School community

19 02 2015

I have had some gentle encouragement to begin this blog again and I did get quite a surprise when I looked at it and realised it had been over a year since I last wrote in it.

Quite a lot has changed since then. Not long after that last post I became full time Acting Head Teacher as my HT’s secondment became full time. She then went on maternity leave and so I have continuously been acting head for over a year now.

I have got calmer at home than I was initially, with not so many sleepless nights, although I still struggle with comfort eating! Especially since about November I have worked hard on work life balance as I am running many miles alongside other exercise and am working hard to fit it all in.

I know it is a cliche but the past year has certainly been a major roller coaster of a ride. Some things I have had to deal with are not really appropriate for writing about publicly but some others will be worth reflecting on here.

I have still been enjoying reading this blog, School Leadership – A Scottish Perspective
and George’s latest post on hearing an address by Sir John Jones struck several chords. I heard him speak at our SQH awards ceremony and was similarly inspired and this post was great to be reminded of that.

George talks of how you learn most about yourself and your team when things are not going well and I certainly saw this happen last term. In November a much loved, long serving member of clerical staff died after a sudden, short illness.

This would be a difficult situation to deal with in any place of work but in a school not only did I have the staff to inform and support but we had to tell the children and then the parents. The hardest part was then doing our weekly assembly the next day which had all of the pupils and a large number of parents and members of the community there. I am sure that assembly will remain one of the hardest things I ever have to do as a school leader and it took me the whole weekend to recover from just from that.

However I drew strength to be a leader every day during this time from all of the staff within the school, and many of our parents. Everyone was so supportive of each other and to the children and it really showed the way the whole school community could pull together. I was so proud of being a part of that, although it was in the worst possible circumstances.

And about myself…I certainly learned that I could hold it together and be there for other people when it really matters. Although I do not very find it easy to admit when I think I have done something well I know that I dealt with this as sensitively as I could, consistently tried to look after everyone (and people did a good job of looking after me too) and took their feelings and opinions into account when making decisions. I sought advice from others but also trusted my instincts and did what I thought was right at the time.

Changing Roles

27 01 2014

The last time I wrote a post I had just finished my last taught day for SQH.  A few weeks after that I had my VIVA which thankfully I passed.  Positive comments from my VIVA report included that I have very strong professional values and a strong commitment to the school and pupils and parents, as well as being self-reflective, have good inter-personal skills, am able to take others with me and that I am pragmatic, strong on the ground and practical.  However, as I have recognised myself I am not always a very deep, analytical thinker and that some of my answsers lacked depth.  Things for me to think about and work on!

The same week that I passed my VIVA my head teacher was successful in gaining  a part time secondment to the local authority as a quality improvement officer.  This mean that from a few weeks before Christmas I became official Acting Head Teacher for the first half of the week, thankfully with the PT acting up to DHT too so that I was not on my own!  This I have found challening so far, mainly because of my own, often sub-conscious worry of something going wrong, and I have realised however many months I was able to go extremely low carb and no sugar before Christmas I am still a comfort eater and have also been having trouble sleeping on a Sunday night!  I know this will calm down as I grow in confidence and all of the staff have been extremely supportive which has really helped.

One aspect of leadership that I have now been learning about/having to deal with quickly is delegating to other members of an SMT, in this case the PT/DHT.  I felt awkward about this initially as I do not like asking other people to do things when I know they have other responsibilities too and there is still an element of me wanting to do things myself, which I know is unsustainable!  I am slowly getting better at this and will keep working on it.

We had our Rights Respecting Schools Level 1 award assessment 3 days before the Christmas holidays; horrendous to get ready for at the time but great to get it over and done with!  We passed and the assessors were pleased with warm welcome they received, the knowledge the pupils had and the way everyone was working together.  Our primary ones absolutely blew us away with the way they talked about rights they know they, and all other children, have and how they are kept safe and protected in school. 

We have since had an open afternoon for schools in the cluster to see how we laid out our evidence and went about the assessment and are going to be working with  our partnership nursery to help them to undertake RRSA.  I have also been asked to go on the RRSA assessors training as the QIO doing our assessment felt that the systematic, methodical and thorough way I had undertaken and implemented our action plan would be of great help to other head teachers so I have the training for that this Friday.

I am struggling just now slightly to find a focus for this blog as I feel there is so much I am learning about in this role but that is not appropriate for me to write about in a public context and I do not feel enough of an expert to write with authority either.  I have been really enjoying other leadership blogs at the moment though including OldPrimaryHead, Johntomsett, School Leadership – A Scottish Perspective and One Head and Her Dog.  These are giving me pause for thought, I guess I need to make sure I think deeply enough about them!

Being Inspired, Enabled and Empowered

25 09 2013

I’ve had an inspiring couple of days, yesterday at my last taught day for the SQH programme and today at SLF.

I have passed all of my written assignments now and just (!) have the VIVA to go, although I am not sure when that will be yet. We spent the first part of the morning preparing for that and then a couple of head teachers spoke to us, which partly reassured me and partly terrified me.

The highlight of the day for me though was two presentations by David Cameron. There were some practical tips on, for example, time wasters but the really inspiring parts were about his own English teacher encouraging him, his views on vision and purpose, and leadership. One example within leadership was that he talked of people needing from leaders certainty, early anticipation and creative responses, clarity of purpose and expectations, cohesion, engagement and direction and support. He also talked about a leader’s need to enable and empower others, which I will come back to later.

I’m not doing justice to the afternoon but suffice to say I would liked to have recorded it to be able to listen back to on hard days!

Now that I have almost finished SQH I have been doing some reflecting on the journey. I think it is only now that I am at this point that I can clearly see how I have developed as a leader over the last 2.5 years (conveniently while also taking on more of a leadership role). Rightly or wrongly during it I was too immersed in trying to do everything to take time to reflect.

I feel I am just developing my ability to enable and empower others to become leaders themselves but it is something I feel passionate about and wrote about in my final assignment:

“This is an aspect of leadership I feel strongly about developing as I have benefited, and progressed, as a result of the support, encouragement and opportunities given to me by my own leaders.”

My current head teacher is all of things I have described above but I would not have got to the point I have without a former head teacher who was all of those things and more. Andrea Reid was my head teacher when I was at Castlefield Primary and it cannot be underestimated how much of an influence she was for me professionally and personally.

Without her passing me an email about an initial study visit way back in 2007 I would not now have spent a total of 3 months in Malawi almost all of which has been spent immersed in rural village life, which led to so much personal and professional development for me.

Without taking up other opportunities I was given I may not have been able to have the chance as acting PT, and it was being asked to lead on Glow within the school, and then being given a talking to when hesitating, that saw me take on a two year secondment to the local authority. I certainly grew from these experiences and they definitely helped me get the PT post in my current school.

Although a challenging and difficult journey at times, that encouragement, and gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, pushing have got me to the point of being a deputy head for almost two years now and near the end of my SQH journey.

I’m stealing a quote here that a friend of mine used in the context of running 24 hour races for Team GB but I think fits well for me on this journey, even if it did not always feel like it at the time!

“Contrary to what we usually believe the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

My experiences in Malawi and completing my SQH project spring to mind here, as does completing the West Highland Way race last year!

It has been more than just professional though, these events, circumstances and developments have changed me personally too. I know it is cliched but ten years ago if I could have seen myself now I would not have believed how much I could change and grow in confidence.

So, thanks Andrea! So much of my development was as a result of your belief in me (and seeing in me what I had not seen in myself) and I thought it would be nice to acknowledge that, and let you know I am now at the beginning stages of starting to do the same for other people – I hope!

Today I attended two seminars around Human/Children’s Rights Education. The second one was mainly led by a class teacher from Lourdes Primary in Glasgow and a head teacher of 2 primaries within Argyll and Bute. They were discussing projects they had undertaken to do with Human Rights. The enthusiasm and hard work the class teacher had put in was obvious and there were some great ideas for informing others about this, most of which came from the children and included a flashmob in assembly! The head teacher was unequivocal in his belief that this is essential education for children and has the power to change lives. This may have serious consequences such as children coming forward with personal difficulties that require police/social work involvement but it is every child’s right to receive an education about their rights and our responsibility to deliver it.

So when I go back to school tomorrow I’m going to be trying to remember, and act on, my values and vision in education, the purposes of a leader and education and the passion to continue on our Rights Respecting journey! Just some small tasks then!

School’s out!

28 06 2013

Finished at 1pm, in the airport by 4.45pm! Off to Burma, Brunei and the Philippines; well deserved I think after this term of usual school work and pulling together my SQH evidence!

Still got my final assignment to do and viva to prepare for when I get back but I can think about that in a few weeks!


10 04 2013

Recently I was shopping for my niece’s 3rd birthday present and as I happened to be in town I thought I would check out Hamley’s. Knowing how she likes dressing up I checked out the dressing up costumes first. Now leaving aside the prices which meant I definitely wouldn’t be buying her one from there I was horrified at the choices. There were pink mini-skirted, skimpy bat girl or super girl costumes as well as the usual things (my niece is as likely to dress up in her brother’s muscly batman costume as dress up as a princess) and then I saw a white coat with pink on it hanging up. I picked it up thinking maybe it was a girly doctor’s coat only to discover that it was a beautician’s coat! And needless to say there was nothing like a doctor’s coat or anything similar in the girl’s section!

Out of sheer curiosity I then headed over to the boy’s section on the other side of the store where unsurprisingly there was a doctor’s coat! I wouldn’t mind there being a beautician’s coat in the girl’s section if there was a doctor’s coat as well but there definitely wasn’t! Are we still seriously sending out these types of stereotypical messages?!

RRSA pupil discussions

9 03 2013

One of our action points for our RRSA (Rights Respecting Schools Award) was to update some of our policies in line with the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child).

This was one of a variety of reasons for us to look at our positive behaviour and bullying policies (my situational analysis for unit 2 of SQH brought out other reasons) and we have been looking in depth at the positive behaviour policy.

This policy was in place within the school before any of the current SMT were at the school and we have been able to consult thoroughly with all staff and pupils and and are about to do so with parents to gain views from everyone.

One of the things we wanted to do was make sure we were not missing any other ideas as it does not always feel that golden time for example works particularly well. (In fact in tracking it fully and questioning every child about it, it does work for most children more than we thought.)

So I organised an afternoon where children from RRSA or pupil council groups in schools across our cluster were invited to our school to share their ideas. I then collated these and emailed them back to the schools involved. It was very simple to set up, just flip charts with different questions on them and the children rotated round them in different groups like a graffiti board co-operative learning activity with an adult at each group to help facilitate discussion. The questions were around rewards, sanctions, RRSA activities and how they have involved the local community, with additional time at the end for further ideas, questions and next steps.

It ran itself very easily and we actually felt from the responses that we were broadly doing the same as other schools. That was the end of it I thought but at our local authority RRSA steering group meeting a couple of schools brought up how successful and useful they thought the event was and so I have been asked to run it again and it will be filmed for the local authority and Education Scotland as well as having staff filmed, which probably means me as no-one else wants to do it!

It was nice to have other schools mention independently how useful they thought the event was, hopefully it will prove useful second time round too!

Primary 2 blog

10 02 2013

Last year while still PT I began a blog with my P2 class and the teacher I was sharing with. This year a new P2 teacher has decided to carry this on with her class and after a little help from me to set it up they recently wrote their first post.

You can find the blog here:

P2 Clydemuir

They are mostly planning to use it, as I did previously, to communicate with parents and families and used as such I have always found it very successful.

Towards the end of last year I established a school website for Clydemuir. This is the third school website I have set up and has been by far the easiest, although probably the one with the least freedom too! However that mostly suits me as it has to be easy to use. I have trained a learning assistant to work with pupils to update their class pages and this is working well for the same purpose too. It’s still hard to remember to fit in time to update it though!

You can see it here:

Clydemuir Primary