Welcome Back to Our School Community

Welcome back to the new school session. I hope that the summer although rather damp has been restful and given time for enjoying many activities. For me it has been a summer of family activities with my eldest daughter getting married. There was much organisation, ticking off lists, socialising and above all else happy times filled with love and laughter. The time spent in the run up to the wedding and during the wedding was a time to reflect on how small communities come together for events and the wedding demonstrated the support from many friends and community members. Community help was available from flowers to car parking and much more. Argyll and Bute has a special community feel and we need to be proud of this as we think about how we live and work in the area. We have a wonderful environment and great community spirit and these should be core to our lives and a big part of our Education Service.

A community celebration took place in Inveraray as the Inveraray and District Pipe Band became World Champions on Saturday the 12th of August. Many congratulations and it is great to witness what can be achieved with community support and dedicated drive and ambition. Stuart Liddell is one of our team of Piping Instructors and we are proud of our entire team who bring on individuals and bands.

This session will bring new challenges for us in Education. At the end of last session the Scottish Government unveiled new reforms in relation to governance of schools. This was presented in the document Scottish Government (2016) Empowering Teachers, Parents and Communities to Achieve Excellence and Equity in education: A Governance Review http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/09/1251. This will have significant implications for schools as we move through this session and an area we all need to be ready to reflect on and what the forthcoming changes mean. I anticipate that this will be an area spoken about a great deal over the coming months as a new landscape for Scottish Education evolves. As is often said, watch this space.

Schools will be challenged more across Scotland in their work in closing the gap and raising attainment. Schools in Argyll and Bute have all been working on Pupil Equity Funding plans and these plans accompanied by School Improvement Plans should all be addressing the improvement agenda. The Central Team whilst working with schools will be adding challenge and support on how schools are using the data and information they have gathered to improve attainment for all.

On Monday 14th of August I returned to post with all of the above thoughts in my mind and looking at how this session would be going forward. I have had a busy week with the new challenges firmly in my mind. I returned to the post of Acting Head of Education and Chief Education Officer. The role of Chief Education is required to meet the Standards in Scotland’s Schools. Act 2000 (March 2017) and was agreed by full Council in June 2017. https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=257&MId=7507&Ver=4

On Monday I met with various people both within the authority and out with to carry out some reviews of ongoing work including Early Years, Rural Schools and National Improvement Framework.

On Tuesday I attended Community Services Committee where the main work was around the Education Plan which each local authority is required to now Submit to Scottish Government in relation to taking forward the National Improvement Framework. The annual report was approved and will now be submitted to Scottish Government by the 31st of August https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/g7539/Public%20reports%20pack%20Tuesday%2015-Aug-2017%2010.30%20Community%20Services%20Committee.pdf?T=10

Later in the afternoon on Tuesday the Acting Executive Director of Community Services ( Ann Marie Knowles and myself met with 3 colleagues from Education Scotland to begin to scope out the return visit of Education Scotland to review the progress met in relation to the 5 key action points. This visit will take place week beginning the 25th of September. There will be four inspectors in the local authority from Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th of September. Further information on activities will follow as the timetable evolves.

On Wednesday and Thursday the central education team were all involved in development days. The theme of the two days was “Knowing Our School”. During the two days there was scrutiny around improvement plans, data from SQA and Professional Judgement exercise. Teams worked on the national expectations in relation to HGIOS4 and National Improvement Framework. We were supported on Wednesday by Shona Taylor our Area lead Officer from Education Scotland. It was clear that the national message is that central teams require to support schools by adding greater challenge. This can only be done by a team who really knows the schools in the authority and the strengths and challenges each school has within it’s community.

On Friday I had a day of meetings dealing with transformation proposals, staffing and Gaelic Development.

As per usual within the week there were routine emails and a variety of calls with elected members, community groups, parents and individual schools. A high light for me was 3 calls to new Head Teachers on Friday morning. It was great to formally welcome and chat with Marnie McCulloch at Dunbeg Primary, Jennifer McGhee at Tobermory and Jay Helbert at Glassary and Tayvallich. All had shared their high points of the week with me which in each case was the welcome from the whole school community.

I finished my week be attending the evening wedding reception for a very special lady. My PA Maggie McLay who many of you probably know got married to her partner of 26 years. It was a very happy and special event and reminded me of how important and inter related our private and professional lives are when we work in Argyll and Bute.