Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vote Red Go Green

Sarah Boyack launched a new website today - snappily entitled "Vote Red Go Green" ...

You can find it here.

Now, I'm biased obviously, but there are no Green Party candidates in the first-past-the-post constituency section of the upcoming Holyrood elections ... so, if you've any green conscience at all - by all means use your list vote for the Greens if you must; but there is only one 'g'reen candidate on the other half of the ballot paper ;-))

You know I'm right on this one.

Appointment Interviews all morning ...

Now, as if to justify my earlier rant about dissolution (or lack of it) ... I do feel obliged to let you know that I've spent all morning today as part of the ever-regular interviewing panel for Head Teacher appointments!

And this evening, out to Sighthill Community Council to discuss a variety of educational issues.

It never stops ;-((

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blogging off?

Very interesting short article in the Guardian today ... "Why are so many people blogging off?"

As several of my regular readers have noticed, I've struggled to keep this very small blog up to date recently ... it appears I'm not alone ... have a read at:,,2043505,00.html

... I'm obviously in some very suspect company ;-)

But there is a serious point about how communication mediums come and go in popularity.

By the way; you may already have guessed, but I do think the Guardian is unparalleled in its news coverage amongst UK daily papers ... nothing else comes close as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Last Council Executive meeting before May

Well, last formal Council Executive meeting before May this morning - agenda to be found here. As the observant amongst you will spot - 73 items (yes 73) on the agenda!

Several of the reports were the fruition of long-running dialogue/s around education issues: James Gillespies High School building fabric report; South Morningside Primary School accommodation issues; Tynecastle Nursery School siting issues ... to mention but the obvious.

All the individual reports can be accessed at:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Director's Meeting ...

Director's meeting this morning ... should have mentioned before now, that City of Edinburgh Council has now agreed a replacement for the current Director when he retires in June 2007 - see here for further details.

Guess I've only got a handful of these meetings left now with the present incumbent ... whether by retirement (enforced or voluntary) they're going to come to an end soon ;-((

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Second day of "shadowing"

Second day of shadowing today ... did a bit of an article on all of this, which can be found here ... but thought it worthwhile copying the full text in this entry also (something I do try and avoid usually) ...

"On my mission to learn more about the workings of the Department many contacts had suggested I undertake some full-day 'shadowing' of a couple of posts within the Department, and I've now completed just that ... having spent a day with a Senior Social Worker at the Murrayburn Gate Social Work Centre; and another day with a Principal Teacher at Leith Academy. I've found both days completely invaluable and thought it would be worth saying why.

I tried to make sure that both days were as informally organised as possible and asked that I see, as far as feasible, a pretty ordinary working day in both environments. I think I managed to achieve this, but certainly wouldn't class either day as 'ordinary'.

Clearly, it wouldn't be sensible to spell out all of the detail of either day here, but suffice it to say that I was hugely impressed with the very wide range of duties that both post-holders had to undertake and how they coped with really rapidly changing situations from one hour to the next ... now, my 'ordinary' day is pretty varied (to say the least) but the pressures are certainly no greater than those being faced by the two staff members I've just spent a couple of days with.
Of course, I read endless reports on all of these issues, and I do patiently listen to staff members telling me about their daily pressures when I'm on regular establishment visits ... and I do try very hard to ensure those discussions are reflected in the decisions that are taken. But the actual experience of going through a days work, in both a social work and an education environment, has really evidenced the reality of those pressures in a way that no amount of reading/listening can do.

And, despite the obvious challenges being faced, I have to say that I found both days genuinely uplifting ... it's the best adjective I can think of to describe what I saw: yes - very difficult casework dilemmas, physical time pressures and constraints, some pretty challenging pupil behaviour, heavy paperwork duties ... but also numerous professionals completely dedicated to assisting those most in need (the vulnerable and the young) and giving of their all to make the very best of the time and resources they had to make as big a positive impact as humanly possible.

Difficult work I accept with yet more resources, I know, being required ... but also, definitely uplifting."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Shadowing" for two days!

I've been asked - on several occasions now - to spend a couple of days shadowing a Social Worker and a Teacher ... so I thought I'd pick up the gauntlet and do just that!

Thus today spent with a senior Social Worker at Murrayburn Gate Social Work Centre; and tomorrow with a Principal Teacher at Leith Academy ...

... more to follow tomorrow ...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Residential Care conference today

Spent most of today at a conference about Residential Care ... chaired one of the afternoon sessions.

There were some really excellent speakers from around the globe ... a very good reminder that it's always crucial to take a bit of time to listen to other international experiences - I know it will come as a shock to many, but everything in the UK isn't perfect ;-(

Monday, March 19, 2007

Council duties continue!

Now MSP's and the like get to go into a period of 'dissolution' ... for them it all starts on Tuesday April 3rd, when they technically no longer have a job! But for us poor souls at the Local Authority level, there is no period of dissolution and the business goes on right up until election day.

To that end ... had to sit through an interminable series of work-related meetings today ... every one a joy.

Now, I'm not going to claim that my diary won't have some room for campaigning come April ... but it is a little appreciated fact that I (just as an example) continue to be Executive Member for Children and Families right up until polling day, whilst MSP's (including all Ministers) are free agents come Tuesday 3rd April.

Woe is me ;-((

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Campaigning all day today ...

Campaigning almost all of today - things really stepping up a gear now.

Entering that stage were you tend to see more of Party colleagues than your own wife and family - very, very sad ;-((

That (very!) negative aspect aside ... I do just love election campaigns. And it is a slightly new experience for me this time round - as in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005 I've always been a Parliamentary agent as well as candidate (in 99 and 03 that is); twice for Sarah Boyack and twice for Alistair Darling.

But not this time ... I'm a mere candidate and nothing else ... and I am noticing a lot less pressure than normal and remembering just what a huge job being a Parliamentary agent (for whatever party) actually is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Prentice Centre

This afternoon went to visit the Edinburgh North 'Community Learning and Development' (CLD) team at the Prentice Centre ... the staff had really spent quite a bit of time in preparation (I'd guess!) and the presentations given to me were really very, very informative.
Thoroughly enjoyed a good, frank debate about the upcoming Neighbourhood Partnerships with them also ;-))

Amazing consensus

Amazing consensus at a hustings I attended (as speaker) earlier this morning!

Event had been organised by WEA Scotland and the four main parties were represented ... myself for Labour, Liz O' Malley for the Lib-Dems, Jeremy Balfour for the Tories, and Dave Hutchison for the SNP.

Just goes to prove that there isn't disagreement on every aspect of policy ... although how many politicians ever publicly accept that is always depressingly low ;-(

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Council Executive

Council Executive meeting this morning ... agenda can be found here.

Despite it really being a regular Executive meeting - according to the usual cycle - an exception made today to accommodate the P1 Intake Report for August 2007.

This specific report can be found here ... pleased to say that it really hasn't been as controversial an issue this year as last. Mainly due to Scottish Executive requirement for a reduction in P1 class size to 25 from August, along with the new targets for overall numbers of teachers. Both giving the Local Authority a little more room for manoeuvre in organising class sizes for this coming school year.

Monday, March 12, 2007


HMIE Inspection interview this morning as part of the Children Services Inspection - have mentioned all of this on several occasions before.

All a bit daunting, given the outcome of the last inspection that was undertaken in this area!

... and later this afternoon, visited Broomhouse Primary School - much more enjoyable ;-)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Manifesto Bus!

Wound the campaigning clock back a bit today!

Local Labour Party hired an open-top bus to tour round the city and launch it's local government manifesto ... was a thoroughly enjoyable day, which I really didn't expect it to be ;-(

It did seem that the vast majority of people we spoke to - and we're talking dozens and dozens here - were pretty warm towards the return to a more old-fashioned style of political campaigning.

They were even fairly receptive to the main messages in the local manifesto as well ;-))

Lagganlia yesterday

Up to Lagganlia Outdoor Education Centre yesterday ... very similar issues raised (obviously!) and discussed as when I recently visited Benmore.

Being a Friday, didn't meet any activity groups - all had just left - and thus was spared the gorge walk experience this time ;-)

Did get a bit more time to meet and talk to staff, and I certainly found both this trip - and the earlier one to Benmore - enormously useful. Hope the staff felt it worthwhile also!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Full Council today

Full Council meeting today ;-))

... agenda can be found here.

Main 'Children and Families' item was the second-round of school building programme - which I was pleased to see be approved with all-party support.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Two school visits today

Visited both Royston and Forthview Primary Schools today.

Really first-class work going on at both these schools, which serve very mixed catchment areas.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Just managing to survive ...

Just managing to survive the onslaught of microwave dinners brought about by our untimely abandonment this week ... didn't really cook the cat, but I have to say it has been tempting ... could have made up an excuse about an unfortunate accident ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Three-days of chaos ;-))

Well, I've been abandoned for three days this week - Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday ... as my better-half is off on a residential course for her Forest Schools training.

And, of course, rushed to drop 'junior' off at school this morning only to discover that the school was closed for the day due to a heating problem ... argghhh ... perfect timing ;-((

Thankfully I have some very accommodating neighbours who helped out at extremely short notice!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Young Edinburgh award

Young Edinburgh won an award today - part of the BT Seen and Heard 2006 programme.

Several of the team went to the Scottish Parliament to pick up their award, and certificates ... I accompanied them all seemed to really enjoy the afternoon. Great to see some positive recognition of their efforts.