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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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.

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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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Looking back and looking forward


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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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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PISA and Scottish Education

This week has been quite a week for Scottish Education. The results on Tuesday from the PISA report have made stark reading and identified that there are areas of development across Literacy and Numeracy and Science to be undertaken.

These results made headlines and once again schools became the targets of having to do better. Curriculum for Excellence has again come under scrutiny. I still firmly believe that the principles and purpose of Curriculum for Excellence are correct however along the way of implementation there have been many difficulties. The importance being set against the PISA data and the analysis indicates the current climate for data rich intelligence as a core to improvement. This is something that forms my practice daily as Acting Head of Education.

Pasi Sahlberg touched on PISA results in his presentation at the ADES Conference.

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Invitations and Visits

This week has seen the beginning of invitations to school festive activities.  So far I have accepted a nativity, a panto and a party tea. I am keen to get out to schools and this time of year is an exciting time to visit and share time with staff and pupils.

week9-3This has been a busy week visiting mainly in the east of the authority.  On Tuesday I attended a meeting with some of the senior management team at Hermitage Academy. Whenever I visit Hermitage Academy I am always struck by the calm environment.  The young people are welcoming and very much involved in the life of the school.   I also met with the Cowal and Bute HT on Tuesday at Dunoon Grammar and we had an opportunity to discuss various issues.  One of the areas under discussion was how to embrace the positive aspects of social media but also be aware how it can be misused and cause problems for staff and pupils.  I completed a very busy Tuesday with a special viewing at Innellan Primary of the art exhibition put on by Toward and Innellan Primary Schools. There was some stunning art work that the children produced and I managed to secure a very special piece to add to my collection in my office.


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Getting it Right

There has been no greater need for everyone in Scotland to be getting it right for our children.  During November I have heard John Swinney deliver his message for Education three times.  Each time he has mentioned the 3 priorities policies of Getting it Right for Every Child, Curriculum for Excellence and Developing the Young workforce.  He is very committed to Getting it Right but there are many questions still to be answered in how this is to be delivered.  This week on Thursday and Friday I attended the ADES Conference. The theme was Equity.  It was a very interesting conference looking at the future for Education and challenges on how we meet the targets of the government and how Education plays its part in closing the poverty gap and improving life chances for all our young people. On Thursday a powerful presentation was made by the governor of Polmont Young Offenders institution, and I have to say, I sat with a tear in my eye at the amazing work being undertaken to take forward improved life chances.

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What have you done today to make you feel proud?

These words from the song Proud by Heather Small have been ringing in my ears this week. I am proud of many aspects of our Education in Argyll and Bute. There are many things we can improve on but this week I was able to stand still and think about what I was proud of.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I attended the launch Children and Young Peoples Collaborative in Glasgow. This new collaborative brings together the work which has been undertaken in Early Years Collaborative and Raising Attainment for All.  Nationally both programmes have been heavily influenced by the improvement model.  During the conference the presentations and workshops demonstrated how the model for improvement has influenced change and improvement across many areas of Education and health. On Tuesday evening the Quality Improvement Awards were presented at a gala dinner.  I was so proud of the two Argyll and Bute projects up for an award.  Both Kintyre Family Pathways and Early Years improvement in Tarbert Academy were runners up. An amazing achievement.

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Our Children, Their Future

An Education and Vision strategy has been created by Argyll and Bute Council’s Education Service to ensure that children and young people continue to achieve the best possible outcomes as a result of changes to local and national policy. This strategy has been titled Our Children, Their Future.

In Argyll and Bute, we want to ensure that young people are equipped through their Education to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. We want young people and families to remain in this area, and be attracted to live here.

Currently a big part of my role as Acting Head of Service: Education is to ensure that the vision within the document is taken forward and becomes a live working document which everyone involved in Education can feel they have ownership over.

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