Dealing With Exam Results- Pass or Fail.⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

(The original text of my article in TES Scotland 20th November 2017)

It would seem, if you follow the progress of our exam system through both social and traditional media, that from P1 to S3 exams don’t matter; then they do for a couple of years, but only if you do well; then we’ll photograph your kids literally jumping for joy and put it in the papers. If they don’t, we’ll create a Twitter hashtag telling them that it doesn’t matter. A conveyor belt of ‘celebrities’ will sympathise, claiming, ‘I got nothing at school and I turned out all right, didn’t I?’ We’ll all have our stories of why exam success isn’t the be all and end all.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between.

With each year of experience it’s often sobering to think of the number of young people who come through my classroom door. Entering my nineteenth year of teaching, I was shocked to realise that some of the first kids I taught will be well in to their thirties by now. I recently met a former pupil in Glasgow, instantly recognisable and memorable as one of those kids who had been, in his own words, a ‘nightmare’. A polite and erudite young man, he now runs his own business and is married with a couple of kids. He left school with nothing but a whole heap of negative baggage but went on to be a responsible, successful individual.

As a secondary teacher, I do believe that the best thing we can provide for our young people is a strong set of qualifications which will allow them to move on to the next stage of their lives, whatever that may be. That may not sit well with the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence but it is what I’m judged on whether I like it or not: it is what Secondary Schools are judged on. However, this is a damning indictment of those kids who fail to achieve at school, whatever the circumstances. Meeting my former pupil merely reaffirmed the folly of the way our education system works.

Is it not patronising to tell kids who don’t do well in exams that it doesn’t really matter? They, we assume, worked hard at those exams, perhaps expected to pass. Failing is a perfectly natural lesson in life so telling them that it doesn’t matter demeans them as individuals. Is it important to do well in your exams? Of course  it is. Will your life be over if you fail? Of course not. But you will have to reconsider your options. Assisting kids in being able to deal with the disappointment instead of metaphorically telling them to ’cheer up’ is a more responsible and caring way to help them grow and develop.

Reach needs YOU – share your views in our survey⤴

from @ Reach

Hey you out there. Yes….you!

Pointing finger we need YOU

We would really appreciate your help.

Can you spare 10 mins to answer a few questions in our survey? 

We want to make sure that the Reach website is what young people like you actually want and need.

We will listen carefully to what you have to say, and will use what you tell us to shape the future of Reach.

Young person at computer dancing for joy


The post Reach needs YOU – share your views in our survey appeared first on Reach.

Case Study: Increasing the uptake for languages in the senior phase⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT) has published a case study which focuses on increasing the uptake for languages as young people move from the broad general education into the senior phase.   It demonstrates how self-evaluation has been used to secure improvements.

The case study is available here:

To use a similar approach for Gàidhlig and learning through the medium of Gaelic, please consider using the following:

How good is our school? (fourth edition)

Section 2 of the statutory Guidance on Gaelic Education

Advice on Gaelic Education: Secondary stages (Gaelic Medium Education)

Quality and Improvement in Scottish Education: Gaelic Medium Education

Gaelic Medium Education: self-improvement, attainment and leadership


Case Study: Increasing the uptake for languages in the senior phase⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT) has published a case study which focuses on increasing the uptake for languages as young people move from the broad general education into the senior phase. It demonstrates how self-evaluation has been used to secure improvements.

The case study is available here:

To use a similar approach for Gaelic (Learners), please consider using the following:

How good is our school? (fourth edition)

Gaelic Learner Education and a 1+2 Approach to Languages

Paragraphs 2.24 – 2.28 of the statutory Guidance on Gaelic Education


Quality Improvement Awards 2017⤴

from @ Engage for Education

 National award ceremony celebrates quality improvement initiatives.

Nine individuals and organisations have been recognised for their work to improve services for babies, children, young people and families at the Quality Improvements Awards 2017.

The awards are designed to celebrate innovative quality improvement work that is strengthening support and services for families across Scotland, helping ensure every child has the best possible start in life and can reach their full potential as they grow up.

There were nine winners across ten categories including:

  • Achieving Results at Scale: South Lanarkshire Community Planning Partnership
  • Co-production with Families and Our Services: Midlothian Sure Start
  • Excellence for QI in Maternity, Neonatal and Paediatric: Royal Hospital for Children, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde
  • Excellence for QI in Early Years: NHS Ayrshire and Arran: SPIN
  • Excellence for QI in Primary Years: Renfrewshire Council, Our Lady of Peace Primary School
  • Excellence for QI in Secondary Years: East Ayrshire Council
  • Inspiring Leadership: Carrie Lindsay, Executive Director Education and Children’s Services, Fife Council
  • Most Inspiring / Innovative Project: Renfrewshire Council, Glencoats Primary School
  • Quality Improvement Champion: Fiona Riddell, Stow Primary School, Scottish Borders
  • Top Team: Royal Hospital for Children, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

The awards were open to those delivering quality improvement work through the Maternity and Children’s Quality Improvement Collaborative (MCQIC), run by Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC), run by the Scottish Government.

This year there were 140 entries across all ten categories, detailing how local people and teams have improved health, early years and family services and schools.

Maree Todd, Minister for Childcare and Early Years said:

“The Quality Improvement Awards provide an opportunity to showcase and share proven approaches that are making a positive and lasting difference to the lives of children, young people and families.

“Evidence shows that collaboration builds capacity and interventions built on collaboration have the biggest impact.  These Awards demonstrate clearly, the link between collaborative working, better practice and improved outcomes and it is clear there are great examples already taking place across Scotland.

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners and thank everyone who submitted an entry.”


Dr Brian Robson, Medical Director, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said:

“The QI awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the enthusiasm and commitment demonstrated by professionals and organisations throughout the public sector.

“Their work is imperative in helping to improve the life chances for babies and young people across Scotland.  Congratulations to all the winners and nominees who have shown such dedication to making Scotland the best place to grow up.”


Winners were announced at the QI Awards ceremony on Tuesday 21 November at the Glasgow Science Centre.

Further information and videos of the shortlisted and winning projects are available here.

The post Quality Improvement Awards 2017 appeared first on Engage for Education.

Making a difference through Quality Improvement⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Today over 700 practitioners representing the early years, health, education, police, social work and third sector services will gather in Glasgow to discuss how to make Scotland the #BestPlacetoGrowUp.

They will be joined by the Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, the Minister for Childcare and Early Years and the Minister for Public Health and Sport.


The post Making a difference through Quality Improvement appeared first on Engage for Education.

Are we there yet?⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

I will provide you with my answer, to the question posed in the title to this post, straight away. No we aren't! However, I do think it is important we keep asking the question of our schools and our education systems, just as often as the young passengers in any car journey of over fifteen minutes.

The 'there' I speak of in education is the achievement of equity for all our learners and families. Our attention span, and desire to answer this question in the affirmative, needs to be longer, but just as relentless, as any inquisition by youthful travellers.  

We have had a focus on equity and social justice in our education system for over ten years in Scotland, and possibly even longer in other systems across the globe. In Scotland we can go back to 2001 to find the Scottish government taking the first steps to address issues for children and their families with multiple needs, which was to lead to Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) a policy and strategy designed to simplify the system for families, and agencies working with them, as well as seeking to make the systems more equitable. 

Since 2007, when the Scottish National Party (SNP) gained power in the Scottish parliament, and even before that with the previous Labour administration, the issue of equity in our society and in our schools in particular, has been at the forefront of many minds. Since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister in 2014, she has put education at the very top of her priorities. Following her ascendancy to her role she said 'judge me on education' and she repeated that call often in the early days of her leadership. Like everyone else already working in the system, Ms Sturgeon was seeking to improve and develop our education system, but particularly in terms of attainment levels and equity within the system. She appointed Angela Constance as her first Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, and she was replaced by John Swinney in 2016. Both of these Ministers set a busy agenda of policy development aimed at raising attainment and closing 'gaps' that had been identified for the most disadvantaged learners and their families. The fact that they adopted a 'General Educational Reform Movement' (GERM) agenda, whose issues have been well documented by Pasi Sahlberg and others, has not helped their endeavours.

Recently we have had the National Improvement Framework (NIF), Attainment Challenge and most recently the new proposed Education Bill, Empowering Schools, currently being consulted on, but most certainly going to happen as detailed in the consultation documentation. All of these are aimed at structural change designed to address issues identified by our government and ministers, with the explicit aims of raising attainment and closing the 'equity gaps'. These are big pieces of legislation and structural reform, but we in schools have been wrestling with these issues before the current government came into power, and will probably still be doing so long after they have left power. Given this national agenda and focus over many years, and our own recognition of the issues, why are we still not there yet?

There is no doubt the focus at national and government level has been on schools and the education system. However, much of this focus has consistently failed to identify or even recognise the other societal features at play when we consider equity and the barriers that exist for many learners and families. There is no doubt education has a big role to play here, but we do need to get real at times and recognise the stratification that has existed and built up over many centuries within our society, as well as the government and societal decisions that have entrenched such features. Many governments, Scottish and UK, have been very vocal on the rhetoric of equity and social justice and cohesion, but have then adopted policies and behaviours that have re-enforced and deepened these injustices and inequities. If governments are rally serious about such issues then it really is time for them to walk that talk, not just pass responsibility onto others. After all, isn't that what socially-just government should be about? I like the late Tony Benn's expressed view that 'if we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.' Says it all, really.

Anyway, putting those bigger issues to one side, what things can we do in schools to help ensure our provision is just and equitable? We have been aware for many years of what the issues and barriers are for many of our learners and their families, but, taken as a whole, we are far from there yet, in terms of removing or breaking many of these down. There has been some fabulous steps taken, and work undertaken, by schools in Scotland, and across the rest of the UK, but such work is being undertaken by what are often 'outliers' of the system, because the practices in these schools is still not the norm.

Some of the norms that persist were again brought home to me last week on Twitter and Facebook. In my timelines, two common events were dominating. The first was Parents' Evenings, that seemed to be happening in schools across the country, and the second was the annual 'Children In Need' charity appeal happening on Friday. The narrative I was seeing about both of these, brought home to me how far we still have to travel in our systems, and for many of our families.

A Parents' Evening, in which parents have the opportunity to sit down with teachers, and perhaps learners, to talk about their children and where they are in their learning, is a right and expectation enshrined in our school cultures and legislation. They should be a seamless part of the 'reporting to parents' processes in any school. Some schools have developed very creative and innovative approaches to how they configure these in order to make them more meaningful and accessible to their parent body, and learners. Most, however, seem to be sticking to the traditional framework of five or ten minute appointments, which probably remain unsatisfactory for everyone concerned, and to their intended purpose. Such a format also presents barriers for some parents, especially if their own experiences of schools have been characterised by negativity.

Many schools still see such evenings as another chance to tap into the captive audience of parents for book sales, uniform sales, cake stalls and the like. I must admit I was just as guilty as everyone else in this practice, and our book-fair was seen as important in raising school funds or replenishing book stocks, given that there was so little budget available from anywhere else. However, as I approached the end of my time as a school leader, I was becoming more uneasy about our drive to sell books, as I witnessed the pressure parents were put under by their children to buy something, whether this was a book/books, or just pencils or rubbers. Some obviously struggled. I used to see parents ushering their children out the school door and past the fair as quickly as possible, possibly because they didn't have the money to spend and didn't want themselves or their children embarrassed further by this.

There were also the regular parents who never showed up at Parents' Nights. I do wonder how many of these were put off by feeling they would have to buy something, and were struggling already to make ends meet? I had a number of parents who would never come to such evenings, but would then contact the class teacher to see if they could come another time. I am beginning to wonder if there was a connection, and I think all schools should consider possible issues and impacts such as this continuously, if they are really going to get serious about making all that we do accessible to all in our school community. 

Children in Need, like Red Nose day, has become a staple annual charity fundraiser in schools across the UK and actually first emerged from a radio appeal in 1927! It was began to be televised in 1955 and since then has grown arms and legs to become this monolith of asking and giving, which this year has already generated £50million plus! Whilst I have concerns about the whole concept of Children in Need and what it has become, I think it is in schools that we really have to consider how we engage with massive charity appeals such as this, considering the impacts for both the givers and the receivers. 

As a school leader, I was swamped by appeals from charities asking for the school and the children to get involved in fundraising in some way. I could guarantee to get a minimum of three or four requests by post or email each day! You have to manage this aspect of the school's work, remembering that it is to the same people that you are going to each time you are raising funds for any cause. The smaller the school, the greater the impact of this. Also, this is only one of the ways we may approach parents for money over the course of any school year.

There is so much children can learn and gain from engaging with charities like Children in Need, that I would always wish them to be involved in some way. In the schools I led, we a made a conscious decision to only be involved with one charity appeal or fundraiser per term, a maximum of three per school year. This was driven by requests by children parents and staff. We would aim for one charity appeal for the local community, one at a national level and possibly another international one. So we might get involved with something for a local children's charity, one like Red Nose Day and another for some International Relief work, spread across the school year. The children would decide which ones they wished to support. When we had identified which charities we wished to support, then events would be organised and children and families could make a donation, if they wanted, or were able to. Too many time last week I saw schools saying it was £1 to dress up for Children In Need, and there would be cakes and other things to buy, on top of the £1 donation. I wonder if absentee rates went up in any schools last Friday? Probably less likely in England where parents now risk being fined for unauthorised absences. Now, that is a rock and a hard place! I know the funds being raised were for very worthy causes, most are, but I do think it is beholden of schools to consider the parents and learners for whom such events might bring more pressure and stress.

Charities, and appeals like Children in Need and Red Nose Day, also need to consider to pressure they put on schools, children and then families, as well. Too many see schools and children as easy targets and a guarantee of money rolling in. I wonder how much of this year's £50 million has come from schools and the lowest earners in our society? Ironic, given the austerity agendas we are all toiling under at present.

So, no, I don't think we are there yet. These are just two examples from my own timeline on Twitter, and Facebook posts, from one week, but I do feel they are indicative of practices that are still common across schools and systems. Such activity may look good at a surface level, but actually can create unseen stress and barriers for some of our school communities. If we are to address issues of equity and to remove barriers for learners and families, we have to keep considering issues such as these constantly. Not in order to stop them from happening, but so that we can still engage, but in ways that do not isolate parts of our community, but which allow all to contribute when and if they can, in ways that are supportive and non-judgemental.

We should examine everything that happens across our schools, and continue to ask hard questions of ourselves regarding all that we do. It is not until we recognise the barriers we create, often unknowingly, that we can take steps to remove or lower them. No-one should feel that there are parts of what we do that they struggle to access due to financial or social constraints. Our responsibility is to all our learners, and all our families, all of whom should be able to gain from the benefits of everything we do and offer, not just some of it.

When we achieve that, then perhaps we can answer 'nearly' the next time we are asked 'are we there yet?'

Time to rise above our station.⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

It’s 4.30 in the morning: I can’t sleep. Today is the fourth whole school development day I’ve organised – a morning of workshops led by staff, attended by staff – and, of course, I’m convinced it’ll be a disaster. I’ve woken up with a cold so that feeling of impending doom is magnified, that ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is kicking in. It’s never gone badly before but there is always a first time and I’m pretty sure today will be the day. I’m sick of feeling like this.

I’ve spent the last  two months coaxing and cajoling colleagues into leading workshops, delivering training, sharing ideas. The number of superb colleagues who have convinced themselves that ‘I don’t do anything special’ is both mystifying and heart-breaking. What is wrong with a system whose lead specialists feel like this; worn down by s system which seems to be against them, which often treats them like the enemy? A system that treats anyone who raises their head above sea-level as a show off or a trouble maker? But we’re not allowed to rise above our station, are we?

For a year I’ve felt like that. Last December my book came out. Pretty soon after, I received two tweets from followers; one a very prominent member of the Educational Twitterati, who reminded me ‘Not to get above myself’. The other one – someone who I have met – told me, after beginning writing for TES Scotland, that I was ‘a big mouth who no-one wanted to listen to’. Both comments have never been very far way for most of this year. Oh, I know that some will think I’m massively prominent on Twitter myself. Perhaps. But I’m a humble classroom teacher who has found himself apologising for being so prominent.

I spent much of my childhood being told I’d never amount to much, much of my school life being invisible. Even when I eventually became a teacher, for the first ten years there was little expectation that I would rise above the mediocre; I’d been conditioned to think that. So, being from my background, coming from where I come from, bringing out a book is an extreme rarity. As a result, I find it hugely difficult and uncomfortable to accept compliments. I expect and anticipate that someone will try to burst my bubble. And that means I turn down a load of offers to speak about my book. No more.

For anyone who is reading this, perhaps recognising these feelings, sharing my upbringing and background, it’s time to get above our station. It’s time to break free from sneering negativity and acceptance of mediocrity. I’m just a teacher like you; I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in a position where I can write a book. But for all of us, it’s time to shout from the rooftops – both literally and metaphorically; write if you don’t want to shout – that we have things to to say; that we will no longer be silent and humble and shy about the great things we do in our classrooms. Lift your head up; look people in the eyes: you are a teacher.

Life in Links 19-11-17⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display


Image from page 109 of “The manual training school, compri… | Flickr No known copyright restrictions. Somewhat glitched.