that this work is part of the legacy that I leave behind. It was brilliant to show Marie Todd, Minister for Children and Young People, visit Argyll and Bute and see the difference we are making.








There are many fabulous people associated with Early Years across Scotland and the UK who have been such an influence on me during my career. Some people who need a wee mention are Alice Sharp, Marion Burns, Liz Paterson, June O Sullivan, Professor Aline Wendy Dunlop, Jenny Carey, Juliet Robertson, Iram Siraj, Kathleen Johnson, Linda Burgar, Ruth Reid, and Stephen Glen-Lee. The introduction of the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative has also been a wonderful opportunity to build the multi-agency work around the children and their families. We take this forward through the multi-agency work in Argyll and Bute as part of the Strategic Group for Argyll and Bute’s Children. A great success story was the Top Team Award for the GIRFEC Approach. Huge thanks to my colleague and friend Tricia Renfrew for teaching me so much about GIRFEC.

Early Years is such an essential service and continues to be near and dear to my heart. My commitment to this work will be continuing.

Some useful links:

  • Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) builds on the solid foundations developed in the critical years pre-birth to three. Within CfE, children are entitled to a broad general education from age three until the end of S3. The early level of CfE for most children spans the period of time from age three until the end of Primary 1. It supports a smooth transition in learning between ELC and primary school.
  • How good is our early learning and childcare? (2016) provides a suite of quality indicators. These support staff to look inwards, to scrutinise their work and evaluate what is working well for babies, toddlers and young children, and what could be better. The framework is designed to be used to support self-evaluation for self-improvement by practitioners at all levels.
  • Getting it Right for Every Child (Scottish Government, 2012).
  • Education Scotland Act (2000, 2009) and the Children and Young People’s Act 2014.
  • Dunlop, A-W (2015) Aspirations and actions: early childhood from policy to practice in Scotland. International Journal of Early Years Education, Vol. 23, No. 3, 258– 273.

Reflections – Day 6

Inveraray (Part 2)

Looking Outwards

I returned to Inveraray Primary in August 1998 as Head Teacher. Annabel Morrison (MacMillan) HT had passed away suddenly on holiday in Maderia in April 1998. The school had been through a dramatic time losing their beloved and hugely respected, larger than life HT and the job ahead for me was to respect the legacy she left but to move the school forward. I am not a person who believes in the super natural but on the day I began working in Inveraray as Head Teacher a vision of Annabel appeared who smiled and softly said “you will be fine, the school is in good hands”. This unique special moment stayed with me for a long time and when the going was tough I always remembered that day.

Being Head Teacher at Inveraray Primary was perhaps one of the most special times in my career. I worked with an amazing team comprising of Fiona Hamilton, Lynn Sinclair (Kidd), Keeley Hathway, Simone MacAdam, Linda Leyland, Rona Young as some of the teaching team.  Tom Paterson, Janitor, Catering Team, Catherine Sinclair, May Kennedy and Irene Campbell, Jacqui MacDonald Classroom Assistant and Karen Stewart Clerical Assistant were an amazing support team.

During my period of headship at Inveraray Primary the school became a leading educational establishment in relation to environmental education and creativity in learning.  Many awards were gained and the school attracted national and international visitors.  Inveraray Primary became known as a high attaining school with an innovative curriculum and outward looking vision. The school gained the national Schools Curriculum award and what an adventure taking the P7 pupils to London to receive the award at the Tate Modern. The school was frequently asked to contribute at national conferences and we took part in many authority and national working groups related to leadership and curriculum development. Our position as one the first schools in Scotland to be awarded the Green Flag made us a popular school to visit and share our expertise. We built up contacts both in Scotland and in other parts of the UK. One outstanding memory is a staff CPD activity where we as a whole school spent the first week end of the holidays visiting the famous Coombes School in Reading. We were keen to learn about their outdoor learning and outstanding ethos. During this time the school was also involved in developing an action research project on delivery of maths outdoors. A great deal of the work was shared nationally and written up as part of the creativity programme for Scottish Schools.

When I arrived at Inveraray one of the first projects we looked at for building community and for celebrating the outdoors was national tree dressing. Tree Dressing Day falls on the first week end of December and follows traditions from all over the world. We introduced this in 1998 and used the event to plant a tree in memory of Annabel. This was significant as it brought a difficult year for the school to an end and to celebrate new beginnings. It also signalled the importance of our environment and our culture.

This first introduction ensured that we actually got out into the grounds and celebrated the grounds as part of our learning estate.

The interest in working outdoors had been established and 1999 Inveraray Primary School began the journey of developing its school grounds with support and funding from Scottish Natural Heritage. I worked with Dan Hunt and Fergus Younger of Scottish Natural Heritage to take forward a project based on developing our school grounds.  The purpose of this was to ensure learning and teaching outdoors was as accessible as learning and teaching indoors. Staff, learners, families and community members were all involved in the project and local businesses, landowners and local contractors helped with some of the changes. The school and the grounds were often used as training resources for initially local school but the interest grew and schools from far and wide visited. Some of our young people became amazing tour guides and extremely talented young naturalist. BBC landward programme came and filmed the work at the school and the children had a fantastic time learning about the media at the same time. The subsequent improvements to the grounds and local biodiversity prompted the school to begin its journey towards an Eco-Schools Scotland Green Flag Award.

As time moved forward Forest School activities are also undertaken within the school grounds for pre-five and primary one learners and are supported by the staff, parents and the janitor who have been trained as forest leaders. Inveraray Primary School also had an established programme with Crofting Connections.

I also took part in an international study visit to Menorca on behalf of ADES.  This opportunity was important in ensuring my vision for Education was based on a local, national and international knowledge.  This has remained important throughout my career to be outward looking. May 2001 Menorca visit Menorca an important feature of this visit was the importance within the education system of the natural and cultural heritage. Important aspects that reflected on Inveraray Primary. My exchange partner was Rafael Cortes who was head Teacher of CP Joan Benejam in Citudella. The school had so many similarities to Inveraray including the parent partnership, children ownership of the curriculum and cross curricular developments. I was so impressed by the child centred learning and was at a more developed stage than in our own school. This then was a catalyst for how we could improve the child centred learning. In Menorca the Council owned old farms which surrounded the towns and were set up as camps for the children to take part in environmental activities. All children for the age of 3 had 2 overnight camps each year. We visited one of the classes on their camping trip and I have still the memory of the fun and learning these children were having. There was a huge national commitment to the environment and the promotion of this in the schools. This trip was another outward looking experience which impacted to the life of Inveraray Primary.

The nursery at Inveraray had been established and I enjoyed working with the team to take forward a play based curriculum and again there was a great emphasis on the outdoors and the potential for learning.

The school was inspected in 2006 and the following were identified as particular strengths of the school:

  • Pupils’ active involvement in learning and their skills in listening, talking and working together.
  • Very effective use of the outdoor environment to stimulate pupils to learn, particularly in mathematics and sustaining the environment.
  • Pastoral care of pupils and the outstanding atmosphere for learning created by staff, in which relationships and sense of pride in the school were strong.
  • Supportive and productive partnerships with parents, the School Board and the community.
  • Leadership of the headteacher in encouraging curriculum innovation and teamwork.

The curriculum was seen to be innovative and my contributions as leader of the school were recognised in the award of Scottish Head Teacher of the year in 2006.  I went on to be a finalist in the national awards in London.  At this national event I not only represented Argyll and Bute but also Scotland.  I was very proud and humbled to have been nominated by the team in Inveraray Primary. A very special celebration was held for a very special school community. After the event many visitors came to Inveraray School to share our good practice. This was a real high point of my career and one that remains very special.

It was very fitting that on Monday 14th December the current school team gave me a very fitting send off with lovely gifts and Caroline Wood, ASN Assistant presented me with a lovely bouquet which was very fitting as she was in my very first class in Inveraray in 1984.

Reflections – Day 5

Developing Leadership

During my career a constant has been the need to develop leadership. Many academics and experts have written about leadership. In 2000 Riley in writing about leadership suggested that:

  • There is no one package for school leadership, no one model to be learned and applied regardless of culture or context, though leadership can be developed and nurtured;
  • School leadership is more that the effort of a single individual;
  • School leadership is not static;
  • School leaders do not learn how to do leadership: they are often rule breakers and are willing to change in response to new sets of circumstance.

This view of school leadership is based on the idea of schools constantly changing and that school leaders need to be respond to these changes both from the inner life of the school but also from the view of external influences. In reflection I would say that my own leadership development has been about the ability to recognise that there is constant change and that leaders build the ability and resilience to manage change and cope with the complexities that this brings. Essentials are building teams and developing a shared vision for the school and its community.

During the 1990’s I was fortunate to undertake various roles which allowed me to develop my leadership and to build teams who could work together and to enable them to act to improve the learning and teaching. Effective leaders must have the ability to adjust to particular contexts. During the various roles that I undertook in the 1990’s I was aware of having to assess each new situation and to respond to the needs in each post. This training is something which I think has instilled in me a core value in relation to leadership which I have relied on over the next 20 years.

In August 1989 I took up the new role of Senior Teacher in Ardrishaig Primary School. I was class teacher with responsibility for curriculum development. The new posts were recognised as important to meeting the needs of additional leadership within schools. During this period I undertook a professional qualification in Environmental Studies.  I reviewed and restructured the programme for Environmental Studies which was later shared by HMI as excellent practice.  I was responsible for Probationer teacher support within the school.  I mentored two probationer teachers and supported their developments.  I was responsible for parental involvement across the school and introduced workshops for parents related to home learning support.  This was my first promoted post and in this post I honed my skills to work with and lead colleagues who had been in post longer than I had.  I became the lead learner and this is an attribute which I continue to demonstrate today.

The 5-14 CURRICULUM was introduced in Scottish Schools as I began in Ardrishaig Primary and was an important part of the curriculum development I undertook in the school and I developed a good understanding of the curriculum. The overall aim was to promote teaching that adheres to the five underlying principles of: breadth; balance; coherence; continuity and progression. The 5-14 curriculum was divided into five broad curricular areas. The guidance also recommends the minimum time that should be spent on each of these as follows

  • language (including modern language from no later than P6): 20% 2.
  • mathematics: 15% 3.
  • environmental studies society, science and technology:15% 4.
  • expressive arts (drama, music art and physical education):15% 5.
  • religious and moral education with personal and social education and health education: 15%

To meet the needs of the new 5-14 curriculum 6 posts of 5-14 Area Co-ordinators were created.  I was responsible for development of the new 5-14 curriculum within Mid Argyll and North Kintyre.  I worked collegiately with my other colleagues who were already all very experienced and successful Head Teachers, Neil Brown – Kintyre, Violet Cusworth – Islay and Jura, Carol Evans (Walker) – Oban, Jack Degnan – Mull and Iona and Roddy McDowell – Bute and Cowal, to develop 5-14 curriculum and assessment within Argyll and Bute schools. Our skills and knowledge were shared and we were a really strong team who each brought significant skills.  Development of transition programmes between primary and secondary was a key area of work.  We were responsible for the development of training and delivery of curriculum courses for teachers in regard to 5-14 developments. This was a period of considerable curriculum development both at local and national level.  My skills in curriculum knowledge and ability to motivate and inspire others were key to my success in this post and as strong member of the team. Highlights of working and leading in this team were a key for my developing leadership.  During this time I became pregnant with my first daughter who was born in February 1992 and became affectionately known as my 5-14 baby. I suppose it is no coincidence that she is now a teacher with exceptionally knowledge and understanding of curriculum development. I fully credit that to the many development meetings she attended before she was born.

In June 1992 I returned to Ardrishaig Primary as Acting Head Teacher and accepted a permanent post of Depute HT in Lochgilphead Primary in November 1992. The post of DHT carried responsibility for all classes from P1 to P3.  In April 1993 after the birth of my second daughter I had some decision making to undertake considering what was right for my family and what I could commit to me within a teaching post.  I resigned from the post of DHT and took up a job share class teacher in Inveraray Primary School in August 1993.  This was an ideal way of ensuring I continued with the career I loved but had the time to love, nurture and enjoy two babies under 2 years old. My role as a mother was and still is the most important job I will ever have. I am proud that both Kirsten and Emma have decided that the role of teacher is for them and they are contributing to Scottish Education.

In Inveraray, the job share initially was based in P6/7 where I shared the class with my friend and colleague Annabel Morrison. We worked hard, we were creative and above all we had lots of fun. I then job shared with Sue Armour in P4/5. Sue and I complemented each other really well with our skills. Another strong friendship created through our love of learning and teaching through creativity.  Fantastic team work and amazing team of:

Catherine Sinclair and May Kennedy – Catering Team

Jan Wilkinson – Classroom Assistant

Alan Hendry – Janitor

Karen Stewart – Clerical Assistant

Lynn Kidd, Sue Armour, Joy Stewart, Catriona Harrison and myself – Teachers

Annabel Morrison – Head Teacher

Job sharing required a high degree of communication and highly developed organisational skills.  During this period I also undertook a commission from the Head Teacher to develop a programme for Environmental Studies.  This programme was then adopted by Mid Argyll Schools as good practice.

I was also chairperson of Argyll and Bute Branch of Scottish Playgroup Association this helped to develop my expertise in Early Years and to my long term dedication to ensure all our young people have the best start in life.

In September 1995 I applied for the post of Head Teacher of Minard Primary School. I became a Teaching Head Teacher responsible for leading and managing the school and its place in the community: The post of Head Teacher of Minard Primary required strong leadership and the ability to build a learning community.  Minard Primary had come through a very unsettled period and I ensured the pupils and their parents were given the best opportunities available. I had the most amazing team including Lesley Goodwin and the late Sandra Orr. We were an awesome team. Lesley brought a real liveliness to her teaching and was committed to the expressive arts. Sandra as” school clerk” was a bundle of energy and could wheel and deal for resources for the school. Her famous words of “we are only a wee school” managed to source so many things for the school including a computer and football goals for free. Together we created a vision of “can do” and raised the expectations of all.  The school roll increased and the school became a very well respected educational establishment and developed a good reputation for outstanding achievement.

During my headship I worked with the community to establish an After School Club which was seen as innovative and responding to community needs.  This ensured a strong connection between the community and its young people. My time spent in Minard was a defining period for my growing understanding of place based curriculum and some innovative approaches developed to meet the needs of the young people. I also experienced the unique situation of being a parent and Headteacher in the same school. A very interesting time indeed. I remember clearly one night at our tea table when my elder daughter was telling her dad about the day. She said “Mrs Paterson told us, didn’t she mum” !!!!!!!

Formative years of developing leadership skills and the beginning of a special leadership journey.

Reflections – Day 4

Inveraray Primary (Part 1)

In 1984 Argyll was a divisional education service of Strathclyde Regional Council. If for any reason you wanted to move schools and teach elsewhere you had to apply for a transfer. I applied for a transfer from Park Primary in Oban to Mid Argyll area as I was getting married. So it was that I began the school session of 1984/85 with a new name and being a new teacher in Inveraray Primary School. The school had a new Head Teacher Annabel MacMillan who had taken over in April 1984 and I joined the team in August 1984. This began the most amazing journey for me in the world of education.

Annabel was an exceptionally talented teacher, very bright, articulate and had the biggest heart. She was also incredibly bohemian and this rubbed off on all she met. She loved life to the full and she had so much to give to life. This made her popular, dynamic and a one off.  Her intelligence and experience were much in demand as a member of various education committees throughout Argyll and her championship of equality and social justice was officially recognised when her school was presented in Edinburgh with the European Commission award for gender equality.

She was a late entrant to teaching, having been an air-stewardess, and it was perhaps her awareness of the world which fuelled a feisty socialism which was no respecter of rank or privilege. Annabel started her teaching career in Ruchill Primary. In those days before sexual equality in the curriculum, one of her triumphs was to get the boys to take up knitting by allowing them to make Partick Thistle scarves.

As Head Teacher of Inveraray Primary she built a community school. She ensured that the curriculum offered choice and interest levels for all the young people in her care. She introduced a love of the arts, Scottish History, literature, and debating skills to name but a few changes she made to the curriculum. She had a great passion for Inveraray and that the children knew about their heritage. Place greatly influenced the curriculum and I learned from and with Annabel how this could impact on the life chances for our pupils.  Her excellence in the classroom was matched by an endearing eccentricity. Annabel’s passion for equity and equality shone through and expected no less of me as a young teacher. My own views absolutely resonated with her views and we became quite a team. Through her guidance I came to understand the core values associated with equity and equality for all.

Annabel was keen to open up the young people’s eyes to the wider world and organised the first ever trip for the P5/6/7 pupils to Edinburgh. I learned so much from her skills of organising, to ensuring it was available to all and completely blown away by her skills as a tour guide. She was undoubtedly embedding Curriculum for Excellence in Inveraray Primary long before it was conceived as our national curriculum.

This was the supportive, exciting and creative environment that I gained my early teaching experience and I think the core values that I still retain today were very much developed during this time.

My first class at Inveraray was P4/5 and the boys in particular in this class did much to teach me about shinty. I soon realised that to establish a positive relationship with them as a teacher I needed to get to grips with the game and did my homework on fixtures and the results over the week end. This then featured as an important start to the week on Monday morning as a writing lesson. My pupils taught me much and this early association has stayed with me since. I was always very proud when the boys (it mainly was boys at this time) achieved great things. Even today it has to be the “Yellow and Black” of Inveraray for me in any match they are playing. I was honoured in my capacity as Chief Education Officer to be asked as a VIP to the Camanachd Cup in 2018 at Mossfield Park, Oban. My only disappointment was that it wasn’t a final involving the Aray boys. Inveraray did win the Camanachd Cup in 2004, a win I celebrated in style. Many of the top players for Inveraray were in my classes in those early days and am delighted to still follow their successes today. They have become great inspirations for the up and coming young people of today and I like to think there has been a wee bit of my values instilled in how they carry this out. A special mention to Gary MacPherson and David MacPherson who hold national status as being shinty stars.

In my second year teaching in Inveraray I was moved to the P1/2/3 class and here my love of infants and early years was established. Annabel encouraged me to explore all the creative approaches that I could to take forward their learning. This was the time that I became fully engrossed in “Foundations of Writing” as a tool to establish writing.  I was delighted that my contributions to developing writing in my own class were recognised by the then Scottish Consultative Committee on the Curriculum (SCCC) and had my work shared nationally. The impact of Foundations of Writing and the detailed black pen drawings are still a very important tools for engagement and development of writing. Two teachers today who use the approach so well are Lynn MacMillan (PT Dalintober Primary) and Kirsten Rennie (PT Inveraray Primary).

Whilst still at Inveraray I completed a Special Infant Qualification (SIQ) delivered by Northern College Dundee. Professor Joyce Watson who undertook a great deal of work on the Synthetic Phonics approach, was the course leader and was very influential in my Early Years development. On the back of the time spent undertaking this qualification I was asked by the Director of Education (Mr Stanley Robertson) to go out at times and support other teachers. This experience was one that I enjoyed and certainly although I didn’t know at the time was very much professional enquiry.Yesterday I facilitated some discussion as part of “It Starts with a Question 2” on enquiry as a professional learning tool. The key notes came from Professor Rachel Lofthouse and Professor Kate Wall. One of the questions was “how have professional conversations supported you?”  During the discussions around this question I considered how professional conversations have supported me and was taken back to the initial days of my career spent at Inveraray Primary. Rachel introduced the phrase of “learning with and from”, this depicts the core of my belief as a life-long learner. I also believe firmly that first we establish strong roots and then our wings to fly. Inveraray Primary and the community of Inveraray established my strong roots.

Reflections – Day 3

Becoming a Teacher and networking

There has been a Scottish system of induction into the teaching profession for many years. A legal precedent for a formal system of induction was set in The Teaching Council (Scotland) Act 1965. The Act created the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). In Argyll and Bute we have had very positive relationships with the GTCS and the current, soon to be retiring Chief Executive Ken Muir has been a great supporter of our work in Argyll and Bute. Ken will be succeeded by Dr Pauline Stephen first female Chief Executive who will I am certain be keen to keep developing the strong connections.

Thinking back to the beginning of my career as a probation teacher in Park Primary in January 1982.  I was fortunate to be in a school where I had good support, very experienced teacher colleagues and a Head Teacher and Depute Head Teacher who had real vision, passion and creativity for learning and teaching. This was not always the case and many of my peers were left to their own devices. At that time being a probation teacher and being successful was more often or not down to your luck which school you were sent to and the support you were given. I was fortunate as the school provided a package of customised support and really encouraged as much training as possible.

My own positive start instilled in me the desire to support probationer teachers and to become a colleague who helped and inspired them through those difficult early days. I had the opportunity to take part in some early pilot work being set up in what   of being a supporter teacher in 1986. At that point in time newly trained teachers were provisionally registered for two years. A final report was submitted at the end of two years of service along with the recommendation for full registration to the Council. This period was referred to as the probationary period and new teachers were known as probationer teachers.

In 1987 when I was teaching at Inveraray Primary I became a probation support to Roslyn Redpath during her probationer teacher period. Roslyn was an exceptionally talented and creative teacher who had the wellbeing of her class at the forefront of the curriculum.  Roslyn and I became friends and she remains to this day an important colleague as Principal Educational Psychologist. Roslyn has provided support to me in many ways in my leadership roles. We have shared many laughs and have together launched many important policy developments which have the children and young people’s health and wellbeing at the centre.

In 1989 I became Senior Teacher at Ardrishaig Primary and part of the remit was supporting probationer teachers. Don MacAlister joined the staff as a probationer teacher and he remains a valued colleague and friend.  Don and I share a real love of learning and teaching with an emphasis on curriculum development. These early professional relationships and connections are so important as we develop in our roles in Education and are intertwined as we all grow and develop as educators.

The Teacher Induction Scheme, introduced in 2002, marked the first major change to new teacher induction in Scotland in 37 years. In the new Scheme, all teacher graduates from Scottish universities are entitled to a training placement – of one year duration – in one of 32 local authorities from August 2002.  The new scheme introduced support on a more formal basis than it was in previous years and eliminating much of the chance element of which school you were placed in for your probation period. The Teacher Induction Scheme provides a guaranteed one-year full-time probationer post for every eligible student graduating with a teaching qualification from one of Scotland’s universities. When introduced the training placement provided a limited weekly timetable of class contact – 0.7 of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) teaching contract – and guaranteed time for continuing development (0.3 FTE) this has now changed to (0.8 FTE) and (0,2). This time is used to meet individually with an induction supporter, to undertake planning and CPD activities. The new scheme was supported by standards expected to be developed during the induction year with a final sign off by the HT and supporter that the standards were met.

I am delighted to have been part of the setting up of this scheme in Argyll and Bute in the early 2000’s when I was HT at Inveraray Primary working with Rosemary Ward, (QIO)  and Anne Devine, (HT at Lochgilphead Joint Campus). As a working group we established a programme which would suit our context and provide quality support for our probationers to grow and learn as teachers. Over the years the programme has been shaped by many inspiring leaders including, Matthew Boyle (HT Vale of Leven Academy), Jay Helbert (HT Inveraray Primary), and Sandra Clarke, (Acting Education Manager). Our current programme, known as the Newly Qualified Teacher Induction, has as one of its strengths the involvement of current practitioners and is currently being headed up by the dynamic and inspiring duo of Sandra Clarke and David Mitchell (HT at Dunoon Grammar School). Sandra and David are supported by Janice McGregor (PT English Campbeltown Grammar, Mairi Wright (PT Easdale Primary), Caroline Armour (HT Dalintober Primary) on delivering the central support events where there is a focus to learn and to develop networks. Argyll and Bute’s Probationer Teacher Programme consists of 8 seminar and networking days with inputs from a variety of experienced and well respected partners and officers.  These inputs are tailored to meet the development needs of Newly Qualified Teachers aligned to national and local priorities.  In line with recommendations from Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson 2010), Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in Argyll undertake an area of practitioner enquiry in order to demonstrate and develop their effectiveness as teachers as well as to assist in school improvement.

The Argyll and Bute Newly Qualified Teacher Induction Scheme has been something I have held near and dear to me and have had involvement in throughout my career. A highlight of my year was taking time to get to know our newly qualified teachers and what would support their journey as a developing teacher in a rural context. As part of my Masters of Education I undertook some research with the 2016/17 cohort delving into what influences were important to their own development. The results clearly indicated the need for supportive colleagues who understood what they were going through, could support their needs and build networks. Our next generation of teachers need supportive colleagues. Our education service needs strong developing teachers. The OECD Education Working Paper No 196, (Echazarra and Radinger 2019) describes distinctive characteristics which shape the learning experience in rural contexts.   Learning in rural schools: Insights from PISA, TALIS and the literature

In 2004 we had concerns about the number of probationer teachers that we were being attracted to Argyll and Bute.  We began to explore a partnership with Strathclyde University and Argyll and Bute Council in 2005 to provide a distance learning PGCE in Primary.  As part of the Argyll and Bute team and in conjunction with Lynda Keith of Strathclyde University I co designed a bespoke programme to deliver ITE in Argyll through the medium of face to face tutoring and via VC. This work involved me taking part in selecting candidates, interviewing tutors, training and supporting tutors, training school providers and preparing high quality placements. I was heavily involved in in writing the course for Argyll and Bute and ensuring the quality of the training being provided would be held in high regard.  During the 6 years the programme ran in Argyll and Bute we had success in attracting Gaelic Medium students who successfully completed the course and have been employed in local schools. I am delighted to see that some of the early cohorts of this training are now in HT posts within our schools.  As part of the council ‘Growing our Own’ programme a partnership was established with University of the Highlands and Islands in 2015.  I worked with Professor Morag Redford to create a bespoke programme to allow students to stay in Argyll and Bute and access quality teacher training programmes. This is an exciting areas that continues to develop and an area that I look back on with pride as an area that I have supported in my career. It is part of my core as an educator that we grow the future new entrants and that they receive the best possible beginning to their careers enabling each to realise their potential as teachers. In recent years I have been a member of the Scottish Board for Teacher Education (SBTE) representing the rural schools within Scotland.

I am currently undertaking a Doctorate of Education with a focus on rural education and a core part of my research is exploring what are the conditions for developing rural teachers so my own interest and passion in this area will continue. I am now back at Strathclyde University – Education (Jordanhill) continuing my learning with amazing colleagues. I am being supported by Professor Kate Wall, Professor David Kirk and Dr Katajia Frimberger on my academic journey. I continue the theme of networking and have met wonderful colleagues who have become friends on this new journey. My Saturday morning “on line” writing friends  including Lorna Anderson, Nova Scott, Linda Bell, Paul Fleming, Lynne Jones, Charlaine Simpson, Nicky Shaw, Jenny Carey, and  Di Douglas who offer incredible support, friendship, motivation and laughs. They are incredible tweeters too so check out their pages on Twitter. We all need this networking as we become educators and we never stop learning.

Reflections – Day 2

Connections to place.

Place is central to establishing who we are. The place where we are nurtured is where we learn to become human. This then influences the relationships we then make within a community and how we build belonging to a place. There is a relationship from birth by those who care for us and in the place we are brought up. Stehlik (2001) states that we need to recognise just how important meanings of place are to people and not to just dismiss these meanings in a structural analysis which denies their own experiences and their own narratives.

I spent all of my primary school days at Kilberry Primary and in August 1972 I began my secondary education at Tarbert Junior Secondary (now Tarbert Academy) I experienced my first taste of transitioning to a new place and making different connections. My world and my place in it had changed and suddenly I had to learn to become a member of another community. I experienced for the first time some negativity of who I was and where I came from. There was a definite sense of coming from the country and this somehow being a deficit model. I became aware that place limits us, defines us and shapes us. Our own sense of space is punctuated by places we stop and the experiences and interactions we have with these places. The longer we stop in these place the greater the roots we form. “The quality of human world relationships must first acknowledge that places themselves have something to say” (Grunewald 2013 p 624).

During the seventies and eighties I made several transitions, new connections, putting down new roots and gaining new experiences in new places. I spent my senior education at Oban High School staying in the hostel during the week and traveling home at the weekends. I had my sights firmly set on becoming a teacher and from the day my aunt Lillias MacAlister (former teacher at Tarbert Academy) took me to visit Jordanhill College in Glasgow the fire was lit to achieve this ambition.

In September 1978 I moved into Douglas House at Jordanhill College and spent 3 very happy years learning my craft, networking and becoming best friends with Shirley Mathieson who later become Head Teacher of Lochnell Primary. Our Argyll connections were very much part of our good friendship.

During my period at Jordanhill I had placements in Drumchapel and Maryhill which were very influential in my development as a teacher. However I was always glad to come home to Kilberry Primary during the holidays to do some work within the primary school and bring some of my growing knowledge to the school. The Head Teacher, Miss Aitken was always keen to see me and to learn of the new developments taking place in teacher education. At that point in time two big areas were Primary Science and Storyline approach. My skills were well used in these areas during my holidays. I am delighted to say that one Lucy Blake (HT at Achahoish) was a pupil at this time in Kilberry Primary and she tells me enjoyed my time spent there.

In addition I spent holiday time with Robert Leadbeater (DHT at Kirkintilloch High School) being his preschool teacher. Delighted to see both Lucy and Robert have developed into key leadership roles in Education.

After graduating with a merit my first ever days of teaching as a qualified teacher was in Achahoish Primary on supply in December 1981. The HT was absent so I was drafted in to teach the whole school P1 – P7, no support, just me and the “dinner lady” and I absolutely loved it.

In January 1982 I took up a post in Park Primary with an inspirational staff and Head Teacher Elma McColl who taught me so much and ignited my creativity and curiosity as a teacher. I also met Carol Evans (Walker) at this point too and together we have achieved great things over the years.

Connections, creativity and being curious featured highly during this period and I knew rural schools mattered. Anyone who has a real interest in rural schools then I recommend this book:

Greenwood (formerly Gruenewald), D (2008) A critical pedagogy of place: from gridlock to parallax, Environmental Education Research, 14:3, 336-348, DOI:


Stehlik, D (2001). “Out there”: Spaces, places and border crossings. In S. Lockie & L Bourke (Eds.), Rurality Bites: The social and environmental transformation of rural Australia (pp- 30-41) Annandale. V. A. Pluto Press

Reflections – Day 1

It has been quite a while since I used my blog but I am going to reinstate it for December 2020. As many of you already know I leave Argyll and Bute Education Service formally on the 31st of December 2020. I have many thoughts and reflections at this time and over the next few weeks I am going to share some of these via my blog. So here goes with Reflections Day 1

Being Me – Being connected, being curious and being creative.

So who am I and what are my connections??

I grew up in the rural community of Kilberry, in Mid Argyll,  surrounded by love and connection not only to my family but also to the wider community, My mother and father were both hard working and neither had been given the opportunity to extend their own education. My father left school at 14 and instantly began working on a farm and then on to serve his national service. He was a farm worker and we lived in a tied house on the farm. The house was part of the agricultural wage which was a low wage. My mother had worked in the hospitality trade in a café which was of first generation Italians. This background had led her own interest in cooking and especially baking. She was a homemaker and worked in the local “Big house” – castle on the estate. Today I would have ticked all boxes for receiving Pupil Equity Funding (PEF). Growing up in rural poverty would have been a term attributed to me but I certainly was rich in love, aspirations and community support.

These are all important factors as we try to take forward the national policy on Excellence and Equity.

Scottish Government Achieving Excellence and Equity – click here

Understanding rural poverty, childcare and education, Prof Chris Chapman – click here

My early childhood was spent mainly with adults my parents, grandparents and community “aunty and uncles” My grandfather became my childminder as both my mother and father worked hard to make both ends meet. He was a great man of the countryside and knew so much about reading the weather through nature, taught me so much about reading the sky, watching nature to predict weather patterns and looking after our natural world. Both he and my father truly nurtured in me my own deep interest in the connections we have to the natural world. The creativity element from nature is deep rooted within me and these connections are integral to being me and have shaped my own views of the world.

I began my link with Argyll and Bute Education Service in 1965 when I attended Kilberry Primary School.  I was delighted to get to school and have the opportunity to meet with other children and to have peers to play with and interact with. Needless to say my interactions were often a source of discussion at home. I seemed to spend more time talking than learning!!  My position at the front of the class indicates not only me being the youngest but also perhaps the most disruptive. Even at that age I enjoyed networking.

During my school years I loved learning and my own links to the natural world were extended again by the local community. The HT (only teacher in the school) had a husband who was a gamekeeper and again he was a source of knowledge to us and our learning. I will always remember the day I found a wildcat who had been hit on the road lying at the side on the verge. The cat was still alive but obviously stunned. The gamekeeper collected the cat and brought it back to look after. We watched the amazing animal become well and eventually released back into the natural environment. The compassion and respect shown to the animal who was majestic but very vulnerable is something which has always stuck with me.

My love for books was born from the school and from my mother, and grandfather. Interestingly they all brought different skills to reading which today I now see in my own reading. Mrs MacArthur my teacher opened up the world of learning from text books and from reference books. She taught me the skills and functions of reading and for that I am always entirely indebted. My mother loved to read fiction from which she could escape the world around her and I watched and witnessed that sheer joy that a book can bring. She also read the newspaper daily inside out. My father read agricultural press. My grandfather interestingly had not had any formal schooling from the age of 10 was one of my greatest literacy influences. His own reading was limited but he spent hours with me looking at story books and telling me orally the stories. We entered a magic world together and made up stories. We continued this on our many walks and explorations of the community. Visiting these places today.  I can still envisage the rich story contexts that he created for me. I literally read all that I could in my formative years from magazines, catalogues, adverts to all types of books.

My love of books continued and my mother was housekeeper at Kilberry Castle. Marion Campbell who owned the castle was a historian and author and was very supportive in opening up my world further to literature. In my later primary years I was often permitted to go with my mother to work and to go into the working den of Marion Campbell. She let me look at the range of books and get lost in their worlds from Celts to Modern Agriculture. The cigarette fog of the room is a distinct smell which lingers with me to this day and I associate with books. She often talked about her own education and had never attended university but had so desperately wanted to and her hopes for Scotland. She was strong nationalist and I had the joy of listening to many friendly but robust debates between her and my grandfather who was a very firm conservative.

The influences from both Mrs MacArthur and Marion Campbell instilled in me the love of learning and the aspiration to become a teacher. I was keen to follow my desire to become a teacher and reflecting back my now strong commitment to rural education was born from the culture and ethos I grew up in a strong community.

It is clear that our formative years are so important and a couple of important links for us all are.

Education Scotland Realising the Ambition – Being me – click here

Joining the dots, Prof. Susan Deacon – click here

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

2017 was been one of the busiest and most demanding years I have known in Education. Over the past 36 years in Argyll and Bute I have seen many changes but the changes this year have been significant.  As we move into 2018 there are further changes ahead. The consultation currently taking place in regard to the provisions of the Education (Scotland) Bill seeks to look at the structure and governance of schools. There is much to consider within this consultation and I would urge everyone contribute to this consultation.

Our Children Their Future has now been in place for a year in our authority.  I am keen to celebrate the work undertaken this session and am looking for examples of how the vision and strategy are being realised in our schools and impacting on our children’s futures.

I am delighted that the follow through inspection report which was published on the 7th of December has recognised the improvements within our service and the potential for greater achievement. A huge thanks to all involved.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives

Regional Collaboration has been a big focus for Scottish Education during the Autumn and Argyll and Bute Council is now part of the Northern Collaborative. The Local Authorities involved in the Northern Alliance are:

Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeenshire Council

Argyll and Bute Council

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Highland Council

Moray Council

Orkney Islands Council

Shetland Islands Council

In September 2017, COSLA Leaders agreed to an approach of Regional Collaboration which left democratic accountability clearly with Scottish Local Authorities and their officers.  Currently, in their role as Education Authorities, Scottish Councils hold the statutory responsibility for the provision and delivery of Education, for performance and improvement of individual schools as well as the cumulative authority, as the employer of all staff within a school setting, and more.

During the autumn term in October, November and December we have been involved in various working groups with the Northern Alliance.  We look forward to taking this work forward in 2018.

A main message coming from Scottish Government is of the importance of collaboration and working in improvement collaboratives both at National and Local level. This will be a key focus for us in 2018 in Argyll and Bute.

Conference Season

During November it was the conference season. The Argyll and Bute Early Year’s conference focused on ensuring our children have the best start in life. The day was very informative and thought provoking in looking at the health and wellbeing of our young people.

The Children and Young People’s Improvement Collaboration conference took place in Glasgow and once again the emotional wellbeing of our children and young people were the focus. It was interesting to have 4 Scottish Ministers on the stage together acknowledging that it is everyone responsibility to ensure our children are all in the best place to learn.

The ADES conference had a focus on changing how we deliver education services and how we take forward a joint approach with partners.

The final conference of the year was the Argyll and Bute two day Head Teacher Conference where the focus of the day was on health and wellbeing and the core importance of this in closing the gap.

There is a strong message for us all for 2018 that the health and wellbeing of all our young people will be at the heart of all our improvements.

We all need a Champion

This past week the theme for me has been about being a Champion.

It started off with me watching a Ted Talk last Sunday which one of my daughters recommended by the late Rita Pierson. On Monday I also picked up the same message on a tweet on Twitter. It made me reflect on the whole concept of being a Champion and how in fact educationalists we also need a Champion.

Continue reading We all need a Champion