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.
As part of the ongoing work related to Early Learning and Childcare 1140 hours (ELC), I visited Mull on the 16th of February. Trials of 1140 hours are taking place across Scotland supported by Scottish Government. Argyll and Bute have two trials selected one on Mull and one on Tiree. Both trials will provide feedback to Scottish Government with a particular focus on rural issues. I was accompanied to Mull by Jackie Brock and Aileen MacLean from Scottish Government Trials Team and Alison MacKenzie. On Mull we had the opportunity to visit both Tobermory and Salen Pre School provision and to have discussions with Mull and Iona Community Trust. It was very helpful to meet with Cllr Mary Jean Devon who is very supportive of ELC.
Staffing preparation for 2017/18 has been high priority this month too as we have been looking at allocations for both Primary and Secondary schools and identifying posts for probationers and for advertising. Staffing during 2016/17 has been incredibly difficult and we are trying to get ahead of the game to ensure we get posts advertised as soon as possible for next year. I would like to thank everyone who has gone above and beyond to ensure our schools have been able to deliver for the children during this busy period.
The Pupil Equity Funding was announced during February. Again there will be more requirements for change. This will require much discussion in relation to the need for clear guidance and to ensure that the monitoring of the finances does not become too time intensive and take away from time to make a difference. There has been much discussion at national level and there will be further discussion with Head Teachers locally at the meeting scheduled for the 28th February.
We continue to be challenged on the delivery of the Education Service and requirements on meeting the new policy drivers. During February we received the new guidance on Gaelic Education which looks at how Local Authorities need to look at requests for Gaelic Medium and the requirements we have to fulfil within Section 9 of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Education (Scotland) Act 2016.
Catriona Garvin Education Officer – Gaelic, has been working with all partners to look at how we take forward our new and extended requirements for Gaelic Education. Catriona has revamped the Gaelic area on SALi and I would encourage you to look at these materials.
With each new development I have been reflecting on the nature and role of teachers. The role requires teachers to be agents of change. I have been reading about teacher agency and would recommend the work of Professor Mark Priestly who addresses the topic of teachers as agents of change within policy in particular curricular policy.
Priestley, M., Edwards, R., Priestley, A. and Miller, K., 2012. Teacher agency in curriculum making: Agents of change and spaces for manoeuvre. Curriculum Inquiry, 42(2), pp.191-214.
Scottish Education is going through a period of significant change and desperately needs a workforce who can act as agents of change. I view teacher capacity as undoubtedly important, high-capacity teachers are essential for an effective Education system. However cognisance needs to be taken of the structures and cultures within Education. My own view based on extensive work with teachers is that teachers need to be given the opportunity to achieve solutions to the real challenges they face in the classroom. I practice to be agentive in a strategic role which brings its own challenges.