Thursday, November 30, 2006
It is, no matter what actually happens in February, a real change in attitude from a few years ago when these services were just not considered an absolute priority - by any of the political groups.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I've got nothing but admiration for the vast, vast majority of social workers (and teachers!) who clearly work in extremely pressured environments, dealing with very challenging circumstances on a daily basis ... sadly, they get precious little public praise for the work they do; even more tragically it's often the reverse with totally unjustified attacks on their professionalism.
Anyone who doubts a social worker's (or teacher's) public worth should just go and spend a day with them.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Juniper Green was chosen, I guess, due to the presence of Susan Ward who recently won the Scottish and UK Probationer of the Year ... spent a brief spell in her classroom, and despite a dozen or so strange adults invading the room the children were still clearly completely engrossed in what they were doing and got right on with doing it.
No wonder she won the Probationer of the Year award!
Monday, November 27, 2006
Go on ... have a quick look and make up your own mind about who is proposing a serious programme of policy development to change people's lives??
Anyhow, enough of the political advert - Oban was looking great during the Saturday morning; great journey up and stunning scenery, then late afternoon and the heavens opened up big-style and the whole area was completely drenched. The drive back down to Edinburgh was pretty grim and unenjoyable.
Monday spent visiting two Community Centres in Edinburgh - Bingham and Royston/Wardieburn ... both very different, Bingham pretty small but with an active local programme; and Royston/Wardieburn a very big centre with a huge programme and focus on children and young people. Seemed to be really good work being undertaken at both centres.
Friday, November 24, 2006
All got me thinking, especially on top of the visit to Macdonald Road on Wednesday, about just how good the specialist educational services that City of Edinburgh Council provides are ... I know you'll be thinking 'he would say that' but it is actually true.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
In fact, it did go on right through to nearly 3.30pm ... but again, mostly dominated by transport and other areas, with Children and Families issues only really coming up through one of the reports. It will though be very different next month, with the outcome (and recommendations) from the Portobello Schools consultation coming back for a final decision.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
- Psychological Services
- Visiting Teaching and Support Services (VTSS)
- Hospital and Outreach Teaching Services (HOTS) ... I know ;-((
- English as an Additional Language (EAL)
- Neighbourhood Support Coordinators
- Education Welfare Service
- The e-Team
- Information and Learning Resources
It's near-impossible to get across, in a few paragraphs, the breadth and depth of these services that are provided to all schools across the city. They all seemed to be providing really excellent back-up to schools - I'm not going to contest there aren't issues: most significant of which is currently the sheer pressure of demand on some of the services; in particular EAL and the Neighbourhood Support Coordinators. But, I was hugely impressed by the staff I met and the brief glimpse I got of the work they are doing.
I can't help but share a little moment of excitement (not that I knew it at the time!) that happened when I was talking to the Neighbourhood Support Coordinators ---- all of whom are female, and one of whose number was obviously quite pregnant ... you've probably guessed it, yes she left the room in a bit of a hurry and I discovered much later that the baby was born not long afterwards (some 2 months early and only weighing in at 4lbs 2oz!). I'm relieved to say that both are apparently doing well and the jokes about my effect on women haven't stopped since word got out ;-))
And the day only got better - really - as I had the real pleasure of going to my first FanFare Concert this evening, at the Usher Hall. It's an annual event where the best of Edinburgh School music is showcased. I was really, really impressed - especially by the rendition of my favourite Killers' track "All These Things That I've Done"!
There was a real eclectic mix of music; from classic to rock to gospel, with much more in between! I went, briefly, backstage at the end of the event and the pure excitement of the young people was completely uplifting ... they knew, as I did, that the event had been a huge success.
Great evening ... especially for a certain Neighbourhood Support Coordinator ;-))
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Really enjoyed presenting the awards - to around 40 people who could attend, but there were also around another 40 who couldn't ... now maths isn't my strongest point [I actually only managed a C at Higher Grade ;-(( ] but I make that about 2,000 years of public service to the City of Edinburgh. That's pretty remarkable.
I do worry that all of this completely invaluable service will come to an end in the not too distant future and I'm not at all convinced that people are staying as long in one career (or even with one employer) these days. I'm an example of that very fact myself ;-((
Monday, November 20, 2006
The first main category - housing-related problems - can now be very hard to solve. Edinburgh, like most Scottish local authorities, has had most of its good housing stock privately purchased under the 1980's right-to-buy legislation. The housing stock under our direct control is now half what it was a few years ago, and is diminishing on a yearly basis. Many of the requests for help in this area are for larger houses, with more bedrooms, and these are just the type of properties that have in the main been privately purchased. Often, some are available but 'not often' in the areas that my current constituents are keen to move to ... many do have to compromise, if they want a larger Council house, by widening their search areas.
Second main category is equally as difficult - there are many more powers available to local authorities now, but often tenants are pretty reluctant to pursue some avenues. Although, I can only praise my own local Community Council who have been incredibly pragmatic about some fairly serious anti-social behaviour issues in the local estate. As opposed to just complaining, they've actually enlisted support from various Council Departments to put on a series of Summer Activities over the last few years; and this year that is now turning into a permanent programme of youth activities in the local Community Huts. I've helped were I can, but the main effort has definitely come from the local community - pretty impressive when you think about it.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Dreadful day all round ;-))
Friday, November 17, 2006
Actually looking forward to it, as my own son (now nearly 9 and moved on from Hairy Maclary!) used to really love Lynley Dodd's books when he was little ... a little known fact I was able to pass on to the children (and staff!) is that Hairy Maclary isn't actually Scottish ;-(( Everyone assumes so, but if you follow the Lynley Dodd link, you'll see she is actually a New Zealander - the giveaway in the books are all the antipodean plants and trees in the wonderful pictures. Not a Scottish plant or tree to be found!
Another Headteacher appointment committee this afternoon. They seem to come thick and fast.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Very calm atmosphere in all the classes I went into - even the children going into the main hall to watch a slide presentation were remarkably quiet? And the entrance hall, public corridors etc. all looked great with really colourful and informative displays on every inch of the wall-space!
There's a languauge unit within the grounds - housed within a pretty old Temporary Unit (T.U.), which is clearly getting passed it's best, but despite that the work inside seemed really impressive. The 'grounds' themselves could also do with a bit of investment and I'll need to tread carefully (sorry about the pun) looking for such investment in a school that happpens to be within my ward ;-))
Met with some officers from the Council's Sustainable Development unit later this afternoon ... some issues brewing about just how much 'sustainability' can be built into the second-round of school buildings programme. It's the usual panic to clarify costs and terms in the last few weeks of negotiation before the final contract is signed, hopefully in January. I do sense that the tension will continue until the last few hours before contract closure!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Very much looking forward to playing a positive role on the Board in a few weeks time - as someone who uses Craiglockhart Sports Centre and Dalry Swimming Baths I do appreciate the facilities provided at a local level here in Edinburgh.
Later this afternoon, a further meeting on The Learning Hubs project that is being developed for the City ... does seem to have huge potential and really keen to see it trialled (at least) in a specific geographic area - best way to test it before any much wider roll-out.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I really do think some of the problems are a direct result of success - you may think I would say that, but I do believe it to be true. There's been a huge transformation in the vacancy rate for Social Workers; and now appears to be many more referrals, partly as a result of this but probably more as a result of an increasing awareness of child protection requirements generally ... I do have to note though that the increase in Social Workers - although to the good obviously - has led to a big spike in the numbers of probationers and all the training requirements that go with that. So great progress, but big costs, more workload and more training - seems to be the perennial local government 'two steps forward, one step back'.
There were several other reports which merited quite a bit of discussion; Closing the Gap; 2020 Vision; Go 4 It; Play 4 It; Duke of Edinburgh scheme; to mention but a few - they can all be seen through Council Papers on Line by following this link and the actual agenda is here.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Anyhow, back to Prestonfield ... really interesting school design (75 years old), with all the classes in a 'courtyard effect' around a central garden. All the classes seemed very settled and there was a very welcoming atmosphere to the whole establishment. I'll bet they even have a successful football team ;-))
Hutchison and Chesser Community Council (CC) meeting this evening ...
Friday, November 10, 2006
Budget looking particularly tight, with no easy answers I'm afraid. I would say this wouldn't I ... but it really does appear to me that the 'services' for children and families are just in greater and greater demand - despite falling 'school' numbers - and this is leading to some systemic pressures for the future that are just not going to be easily addressed.
Frying pan and fire definitely come to mind ;-((
Thursday, November 09, 2006
LDC was enjoyable - honestly! A few presentations on planning issues and how the Council deals with developer contributions (section 75 planning gain); which were followed up by small discussion workshops. There was a good level of debate and some robust views aired about how aggressively (or not) the Council was pursuing developers for additional infrastructure contributions.
Also a paper on the small grant awards that have been given to date, and Central LDC still has a fair bit of a budget left - so any Central Groups out there with a good project idea; get it into the system quick ... if you're not sure how it all works, have a look at this LINK The stalwarts from Hutchison and Chesser Community Council were there of course, and I'm hoping they'll get an application in quickly!!
Greendykes Children and Families Centre visit this afternoon ... was my first Children's Centre visit since taking on the new post and it was a real eye-opener. Management and staff I met were absolutely first-class and the service/s being provided were obviously being fully utilised by the wider local community. There were some really challenging children (from very challenging families) in the centre but there was an unquestionably positive atmosphere and approach being followed. Great to see.
Did prompt a question in my mind though - all the children there are 'referred' through social work and/or other avenues and by its very nature the centre is providing completely first-class services ... but it's not including the children in mainstream provision of these services (or vice-versa for that matter) and it's certainly a different approach than if these children were more general special needs, where they would be included in mainstream provision if at all possible as that's widely seen as a much more powerful route to improve their (and others) experiences and life-chances. Would genuinely welcome any thoughts on this??
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I've now done most of the 'Heads' group meetings, and all have been remarkably civilised - teachers are obviously just far too polite ;-))
Joking aside, I've had small pre-meetings for all of the groups (where 3 or 4 group office bearers have turned up) and these have been much more informative and useful to me - just goes to prove that it really is pretty difficult to get a good two-way dialogue with fairly large audiences.
Consultative Committee with Parents (CCWP) this evening - not a great turnout compared to a few weeks ago, and again I found the meeting quite difficult to chair in that it still is a fairly large group and I'm not convinced that a large round-table meeting is the very best way to handle all of this committee's business ... I'll need to give some thought to possible alternative formats??
Monday, November 06, 2006
The young people at the Centre made me very welcome, gave me a comprehensive tour of the facilities, thrashed me at pool unfortunately, and even allowed me to join them for their evening meal. There are only 7 places at Northfield, lots of staff on a constant rota, and quite obviously pretty high paper-costs for running such a facility. But ... just looking at those costs doesn't portray the intensive, and necessary, care the young people at Northfield are obviously receiving and which is clearly a positive investment in all our futures, not just theirs.
I was impressed with Northfield.
On to the internal Labour Party selection meeting this evening ... I really didn't enjoy the process, but managed to get through it successfully and am now the Labour Party candidate for the new "Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart" multi-member ward. 39 Branch Members present for the vote, biggest turnout so far for the 17 new wards, and only goes to underline the stiff competition there was ;-((
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
Around lunchtime, rushed up to St. John Vianney Primary School, which was celebrating its 50th Anniversary - they had an absolutely fantastic display of the past 50 years all along the hall corridors. It really was first-class and must have taken pupils/staff/parents a lot of work to pull together. An excellent event all round. Oh, and the buffet-lunch provided was rather good also ;-) ... confusion does now though abound in the 'worst sausage roll in Scotland' debate ...
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Later this afternoon, involved in a Head Teacher appointment process ... some very noisy pavement works going on out in the Quadrangle of the City Chambers, which thankfully we were able to suspend for a couple of hours. I fear the contractors may charge us downtime ;-((
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Standard Life Achievement Awards ceremony this evening ... very enjoyable event. Literally dozens of innovative projects up for the six main categories of award, and all of a really excellent standard. The ceremony itself was up at The Hub at the top of the Royal Mile, and made for a great venue and atmosphere.
So refreshing to be part of something so positive and celebratory - but will it generate the press coverage it so obviously deserves ... I'm not holding my breath fortunately ;-)