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‚Äôs 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.

Whilst there is much work to be done within the service there is also much to be proud of and in my current role as Acting Head of Service I am very focused on the areas we need to improve. For me the bottom line is the quality of education that our children and young people are receiving. I continue to believe that our staff are our greatest resource and that we need to ensure that we have the highest quality staff working with all our young people. I have been out and about meeting with staff and every member of staff I have spoken with is so proud to explain how they are doing the best for our young people.

I visited Lochgilphead Joint Campus on 29th March and was delighted to be part of a S3 Assembly where the emotional health and wellbeing of young people was core to the event. Young people were given challenge and support to achieve the best they can and given opportunities to share their achievements. Thanks to Head of Learning and Teaching, Lena Carter, for allowing me to be part of this work. This is a real area of development within the school and also fits with one of the strengths indicated in the recent report of OECD.

PISA 2015 Results (Volume III) – Students’ Well-Being – en – OECD

Later in the morning I met with Fiona McBride, PT Enterprise who shared the fantastic work she is leading in developing partnerships with local businesses to provide quality work placements.

Ann Devine, Campus Principal was teaching a National 4 English class whilst I visited. It was a privilege to see the wonderful ethos within this class and how well each young person was known by Ann and how they knew what they needed to do to achieve their goal. I wish them all well in the forthcoming round of SQA awards.

Another area of strength within our recent report is the work in Early Years. This is an area that whilst we deliver well and provide very good opportunities we have also been looking at how we meet the challenges of delivering 1140 hours by 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds. It is exciting but also full of challenge given our geography. From August 2017 we are taking place in two trials on Island locations; Tiree and Tobermory we will be looking at providing 1140 hours. The learning from both these location will help us to look at how we deliver across the authority and provide evidence for national work in this area.

During the holidays I spent some quality time in the company of my great nephew who is a very busy three year old. It was fascinating watching him on a daily basis learning so much. He, as a typical three year old, is at a prime time for developing language skills. He is also learning how he interacts with the world around him and how he takes risks. This is a key time for development for him and his peers and it is so important that as three year olds join our early learning centres they have the support of highly qualified staff to support their learning. By the age of 5, an 18 month gap in language can be recorded between children, it is important that closing the gap begins at this early stage.

This week a great deal of my time will be spent in meeting with colleagues and partners and preparing a work programme for the coming term. Before the end of June there is a great deal of work to be undertaken both at the centre and in schools. A new area is the planning for Pupil Equity Funding. Schools have been given notification of their budgets and now need to provide a plan on how this money will make an impact on closing the attainment gap. I am really looking forward to seeing the creative approaches and how I can support this work.

My role of being responsible for leading the Education Service is demanding and can often become all consuming. I am so fortunate to be heavily influenced by the environment and at this time of year I may arrive home with the weight of the world on my shoulders and see something that makes me smile. After a very difficult day these two cheeky wee fellas met me and instantly brought a smile to my face.

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