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President's Perspective

Welcome back after the summer break and to the academic session 2016/2017.  I am sure you, like me, will have been avidly watching the success of our Olympic Team over the last few days as they participate in the Games in Rio.  Bearing in mind the controversy and the media coverage leading up to the games, concerns about the ability of the country to host, the risk to health, the capacity of the stadiums to meet demand and so on it is truly marvellous to see so many participating and achieving their potential after years of training and dedication to their sport. From what I have seen, the element of team work and supporting each other has also come through as a key aspect of the games.  I look too at our schools, I see a profession under scrutiny by media and to some extent also by the Scottish Government. However, I also see teachers, support staff, administrators and of course Head Teachers, Deputes and Principal Teachers engaging our young people in exciting, challenging, deep and meaningful learning which they will then take on their educational journey to continue to develop and achieve their full potential.  Cuts are inevitable, we cannot live beyond our income, we know that within our own households. Overspend and it always catches up with you. But we can manage our resources better, we can cut the minutiae to ensure that what we are doing, we do as it directly impacts on the young people in our schools in a positive and supportive way. We can ensure that our budgets are spent wisely and carefully and that we do not leave ourselves open to challenge. We can work not only

within our school but across our schools to share resources, ideas, developments etc. There was only one inventor of the wheel so why are we all struggling trying to reinvent. It has been done, we just need to share it! 

CfE Development Plan

2016 – 2017

What a lovely summer treat to come back to school to this document (in case it isn’t clear in print, my tongue is firmly in my cheek!).  It clearly shows we are still developing CfE, rightly so. CfE was never produced as a finished document or guide, it has to be flexible to allow the curriculum to keep pace with the needs of the developing society in which we live. The biggest problem for us as professionals is that the ink has never dried since its inception. It changes, but the time for change to be understood, adopted and built in to school and local development plans has diminished and therefore we never seem to be able to move as fast and as positively as we would want to in keeping abreast of our CfE. By the time you read this we will all have received Education Scotland’s ‘concise statement of the basic framework within which teachers teach’.  Is this a step back to the rigours and constraints of 5-14 and a step away from blue sky thinking where teachers and children can engage in a learning process that gives every child in Scotland the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential?  Do we really need to be given a concise statement of the basic framework within which we can teach? Surely the idea that we engage with our learners to direct learning, that we share the creation of and identify the learning intentions and agree the outcomes that will meet and challenge their current ability, skills and knowledge should be the basic of what teachers teach. That allowing teachers to adapt and vary their style of teaching to meet the needs and learning styles of the learners in front of them is a basic of how and what we teach? My worry with a statement designed to clarify this is that it will head us down the same route that led to 5 – 14 and the stifling of a powerful education system.

Delivery Plan

Our Depute First Minister waited until almost all schools were on holiday to launch his Delivery Plan.My experience, in education and in other walks of life, is that this is normally when something which is being done to you rather than with you will be slipped through.  When everyone is looking to the break and not necessarily noting the emails or information coming through the door at the last gasp.  It was to be a consultation, it appeared as a document, not a draft. No consultation. What does it mean for us as professionals?  We are, as yet, not entirely sure because the overarching statements lack clarity and explanation and from my own understanding are still being “put together”.  One of the headline grabbers was the intention to give more money direct to schools by raising Council Tax on certain household bands but then remove it from authority A and redistribute in authority C or similar.  £100m per year over 32 authorities and 95% of schools.  We might get a sniff or we might get something more significant depending on how Mr Swinney decides to divide it up.  The paper says the money will be distributed based on FME but, as I mentioned in a previous edition, there are real concerns about this as an effective indicator of poverty and about the capacity to gather the information – not least because ‘entitlement’ is not measured, only those who claim become part of the statistics and that no longer happens at all in P1-3.  There is a real danger of a postcode lottery masquerading as equitable redistribution.  The plan  talks about governance and cluster work, about parental engagement and could even be read to allude to the removal of education from Local Authority control. There are many issues and possible solutions in this plan, however the ability to have so many items in place for the start of this session and soon after is “somewhat challenging” to say the least and that is only the tip of the iceberg when you take a look at the overall timeline for implementation.

Like you, my summer break is already a distant memory.  Above are only two of the multitude of things that have happened over the summer recess.  Perhaps the most difficult thing about all of this current agenda is the Government’s vocal commitment to tackling bureaucracy and improving education while we face a daily onslaught of more paperwork, more roles and responsibilities being passed to Head Teachers and school managers due to the reduction in central services.

 

This disconnect between the media-facing messages and member experiences is troubling and will do nothing to address the lack of applications for headship. Colleagues, we do have a duty to our members to work with and engage with Scottish Government and Education Scotland which we do take seriously and spend some considerable time in developing and growing.  However, there is still an element within me saying yes we talk, discuss and seek positive  change to plans and proposals but often as not decisions are already taken and in the process of implementation before we are invited to contribute. Because of that, suggestions and advice from professionals across the spectrum is ignored or over-ruled as it does not fit with pre-announced policy directions. It is crucially important that we take all opportunities available to improve policy for the better and that politicians and their advisors take full account of the views of practitioners.  This must not only be to tweak implementation strategies but also to direct the way forward for education.

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