As we crawl to Christmas I wanted to keep you up to date as we continue to be kept busy!
First of all, thank you to those who attended the conference. The evaluations were very positive and at the next Executive we will be discussing how we build on that success and respond to the feedback.
Our new web-site will be going live in January 2018 and we will send the link out when it’s ready.
We have engaged Graham Short to draft our response to the consultation on the Education Bill. He has been attending networks to seek the views of members to ensure that we have as detailed a submission as possible. The closing date is the end of January and we will share our response as soon as we are able. I would encourage you all to respond to this very important consultation.
Recently, we met with EIS representatives to discuss a range of topical issues. They share our concerns regarding the potential unintended consequences around further powers going to headteachers. We spent time discussing the important role of LNCTs in local authorities and the role they play in monitoring our approaches to reducing bureaucracy.
The EIS shared their concerns with us that some local authorities are defining windows for the new assessments to be carried out because they felt this could cause additional stress and work for their members. We stressed the importance of seeking agreement through LNCT as local authorities have no desire to add to workload and will be suggesting a very broad window believing this is a support to schools. AHDS also confirmed that some authorities are stipulating fairly narrow windows, for example, the month of April. I would ask you to reflect on this, particularly for the first year when these assessments are so new. The experience from the ‘norming’ exercise would suggest that there are likely to be some teething problems and we would not want anything to add to teachers’ stress and workload.
The EIS expressed their concern at the reduction in teachers in nurseries and their fear that this will continue as the expansion plans develop. We presented the position of local authorities, who are broadly supportive of teachers in nurseries, but when a teacher can only have 22.5 hours contact with up to 8 three and four year olds in all day term-time compared to a BA graduate who, even allowing for planning time, could have 30 hours of contact time with the same number of children, choices will be made as to what is affordable while maintaining quality through a graduate.
The discussion also covered attainment measures, impact of poverty on the school day, teacher training, recruitment and retention and headteacher recruitment. In these areas we very much shared the same view as EIS. We have agreed to consider further work with EIS and the Child Poverty Action Group on poverty-proofing the school day.
We also met with the Learning Directorate and Education Scotland (Graeme Logan) to discuss our ongoing relationship with them. Again, this was a positive meeting where we stressed the importance of collaboration not just across local authorities but also across ADES, Learning Directorate and Education Scotland. The Learning Directorate expressed some concerns about how members of their team felt at our networks. They reported that some staff had felt that comments being made were at times quite personal when they were there representing the government's position. We agreed that we work in challenging times and that no member of staff should feel under personal 'attack' attending a meeting. We agreed that we would relay this to members.
We met with AHDS on Friday. I wrote to Greg Dempster following the article in the Herald after their conference where AHDS members were citing workload issues from all authorities related to the use of the Pupil Equity Funding. I asked Greg if he could provide me with examples so that we could work together to address. However, to date, he has been unable to find clear examples from his members. This and the additional responsibilities for headteachers formed the main items for the meeting. Greg and Tim Wallace raised a number of very important issues that we need to consider going forward. I will prepare a summary of the issues for wider sharing.
Finally, I would like to wish you all a relaxing and restful Festive break - the pace of change is not changing so we will need all our energies for 2018!