Welcome back to a new year and a new school term.  Next week our seniors sit their prelim exams and this will help add to the picture we are building up about their progress.  Back in August I spoke of increased expectations and we have worked hard to keep revisiting this over the session.  I have not only been asking this of the pupils I have also been asking it of our staff and of myself.

From the start of this session I have asked an Attainment Adviser from Education Scotland to come in and provide  support and challenge to our leadership team.  As well as 3 visits from the Attainment Adviser we also asked the Local Authority to come in to monitor our progress and identify strengths and areas for further improvement.  This week, in my role as Convener of General Teaching Council Scotland, I shall be in Stavanger at an International Conference for School Evaluation and Improvement.  This will be a chance to meet with leading experts in education and I am sure there will be a great deal which will benefit Harlaw Academy from my involvement.

The point I want those reading this blog to take from this is the importance of support/challenge and indeed the approach we all take to support/challenge.  I think this is particularly important when we are thinking of young people in the modern world.  Do we surround ourselves with people who we ‘like’ or who give us positive feedback (support) or do we look for people who are more critical or take a different view?  Do we attend revision sessions or join friends in a revision group or do we retreat into a shell and rely on our own devices.

I can demand increased expectations all I like but it will not make a bit of difference unless people decide to do some work.  Every single pupil can have a resolution to work harder this session but unless they do it then nothing will change.  My way of making sure I actually do something is to hold myself accountable eg to the Attainment Adviser or the Local Authority. As a pupil I was great at writing revision plans and rubbish at sticking to them.  As an adult I am great at setting new year resolutions but not as good seeing them through.

In order for us to deliver increased expectations we need to reach out to support each other and we also need to challenge each other to be the best we can be and perhaps to be even a little better than that.