June 26, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Our Amazing Staff

June is almost over and the school year is coming to an end.  I can hardly believe that a year has passed since I took up post as Acting Head of Education for a period of 3 months and here we are a year on.  It has been quite a year and there have been many challenges but also a great deal of successes too.  I continue to be very proud of Argyll and Bute Education Service and all the staff who do so much for all our young people.  One of the highlights of the year have been meeting with the staff and understanding their challenges and sharing in their achievements too.

 

Earlier this month I was lucky to join  some of the P1 teachers who were all attending a training  event looking at transition and the pedagogical approaches to benefit all P1’s as they move from Pre 5 to P1.  The day was led by Alice Sharp from Experiential Play and our own Education Officer Kathleen Johnston.  A key part of the day was looking at how to use the new Early Years Learning and Development resource.  The resource gives clear progression pathways across the early level to ensure that a sure foundation for learning is in place.  One of the key objectives of Our Children, Their Future is to ‘Ensure Children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed’.  The resource has been developed by the Early Years Team to help deliver this objective.

 

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/ab/sali/2016/12/20/learning-and-development-framework/

 

Another important event that I attended was joining the showcase event for this year’s PGDE students who have just completed their study with UHI at the Argyll College campus in Oban.  I was very interested to review their enquiry projects.  Some very interesting topics covered including outdoor learning, positive behaviour strategies and the use of music on behaviour.  The work carried out this year has been first class and the tutor Caroline Boyle has been very impressed with this cohort which bores well for the future of Education in Argyll and Bute.

On the 13th of June we welcomed the newly qualified teachers who will be joining us in session 2017/18 as probationers.  This year’s cohort have had an initial welcome day and I was delighted to be able to given them a formal welcome to our Authority.  I have done this now for several years and it is always a really important and special welcome for me to undertake. It is such a privilege to see the world of education through the eyes of our brand new teachers.  As the year moves forward I will be touching base with this new cohort to see how they are developing and how we can support them in their first year of teaching.

In the past two weeks I have been leading the interview process for Head Teacher posts across our Authority both in Primary, Secondary and 3-18 Schools.  It is a very important task and to ensure that each school community has a perfect fit with a leader who will take forward the school in its community.  Rural schools bring the support of the community which can be a real asset for Head Teachers but it also can mean a real level of scrutiny which isn’t seen in more urban schools. Many of our Head Teachers are moving on to a brand new life of retirement and have given a lifetime service to our young people.  I wish Cathleen Russell from Toward and Innellan Primaries, Geoff Urie from Hermitage Academy, Fiona Johnston from Kilmartin and Achahoish Primaries and Sine MacVicar from Dunbeg all the very best for this next part of their lives.  I have been delighted to see Sine’s career being acknowledged in the Scottish Education Awards and the TES Awards by being awarded the lifetime Achievement awards.

The central education team are also looking to losing two members who are joining the retirement team.  Fiona Johnston and John MacPherson will be retiring at the end of term.  I wish them both well and hope they can enjoy time for themselves and their families.

Our staff are our greatest asset and another key objective in Our Children, Their Future is to ‘Strengthen leadership at all levels’.  So to all our staff I wish you a very happy holiday when it arrives and an enormous thanks for the incredible commitment to ensuring that education in Argyll and Bute is improving and our young people get a good deal.

May 31, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Planning the Future

A lot of my time and thoughts over the past few weeks has had a focus on planning for the future. At this time of year throughout educational establishments there is real focus on the future. It is often described as the New Year preparations for the education world.

The exam timetable began on Tuesday 2nd of May and is still in progress. Our S4, S5 and S6 pupils have been taking part in important exams which will impact on their future lives. Across our 10 secondary schools there have been a variety of celebrations as they have been saying goodbye to their S6 pupils and some S5. Over the next few weeks the new timetables will be going into place and there will be much work done with transitions from P7 to S1 and Pre School into P1. This is a real time of looking forward and looking back at success and planning how to make the next stage even more successful.

I have heard about some transition work based around our partners at Benmore Outdoor Centre.

Last week end the P7 schools cluster in Cowal spent some time at Benmore preparing for their move to Secondary and getting to know each other better. This work each year is led by Alison Currie, PT Learning Support and has been a huge success over the years.

Also visiting Benmore recently were the combined cluster of P6 and 7 pupils from Minard and furnace primary schools. They had some great experiences gorge walking and testing themselves on some adventures and succeeded in risk taking. All good skills for their future ahead.

Skills for the future are difficult to predict as life is changing very fast and as more and more technology comes into place skills are developing to meet this area. There are some skills which are always going to be necessary and important whatever field of study or career is ahead. In session 2017/18 there will be a continued focus on literacy and numeracy skills.

In my job planning the future has consisted of staffing updates and planning which posts are required to be filled, discussing with colleagues both in and out of school the need for reviewing posts to future proof. This is often a difficult decision as to go with the same structure or to evolve and meet the new needs of the service. The later has been very much my approach in the last few weeks and this has seen new posts becoming available.

Schools have been busy looking at planning their PEF spend and looking to the future as to what this additional money can do to support the learning for pupils in the schools. The returned application forms regarding PEF have been coming in to the centre and I am pleased to see some innovation and clear thought out strategies in clusters.

On Friday 19th May it was my honour to spend time with the probationer cohort of 2016/17. These newly qualified teachers have had the expert support during their probation year of David Mitchell, Janice McGregor, Sharon Burt and Mairi Livingstone. They have been at each of the support days and co-ordinated the programme for probationer development. The strength of our probationer programme in Argyll and Bute is the support from in school practitioners. We wish them all well in their future careers and do hope many stay in Argyll and secure permanent posts.

Many colleagues are also thinking about moving on to retirement and thinking about a bright future not governed by bells. Whilst it is sad to be losing valued and much respected colleagues it is also an exciting time celebrating their great achievements. Their retirals also provide great opportunities for some new folks to be promoted and enjoy a new challenge. I am very busy at present putting dates into my diary for interviewing for Head Teacher posts before the end of the term.

Whilst we take many positives from the past and our experiences we should never forget that the future is bright. Our Children, Their Future is key to the work we undertake in schools on a daily basis.

May 5, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Strengthen Leadership at all levels

This is one of the key objectives in Our Children, Their Future and I have been delighted to certainly see this in action over the past week.
On Friday the 21st of April I was involved as part of the interview panel for the Into Headship course with SCEL.  We had a fantastic day interviewing 12 candidates who were all keen to share their views on leadership and how they felt they could contribute at School and Authority level.  The candidates were put through some challenging questions but all gave good answers.

The following Monday 24th of April I was delighted to visit the new Digital Hub in Dunoon and we were taken through our paces in relation to coding and programming.  The P6 and P7 digital leaders were very impressive showing great leadership skills and supporting their class mates and the adults present.  This is a very important part of our work – the leadership of our young people.  The digital leaders were also given the opportunity to link the world of work to their tasks.  Aileen Goodall our 16+ Officer shared with the young people how their digital skills can be used in the world of work.

 

 

 

 

 

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April 21, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Spring has sprung

I am afraid that I haven’t managed to update the blog for a wee while. Hopefully now Spring is in the air that I will manage to keep up with the blog.

It has been a very busy time within the service and a particularly difficult time. The Education Scotland report on the Education functions of Argyll and Bute Council was published on the 21st March. The report has detailed the following specific areas to be addressed within the service:

  • significantly improve young people’s attainment across the authority;
  • improve the use of data, ensuring greater rigour;
  • continue to improve the quality of educational provision with consistently higher levels of support and challenge from central officers and elected members;
  • improve relationships and communication, promoting a more positive ethos amongst all stakeholders; and
  • improve the quality of strategic leadership and direction at all levels within the education authority.

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March 8, 2017
by A. Paterson
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A Week of Networking

I spent Monday morning in an online meeting discussing transformational change within the Council Services. An interesting concept about how we deliver services differently and more efficiently. I have been challenged to look at our Education Service and how we deliver differently. I am keen to hear any ideas from colleagues. Can we look at using learning technologies, do we use our resources differently? Please let me know.

After lunch I enjoyed meeting with the Mid Argyll, Kintyre and Islay Head Teachers to discuss staffing allocations for 2017/18. It was great to get the chance to hear about the challenges and how we can get to grips with getting adverts for next year on the go as quickly as possible. Anne Margaret Houston, Admin Officer: Staffing and Fiona Johnston, Education Officer have been working hard to get the overall staffing picture for the Authority.

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February 27, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Agents of Change

February has been a month for me of change and the need to meet deadlines at a frantic rate.  We certainly need to take on board being agents of change.

The first Sunday in February saw Alison MacKenzie, Principal Officer Early Years and myself head north to Elgin for a meeting at 9.00am on Monday the 6th of February.  We met with colleagues from the 7 Northern Alliance Authorities to discuss the challenges and current policy drivers in implementing 1140 hours of Early Learning and Childcare.  Like our colleagues in Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Highland, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City there are many considerations on how 1140 hours will be provided in 2020.  Although 2020 seems a long way off there is much to consider including training of workforce, building adaptations and working with partners.  In a wide and varied rural area like Argyll and Bute there is significant challenges to be overcome and many settings require to be looked at on an individual basis.  Alison and I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss these issues with our colleagues and the opportunity to share much of our current good practice.

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February 6, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Closing the Gap

January was always thought of as a quiet and somewhat dull month.  Certainly not this year.  There has been a real focus on the Scottish Government’s Closing the Gap.  This week we have seen the announcement of by the Scottish Government of the new £120 million Pupil Equity Funding scheme.  Across Scotland 2,374 individual schools have been allocated money to target support where it is needed the most.

Argyll and Bute Schools have been amongst the schools to benefit from Scottish Government’s Pupil Equity Funding.  A National event was held in Glasgow on the 1st of February and details of the funding and the requirements were shared.  Further information will be delivered to all Head Teachers at the Head Teachers meeting on the 28th of February.

http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/Schools/Raisingeducationalattainment/pupilequityfund/Schoolallocations

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January 24, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Vision,Strategy and Leadership

The first week back in January has been a busy one getting ready for the launch of the new vision and strategy for education “Our Children, Their Future. There has been quite a scurry getting the final document all proof read, lay out agreed and various themes considered. As an Education team we spent time looking at the final document and exploring how we can implement the strategy. Leadership of implementation will be very important across all areas of the service.

Last Monday the new Education Vision and Strategy was launched at Tarbert Academy in a 3-18 setting and it was an important step forward for Education Services in Argyll and Bute.

The Strategy, Our Children, Their Future, strengthens our determination to ensure that Argyll and Bute is the best place in Scotland for our children to grow up in, incorporating a vision of partnership working to deliver equality excellence and ambition.

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January 9, 2017
by A. Paterson
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Looking back and looking forward

picture-1

I hope 2017 brings a great deal of professional and personal satisfaction and wellbeing to all. The last couple of weeks over the holiday period have been very relaxing and happy time for me. This year our family time has been full of visits to and from family and friends. We had a major celebration with our elder daughter becoming engaged on Christmas Day. We have had time for reflection and for future planning.

When I look back professionally on 2016 it has probably been one of the most demanding years in my career. Not only have we raised expectations from Scottish Government on closing the attainment gap and raising attainment for all but we also are fully aware of greater scrutiny from all bodies. With all the external expectations it remains imperative that we continue to focus on the individual children in our care. At the end of December 2016 we saw publication of the new 2017 National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan for Scottish Education and the 2016 Evidence Report. Both of these documents continue to challenge the way forward for 2017

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December 20, 2016
by A. Paterson
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Reflections

This time of year tends to be a time of reflection. As educators reflection is always an important part of our daily practice. Perhaps as we get to the year end reflection becomes more of a focus.

On Monday I attended DMT at Kilmory and the meeting involved time with the trade unions and useful reflection took place around the implementation of Service Choices particularly around support staff. This was a difficult time for all staff involved and I am thankful to all involved in how we have managed to meet this saving. Later on Monday I joined the tracking and monitoring group and we reviewed our approach to tracking and the need to greater consistency to improve our collation of data.

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