Meeting with Angela Constance MSP 2nd April 2015

Dr Judith McClure

Margaret Alcorn

Simon Macaulay

We three arrived early on a beautiful Spring afternoon for our meeting with AngelaConstance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. The meeting had been set up by Dr Judith McClure who has a CV rich in leadership experiences. Currently she is the Chair of the Advisory Board of SCSSA, and is the architect and convenor of SCEN (The Scotland China Education Network). Each of us had given notice of an area of leadership that we hoped to discuss with Ms Constance. Judith’s centred on the role of headteachers in relation to the local authorities, and how they can be empowered to be innovative and freed up from central control and bureaucracy. Our conversation strayed into a wider discussion of the difficulties that local authorities are currently facing, as budget cuts begin to really bite and the capacity for officers to support schools decreases. Judith argued that change was needed urgently and referred to the recommendations made in the By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education report. I was next up and had very cleverly (well I thought so) combined two related issues. I wanted to talk about our continuing failure to close the attainment gap, an issue which Sir John Jones suggested should be causing us “righteous indignation”. A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation “Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Scotland 2015” acknowledged that progress had been made, but that on current projections it will take a further 30 years before the gap is closed. This is a clear concern of the Scottish Government and we welcomed the setting up of “The Attainment Challenge” and the allocation of a £100 million fund to improve educational outcomes. I argued that innovative and committed leadership of this initiative was needed in order to ensure success from this investment. I suggested that we should seek a charismatic and inspirational leader to create a clear vision, and ensure coherence and consistency. There were some interesting international comparisons which could inform the project, and the leaders of these, such as Avis Glaze who led the transformation of the Ontario education system, or Sir Tim Brighouse who did so much to bring success to the schools involved in the London Challenge could act as consultants for us. I further suggested that the usual model of a central group of experts deciding what needed to be done, the production of “support materials” and a website, launched by a national event, with the implementation then monitored by the experts, was no longer viable and did not reflect research evidence of what makes for effective change management. We needed locally‐driven, bottom‐up, flexible developments which acknowledged local teachers, parents, community members and pupils as the experts.

My second (related) issue was the need to address support for schools in implementing Scotland’s Young Workforce. Again the theme of locally‐owned change seemed relevant. The third member of our group was Simon Macaulay who led the Scottish Government’s Working Group on Languages 2012, and is an honorary teaching fellow at the university of Aberdeen. Simon has become particularly concerned with the development of the teaching of Mandarin in our schools. He asked that the Scottish Government gave a message to secondary headteachers that Curriculum for Excellence does not aim to a narrowing of the curriculum in S4 and that languages, especially Chinese, should be an entitlement for all young people in the Senior Phase. Simon reflected on the good progress that was being made in the 1 + 2 Languages Plan, particularly in the primary sector, but argued he was concerned that the learning of languages in our high schools seemed to be in decline.

The Cabinet Secretary engaged positively with the points that we made, but said she believed that many of our suggestions were concerns for the local authorities rather than for Scottish Government. She was unwilling to become too engaged in pointing fingers or making judgements on local issues. She reiterated the absolute commitment of the Government to the 1+2 Plan, and acknowledged the importance of learning languages to the development of young people. However the balance between empowering headteachers to be more innovative, and offering central direction was a difficult one to maintain. She had been very impressed with the ambition, methodology and scope of the “Raising Attainment for All Programme”which had been launched in June of last year. Twelve local authorities and over 100 schools across Scotland have committed to becoming part of this learning community which will support the implementation of improvement methodology and enable shared learning across the country. The focus in this programme is very much on collaboration in the service of improvements for children.

Finally the Cabinet Secretary also reminded us that there were many positive developments, such as the launch of SCEL (the Scottish College for Education Leadership), the new and developing partnerships between local authorities and universities, and the allocation of significant funds through the Attainment Challenge. The progress made since the publication of Teaching Scotland’s Future in 2010 would be reviewed in a series of legacy events over the next few months.

#Brainstrust2…… Improving School Leadership: Can our current strategies deliver?

Improving School Leadership: Can our current strategies deliver? June 3rd 5.00 – 6.30pm.

City of Glasgow College, City Campus North Hanover Street, 60 North Hanover Street, Glasgow
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Plans for the Scottish College for Educational Leadership are now advancing and a new CEO will be appointed soon. Join us for an open discussion on all aspects of educational leadership and on whether SCEL and other current leadership development strategies will deliver their stated objectives.

Margaret Alcorn (Convenor of SELMAS) will host the event and chair the discussion. Our panelist are: Margery McMahon, Lead National Co-ordinator for SCEL; Walter Humes, academic and journalist, currently Visiting Professor of Education at the University of Stirling and a regular contributor to the online journal Scottish Review; Danny Murphy, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Edinburgh; Rodger Hill, Education Officer, Dumfries & Galloway, with responsibility for leadership development and secondary staffing issues and Sue Beattie, , who is currently Head Teacher at Belmont Academy,
Sue has a passionate interest in building leadership capacity and ensuring high quality CPD for staff. She has been actively involved in projects with Tapestry, SELMAS and SCSSA with a focus on all aspects of leadership.

This will be a free event but, to ensure that we can match numbers, accomodation and catering, please let Alex Wood know if you intend attending by emailing him the completed booking form below. SELMAS looks forward to a great discussion and welcoming our many west of Scotland members to our first recent event in Glasgow.
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We are grateful to Glasgow College for hosting this event. SELMAS gratefully acknowledges a grant from the Scottish Government in support of leadership development work in Scottish education.

In the round……Instructional Rounds, Learning Rounds and a little bit more…..

MArgaretMargaret Alcorn, SELMAS convenor  reflects on Learning Rounds: The story so far

In 2006 and 2007, two groups of Scottish educators were sponsored to attend the Harvard Summer School as part of the Scottish Government’s International Thought-Leaders’ Programme. Their mission was to engage with leading American educationalists and to soak up ideas, perceptions, strategies and innovative practice.

As a direct result of this initiative, Professor Richard Elmore was invited to Scotland in 2007 to share his work in the area of System-Wide Improvement, and specifically to demonstrate and illustrate the Instructional Rounds Programme which he was then trialling in the Boston and Philadelphia areas. Throughout his visit Professor Elmore led a number of presentations and workshops across Scotland, in which he focused on his central message of the need to develop the teaching profession through a core practice, with a clear and shared core language. He described Instructional Rounds as a way to ensure and develop accountability as teachers select courses of action by adopting common norms, and by making claims and taking action based on evidence. He concluded his visit by leading an Instructional Rounds in a high school in Fife.Richard_Elmore_2

The response to this visit was extraordinarily positive, and the Scottish Government commissioned the National CPD Team and SCSSA to take forward the development of a Scottish model, based on Elmore’s key theories, and which became known locally as Learning Rounds. This development was intended to support schools and authorities in developing internal accountability, and to create a powerful form of professional learning aimed at helping schools and systems develop the capacity to educate all children to high levels.

In developing the Scottish model, the team was careful to maintain a focus on the key characteristics that had led to the success of the Instructional Rounds model in the States. These included a commitment to observation in groups, clear and established protocols for observation, analysis of the observations on site, and a focus on the key question, “What is the next level of work?”

Several years later, and it is clear that the Instructional Rounds model continues to deliver in the States. A veritable flurry of publications by the Harvard Education Press have explored the protocols, practice and impact of the model. It is perhaps a good time to reflect on the experience across Scotland in the last few years.

There is little doubt that Learning Rounds is popular with educators, who like the personal ownership of their learning offered by the programme. Many talk positively about the opportunity it offers to talk to colleagues about pupil learning in a structured and non-judgmental group, and of the powerful insights and new understanding which can emerge as a consequence.

There is however some evidence that we have yet to see the full potential of the programme realized. A group of three Edinburgh schools worked together over the Spring term, in partnership with a team of local authority officers and consultants, to try to identify how the positive outcomes of the Learning Rounds programme could become more firmly embedded in practice, in order to achieve a more significant improvement in the impact of the experience. This was Learning Rounds+. Although the programme has not yet been fully evaluated, key issues emerged which are of some significance for those establishments planning Learning Rounds in the year ahead.

Where the impact of involvement in Learning Rounds had been less clear, it seemed to be related to a pick ‘n’ mix approach to the protocols. The programme is best when it is followed as a whole. While each individual element can offer a valuable learning experience (lesson observation, table mat discussion, non-judgmental discussion, etc.) it is the totality of the programme that delivers success.  For this reason, the Learning Rounds + team agreed that it was helpful to have an experienced facilitator for the first go at Learning Rounds in any school.

The Harvard publications mentioned to above also refer to the need to see Learning Rounds (or Instructional Rounds) as a process, part of the way the school develops and improves rather than an event. In the most recent publication the author Thomas Fowler-Finn says:

It will be two to three years before what participants learn from rounds shows up in the classroom.” 

This time scale seems equally appropriate for the Scottish version.  In the Learning Rounds + programme, the establishment of a Learning Circle by the school leadership teams was a very positive way to co-coach and build inter-school collaboration.

The third significant theme to emerge from the Learning Rounds + programme was the need to link the discussion on next steps with other school improvement processes such as Professional Review and Development, school improvement planning, in-school in-service, etc. This helped to build the Learning Rounds culture within the school, and ensured that there was a sustained commitment to next steps of learning.

Finally, and importantly, Learning Rounds + taught us that the programme has the greatest chance of making a real difference in those which have created a culture of shared learning and trust. As with all the very best CPD, the best outcomes emerge when teachers are positive and engaged.

SELMAS 2012: No school is an island

SELMAS conference – No school is an island

In January 2012, members of the SELMAS network got together at Tynecastle High in Edinburgh to talk about collaborative and partnership working.

Margaret’s introduction

Mick Waters’ talk

Mick Waters at SELMAS from National CPD Team on Vimeo.

Colin Graham

Eric Summers on International Links

Susan Deacon summing up