Author Archives: Mr P

Welcome Back⤴

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I haven’t posted anything in over a year due to postponing my studies for a while for family reasons. I have now restarted and nearing the end of a module entitled Leading Change. This is a teacher leader research based module. I have set up a Teacher Learning Community in school and will look to assess or evaluate the impact it has on using formative assessment in class and in turn what impact it has on teaching and learning.

Leading Learning and Teaching⤴

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Have now completed this latest module in my MSc/SQH course. The final assignment involved writing a critical review of Frank Furedi’s latest book Wasted: Why Education Isn’t Working. I’ve now submitted this and just need to wait now to see if its a pass!

This has been an interesting module and has really made me think about why we teach what we do in schools. I have also found the current research being done in the field of neuroscience really fascinating especially involving dyslexia and dyscalulia.

Have a great summer!

Busy week!⤴

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Not been finding time to keep blog up to date as much as I had planned. This is the hectic time of year where there is so much to do and so little time. Why do we never plan school events across the whole year?

My reports are done, just some national test levels to be added, running a parents workshop tomorrow night, and got a final presentation to make on Wednesday at To Lead or Not to Lead leadership course run by Falkirk council. Also got two TLCs to fit in before end of June! Im sure i’ll manage.

MSc going fine and it now seems to be definite that successfully completion will also lead to attainment for Standard for Headship (SQH). But i’m a couple of years from finishing off. I posted my latest 1000 word discussion and now awaiting for a few others to post theirs so that I can find one to reply to.

Also looking in to applying for GTCS recognition in leadership and my work with teacher learning communities. Would be pleased to hear from any colleagues who have done this already.

Should Primary Headteachers lead by Pedagogical Example?⤴

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I was really intrigued by the Education Secretary’s recent call for more active involvement from headteachers in the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). Although this was primarily aimed at secondary headteachers, it is my experience that a lot of primary heads could also be more active in the roll out of CfE in their schools. It’s all very well to attend meetings and seminars with Learning Teaching Scotland (LTS) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) then come back to school and ask for various initiatives to be tried out and put in place. Because many heads and deputes (certainly in primary schools) do not teach, I feel they don’t always grasp the impracticalities and additional work generated by some ideas they hear in the lecture hall. Of course, secondary headteachers will be restricted to what they can teach depending on what subject they taught before entering management. As a primary school teacher and for the purpose of this discussion, I will be commenting mainly on some of the research I managed to find on teaching heads in the primary school.

Matthews (2009) discusses the characteristics of outstanding headteachers as school leaders and suggests that one of the important personal skills headteachers should possess is “modelling, leading by example, especially in teaching.” Webb (2005) carried out case studies in six English primary schools examining primary headteacher leadership. She focused on three different theoretical leadership models: educative leadership, instructional leadership and pedagogical leadership. The context of this research was against the backdrop of the introduction of the Education Reform Act (ERA)in England in 1988, but I feel that most of this research is relevant to how headteachers in Scotland could approach leading learning and teaching in the primary school. Indeed, there is research to show that there are many headteachers in Scotland who have to take a lead and teach in their schools and I have taught at a school where this happened. I will draw upon some of the research by Valerie Wilson to highlight the Scottish context of teaching headteachers.

Before 1988 and the passing of the ERA in England, many primary headteachers practised educative leadership. In essence they were involved directly in the teaching culture of the school, a working relationship with both pupils and teachers and a social work role with regards to the welfare of individual pupils to ensure a home life conducive to learning (Webb 2005). I would argue that many primary headteachers in Scotland still see this as part of their role or think that they continue to work this way.Instructional leadership can be considered to be a model of leadership influenced by central and local governments and other policy makers designed to bring about school improvement by establishing effective management structures and systems (Webb 2005). In other words, headteachers should not be concerned with educative leadership but focus more on administration and implementing centrally dictated policies and initiatives. Again, I feel that this is a model of leadership I have come across in my teaching career in Scotland. Take for example the pressures caused by HMIe inspections; meeting attainment levels, record keeping, self-evaluations etc all point to headteachers having to implement effective administrative procedures at the expense of being in the classroom to experience themselves the pressures and the enjoyment of being a classroom teacher.

Webb (2005:87) suggests pedagogical leadership as a third possible leadership model to overcome the prescription of instructional leadership. She does not advocate the combining of educative and instructional leadership but alternatively:

“…harnessing some of the routines and techniques of instructional leadership for their own purposes and interpreting these tasks in accord with the values and beliefs underpinning their pedagogical leadership.”

To me this means that headteachers should lead by example in the classroom as well as in the office. Certainly in larger schools, such as in my own context, the headteacher is supported by a depute and three principal teachers. In the age of distributed leadership, management tasks are further delegated to teachers and working groups. Can headteachers not organise their time more efficiently to allow them to spend some time in class leading learning and teaching?

Valerie Wilson (2008 & 2009) has focused her research on teaching heads in Scotland’s smaller primary schools. I began my career in a small semi-rural primary with 30 pupils located in the Central Belt. The staff consisted of the headteacher, two class teachers (with myself as probationer), two support for learning assistants and a part time administrative assistant. For a school of that size it was well staffed. As a probationer, I had 0.7FTE (full time equivalent) teaching commitment with the headteacher having to cover the remaining 0.3FTE contact time. Although the school roll was only 30, the amount of administrative tasks and paperwork demanded by local and central government, as well as the day to day running of the school (dealing with parents, cooperating on multi agency matters, staff issues), is just as demanding as it is in larger schools but with no management structure to fall back on. It is all on the shoulders of the headteacher. Wilson (2008:482-483) states that small school headteachers:

“… often have to act as their own janitors by turning on the heating, mending toilets, clearing leaves from the school playground, and opening the school – activities that would be eschewed by headteachers in urban settings.”

This was certainly true in my experience and time in the small school. On top of all these tasks, the headteacher also taught in class and did her own planning for that time. She had to be organised and manage her time effectively to allow her to do all these things. I argue that it must be possible in the larger primary school for headteachers to set a pedagogical example to their teaching staff especially in this time of flux and transition to CfE. However, I know that many headteachers are seconded for example, to local authority working groups or senior posts. Many act as associate assessors for HMIe as well as acting as tutors for student teachers for Initial Teacher Education institutes. These are all important roles and important for the headteacher’s continual professional development needs. Surely their first priority should be to the strategic development of their own school in term of raising attainment, developing staff skills and abilities as well as leading learning and teaching from the frontline of the classroom.

References

Matthews, Peter (2009) How do school leaders successfully lead learning? Nottingham, National College for School Leadership

Webb , Rosemary (2005) ‘Leading Teaching and Learning in the Primary School: From ‘Educative Leadership’ to ‘Pedagogical Leadership’’, Educational Management, Administration and Leadership 33, 69-91

Wilson, Valerie (2008) ‘The role of the teaching headteacher: A question of support?’, Teaching and Teacher Education 25, 482-489

Wilson, Valerie (2009) ‘Leading Small Scottish Primary Schools: Still a Unique Style?’, Educational Management, Administration and Leadership 37(6), 806-823

Neuroscience and Learning⤴

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I have recently been looking at research calling for nuroscientists, psychologists and teachers to work more closely together to improve and specifically target learning and teaching. There are some interesting developments going on with brain imaging technology and research into dyslexia and dyscalulia. Neuroscientists believe that with further research they can identify how teachers can better support those pupils and correct the fault with brain wiring.

I have also been looking at neuromyths – the idea of left and right brain and innovations such as Brain Gym. Recent reports in the press have also highlighted recent research in to the benefits of Brain Training software – another neuromyth.

Reading around this subject has certainly intrigued me to finding out more and possibly participating in some research of my own.

Distributed Leadership⤴

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Haven’t update for a while so thought I’d add some thought and observations to the blog.

Since returning from Aberdeen last weekend I’ve not had much time to continue with any course work but I am planning to put this Saturday aside to address that and bring myself up to date with reading and contribution to the WebCT online discussion forum. Our use of the online forum is recorded and the university look to make sure you have made sufficient use of the facility and have contributed to the course. It also helps to develop out online learning community.

I also thought I’d mention some other areas of leadership I am involved with in school. I am a class teacher but have distributed leadership repsonsibility for leading a school improvement working group. My group has been tasked with looking at literacy and how we take this forward with Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). From August until now we have been designing and creating a forward planner. This has taken a lot longer than I anticipated with lots of goin back to the drawing board and redrafting of our planner. I am quite confident we have now reached a stage where the plan can be trialled before the new school year and the start of CfE in August.

I also continue to be a member and facilitator of a Teacher Learning Community looking at embedding the use of Assessment Is for Learning techniques to increase pupil attainment. Being a facilitator has also meant drawing on leadership experience and what I have been learning from my studies as well as my participation in my authority’s leadership training.

I plan to use the blog more often as a learning journal and must get into the habit of adding to it more often and more regularly as an evaluation of what I am doing and learning about leadership in an educational context.

Curriculum for Excellence????⤴

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Was up in Aberdeen on the 13th of March for a tutorial meeting with some of the participants of my current MSc module Leading Learning and Teaching.

There was some topical debate and discussion on CfE and on how and what we should be teaching. This was referring back to Ferudi talking about the responsibility of the older generation to educate and pass on knowledge to the younger generation.

We got a good overview of the module ahead and some of the questions and issues we need to explore.

We got more clarification on the recent accreditation by the GTCS of this course as a Flexible Route to the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH). In year 3 of the course those wishing to attain SQH will require to undertake a work based project equating to 60 credits. Successful completion will lead to the award of MSc and SQH.

Off to carry on with my reading and add my thoughts to the web based discussion forums.

Leading Learning & Teaching⤴

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Currently reading Wasted:Why Education Isn’t Educating by Frank Furedi for my current module. We have been set the task of looking at What do young people need to know or be able to do to cope with the demands of a challenging future? Is CfE the answer?

Both The Scotsman and The Sunday Herald carried articles this weekend reporting that teachers are calling for a further one year postponement to implemeting CfE until assessment is sorted out. I feel that we have been given the new curriculum and we should just get on with it. As teachers we expect pupils to be flexible and to adapt to new situations, in this case many teachers need to start doing the same and embrace the new curriculum and and use their innovative skills to make Scottish Education the best in the world again!

I would welcome any comments or opinions from colleagues on Curriculum for Excellence as part of my master’s research.

Exploring Leadership module⤴

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I finally found out this morning that I passed the module and got what I think is a reasonable mark for my essay.

I have started reading for the next module – Leading Learning & Teaching and looking at a text by Frank Coffield – All You Ever Wanted to Know About Learning and Teaching. This was primarily written for FE students but it highlights and raises many relevant issues which teachers and lecturers should also be aware of.

Coffield talks about 3 kinds of learning; surface, deep and strategic learning. For the last module I was definitely a surface learner; I did what was required to achieve the pass. As Coffield points out, we all go through these 3 types of learning at different times, depending on priorities, relevance and interest. We do not stick to one type of learning.

Next module⤴

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The next module in my MSc course is about to start on 23rd Feb. To date, I have still to hear if I have passed the first module. I am used to having course work assessed and returned within a few weeks and most certainly before I start the next part of the course. I hope to hear soon!

The next module is called Leading Learning and Teaching and I will update the blog once i’ve begun.