The weeks prior to the Christmas holidays are always a bit manic in schools with Nativity rehearsals, parties and pantomimes. Add the personal Christmas shopping, food preparation, decisions about who to invite when and who to visit and trying to write Christmas cards and it can get a bit fraught. As I mentioned at our conference in November, my daughter also decided to get married on December 19th and at that point there was still no outfit. A stress overload seemed likely!

However it seems to have been a really great idea. Wedding arrangements were actually completed well in advance, by said daughter. Expecting to have too much to do, we scaled down the present buying for family and friends with everyone’s grateful agreement. Christmas food was ordered from a local shop weeks early and card writing I delegated to the husband. Similarly, in school I managed to delegate Christmas to others and got away with it as everyone thought I would be so busy with the wedding! The result was that I managed to clear lots of ‘stuff’ from my desk before the holidays, didn’t find myself rushing round the shops hunting for gifts and didn’t feel at all guilty about getting everyone to help because I had a wedding to host!

Clearly recommending marrying off your children at Christmas in order to feel able to delegate is a bit extreme but there must be lessons to be learned.

Why don’t we always approach these manic times of year as if you really did have a wedding (or something similar) to arrange. Plan ridiculously early, delegate everything as if you weren’t going to be there. Devolved leadership in its broadest form?

The serious side to the above is that not only is it a busy and stressful time for management, it is also difficult for classroom teachers. Avoiding planned collegiate time in December may be a good idea and as we all know, it is amazing what cakes at interval times can do for moral.

So, how did the wedding go?

I am happy to report that all guests demonstrated that they have indeed developed well in the Four Capacities of a Curriculum for Excellence. (Well I should have been in school that day so felt obliged to assess the guests!!)

All showed themselves to be responsible citizens. Behaviour was excellent, all made an effort to join in, assist others and enjoy themselves without over indulgence. Impressive!

Many were successful learners and coped admirably with requests by photographers and instructions from the band. (Teaching guests from Baltimore the Gay Gordon’s confirmed the bands worth!)

Confident individuals were less obvious at the start due to nerves but this improved once those making speeches had proved themselves to be effective contributors.

2009

 Will it be a good year or as bad as is being suggested in the press by some of our colleagues?

  • Teachers are having to buy basic materials from Pound Shops due to budget cuts. (EIS)
  • CfE may be at risk if resources not provided (EIS)

and bizarrely

  • School bells should be banned as they are harming our hearing (SSTA)

Certainly many Local Authorities seem to be having budget difficulties; at least one has apparently huge difficulties! Schools in some areas are experiencing cuts to class materials budgets and in some cases to staffing formulas. The reality for others though is that there has not really been much control of spending for several years and so there is not all that much change. Certainly we are all used to having very little money. In a few Local Authorities schools have actually seen small increases in their spending power! Not many though!

AHDS is in the business of professional discussion with Government and Local Authorities not in the business of scaremongering or using the press to score points. We will take your concerns to those in power and with the good relationships already made we can be sure that we will at least be listened to.

As circumstances can be so different across Scotland we need healthy Local Associations that have open communications with their directorates so that local issues can be sensibly addressed. AHDS has provided advice to all members in the event of cuts in budget or staffing making parts of the ‘job’ impossible to deliver and I would urge you to follow this advice. Decide your priorities and be able to justify them, then inform your LA of your decisions and reasons. If you do not have an active Local Association contact us and we will try to assist you in setting one up.

Curriculum for Excellence will undoubtedly become an even greater priority and possibly a political football. I will try to keep us above this and while giving a realistic picture to the Management Board I intend to maintain a positive attitude. We need to provide time to allow teachers to familiarise themselves with the final Outcomes and to move to implementation in a planned and manageable way. Our Improvement Plans and our planned collegiate timetables are the only way of keeping control of this. We must not let them be high jacked!

As for the school bells. Surely there are more important things to worry about? Some of you I am sure would love to have the luxury of this as a priority rather than the leaking roof, lack of heating or lack of space (even in new schools).

May the New Year be free of absence cover, parental complaints and irrelevant paperwork and full of well behaved, motivated, fun children. (And staff)

Wonder if No 1 son can be persuaded into getting married next Christmas? It’s a thought!