Respect Me⤴

from @ SQA Computing blog

I don't normally promote third parties, or third party events, on this blog since you come here for qualification news, but I'll make an exception for this event.

RespectMe's annual conference takes place on 18 November and it sounds very worthwhile, with workshops on bullying, cyberbullying, and homophobia. More information here.

Caring About Every Writer – the weaker ones need us most⤴

from @ Just Trying To Be Better Than Yesterday

Without a doubt the greatest discovery I’ve made in the last year or two is that feedback through the marking of written work is the most effective teaching tool I have. The connections that I’ve made with students, their awareness that I was both interested in everything they write and on top of their sloppiness, has transformed my ability to ‘know’ the students who walk into my classroom. However, when it comes to the weaker students, the less able in a system that still sets by ability, then it becomes slightly more challenging. They are bringing a tremendous amount of baggage with them.

When you have classes of over twenty five – many of whom have support needs, many have extreme behavioural issues, many have both – then attempting to improve their writing can be a minefield. They know their writing looks terrible because they see the evidence every single day of their school lives, probably in every lesson. So how do we reverse that? What has become clear to me is that this class needs their writing back immediately, the next day whenever possible and they need to work on redrafting the very next day too. Not only is it vital to show them that you care about their work but that ensuring that they can see that improvement is possible, and quickly, is essential if you are to win them back to writing.

Seeing their work completely corrected and ready for redraft helps to develop the habits that the better writers have in that they know that avoiding too many errors means less correction later on. And a quickly redrafted short piece of work can be extremely powerful to them. I use a great strategy from Alex Quigley’s book when I’m marking a short piece, usually just a paragraph, and handwriting is an issue. I completely rewrite the piece, leaving a line between each one I write. I spend the time to do this for a whole class. On return they have to copy the words underneath, ensuring they copy the shapes of my letters. They hate it at first but, with persistence, they begin to see the relevance.

Without a doubt marking the work of this class more than any other – they are often used to less – has overcome behavioural problems. Insistence on high standards of work every time without fail has removed the excuses for not understanding. Clear instructions, an overload of help and assistance and real evidence when they see their writing improving has turned many of them back on to English. Success breeds a desire for more success. Weaker writers carry so much negative experience with them that it is criminal to watch them continue to fail. I’d rather spend more of my time on their work than to think of them as illiterate adults. And that’s what happens if we don’t do enough.

Better teachers and better bloggers than me have described marking as an act of love. Showing them that we care about what they are writing and that we want them to be better is a great motivator. But it is easy to do that for kids who are already reasonably proficient. It is the ones who are the most trouble whom we need to care about most. Even when they fight us, even when they give up, we must never give up on them. They often feel enough like failures.

A Tribute Act Or The Real McCoy?⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Last week schools were on half-term holiday across most of Scotland. I headed south to the warmer climes of Majorca and it was whilst there that I began to mull over some issues for school leaders. My thoughts were stimulated by some of the entertainment that was being provided by the hotel we were staying in. This consisted of one night with a tribute act to Rod Stewart, complete with gravelly voice and mullet wig. Another with 'Los Bitles', another tribute band, this time to The Beatles. Then finally a tribute to the Blues Brothers. All of these acts were very entertaining, though that judgement might have been influenced by the sangria, and they certainly new all the words and all the tunes. 'Los Bitles' even played all their own instruments, which also looked like the authentic equipment of the Fab Four. However, good though they were, myself and probably most of the rest of the audience of a certain age, were left still thinking a certain something was missing. That vital, spark that the original performers had and which had made them unique and popular to so many, was missing. They were still just copies of the originals.

This got me thinking about similarities in schools and education, where we are often encouraged to share good practice and, dare I say it, copy what others, judged to be successful, have done. My thoughts on this are that if we only aim to copy the practice of others we can end up just like all the tribute acts I saw last week. We might learn all the words, we might be able to replicate the tune but we still remain a hollow shell of the original. When 'Los Bitles' sang 'Get Back' last week, they had all the words, played all the notes but still that something 'extra' was missing. They lacked authenticity. They hadn't sweated and collaborated to write the words, make mistakes, rewrite, retune like the original performers had done and, as a result, their rendition lacked the authenticity of the work produced by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Therein lies the rub for us in education when we are being told and encouraged to copy the good performance of others. We may replicate their actions, but without their journey to get to where they are, we too lack authenticity and understanding of how they got to that point.

As a Headteacher, do I want a copy of a teacher from another school, or do I want an original and unique individual who has grown and developed over course of time in my school and others? Myself, I want individuals who are reflective and committed to career long development in order to improve their practice. I want them to think about their practice and really understand learning. To do this, it is no use if they just copy the practice of others. That is not to say I want teachers who do not collaborate, engage and support collegiality, these too are essential qualities. But I do want them to have minds of their own and to understand what they are doing and why? This, in my view, can only be achieved by struggling with the complexity of learning and of being a teacher, with colleagues and support, in order to discover the way forward for their own practice and therefore the schools they work in. I want originals not copies, or tributes.

The same goes for my own role and that of other headteachers. Do we want clones or do we want individuals to lead our schools? Can we go into another school and copy what has worked for another school leader, and get the same results? I don't think so. We can certainly learn from each other and we can collaborate and support each other, as we all struggle with the complexities of our own roles. But each leader is different, as is each school and our performance as school leaders has to reflect this too. We can learn and develop a lot in collaboration with colleagues, and I would argue this is an essential requirement of thinking school leaders, but we too should resist the demand to copy the behaviours of others. We haven't walked in their shoes or travelled their journey of development and copying their behaviours will only result in our audience, teachers and others, detecting a missing spark in our performance. If we sing someone else's song, to someone else's tune, we too run the risk of being seen as unauthentic, or worse, false. Learn from each other, by all means, but don't try to be each other, or someone you are not.

Schools too risk the same difficulties if they seek to copy the successes of others. What has worked so well in the two schools I lead by no means that the same strategies and developments would work the similarly in two other schools. Where we are is a result of our journey over many years, much of this before even I arrived in the schools, and that journey, whilst similar to others, will be different  to every other school, or schools. We have collaborated, and continue to do so, with many different schools and settings but we have avoided trying to copy what any of them do. That would be wrong. What we have done is shared and discussed principles together, we have found common aspects and worked on these together, with each putting our unique stamp on them.

'Los Bitles' had all the words, all the tunes, but they hadn't wrote the songs. They hadn't spent over twelve months in Hamburg honing their craft. They hadn't performed in pubs and clubs of Liverpool, including the Cavern. So, whilst they may look the same, and sound similar to The Beatles, they weren't the same. Their journey was different, their history was different and, as a result, their impact was different, and was less.

So it is in education. We need to stay true to our journey, we need to embrace and recognise our uniqueness if we are to remain authentic. We need to be our own originals and not jus a copy, however good, of somebody else's identity or performance.

Be the real McCoy, not a tribute act!


from @ Fearghal Kelly

At our in-service day today, teachers had opportunities to attend workshop sessions on four of the stages from our school’s learning cycle. I was on demonstrate. I used the prezi above to talk through why I think it’s an important part of the learning process and then got them to come up with the features of a good demonstrate stage and what approaches you can use. You can see their fab ideas at the end of the prezi.

I really do think that providing challenging opportunities for learners to show you, themselves and each other how much and how well they’ve learnt is a crucial element in the formative assessment process and yet this is only a relatively recent realisation for me. I think in the past I too often gave students something which I knew they would be able to do in order to allow us to proceed with the content, rather than stretching them to see if they’d really got it and what they still needed to learn. I suppose this is why I’ve become slightly obsessed with the demonstrate stage and therefore really enjoyed the opportunity to share this obsession this morning! Huge thank you to my fab PL colleagues for tolerating my obsession and contributing so much to the sessions.

The Normandy Fahrt: A smug French moment at Pegasus Bridge⤴

from @ blethers

I've fallen lamentably behind with my posts on the Normandy trip last month. Blame my life. It  took over the moment I was home. But there are one or two things still to be shared, and then there's a poem, of which more anon. The photo on the left is of Pegasus Bridge, which film buffs should remember from The Longest Day - Sorry I'm late, old chap ... Think nothing of it, old chap - something like that anyway. This is the view across the bridge to the cafe and the building adjoining it, both as they were in the film, and, more importantly, in 1944. The cafe is run by a woman who was a small child at the time, whose parents owned the same cafe. Sadly, Mr B and I didn't realise this till later - but out of our choice to visit the other cafe, facing it across the road, came a most enjoyable moment of sheer ... smugness. Incidentally, the bridge is not the original one; it now stands in the grounds of the museum looking just like this one only - I think - slightly narrower.

But to our morning coffee moment. Hastening across the bridge from the museum as if the entire German army was on our heels, we met our Glorious Leader. We saw, behind him, several of our compadres sitting at a table outside the cafe in the photo. I wouldn't come in here if you're looking for coffee, he announced. The woman's as cheerful as Basil Fawlty. Such was my need of coffee I loitered no longer, but headed into the other establishment, empty except for a taciturn man in an orange t-shirt. A fag - surely a Gauloise? - dangled artistically from a corner of his lower lip. I smiled beguilingly.  Bonjour, Monsieur...Is it possible - in faultless French, I may add - to have coffee? And, perhaps, un petit quelque chose a emporter - un sandwich, peut-être?

Downturned mouth, shrug ... peut-être, Madame. Je vais demander. I kept smiling, and I kept speaking French. The coffee arrived, and we sat in the sun and watched a boat going under Pegasus Bridge and noticed how about 20 of our friends were stranded on the far side by this operation. Gauloise reappeared. Jambon et beurre? ... Parfait, monsieur. Merci. And as our friends straggled in, also searching for coffee and something to eat later, our half-baguettes appeared, stuffed with the most luscious ham, rich with butter, neatly parcelled in brown paper bags with a paper napkin round them. I bought some risqué postcards, explaining that they were for the loo wall of my Norman daughter-in-law. He gave me a deal on half a dozen, explaining that actually he didn't know the price of these ones. We parted with great bonhomie, the best of friends. Not a word of English had been spoken. Hence the smugness. The sandwiches, incidentally, were as good as they looked, and even the golden crusts weren't a challenge to my fragile teeth.

It must be hard living in this kind of tourist mecca. Ok, the business is considerably brisker than in other French backwaters, but there's a niggle in my mind about this constant memorial activity, in a countryside that was ravaged by war and is now picked over by the descendants of those who ravaged it (for there were German tourists too, in several of the sites we visited. Naturally.) The Basil Fawlty woman has become a tourist attraction in her own right - but how hard to keep pleasant when you're setting for lunch and a gaggle of coffee-and-sandwich types appears just before l'heure de dejeuner.

Our day continued with a visit to Merville Battery (where we had the experience of being in a gun turret during the invasion) and ended in Caen, where some of us had an adventure with a sparrow hawk, a terrified pigeon (in our bedroom, natch), and another pigeon devoured before our eyes in the garden of the Kyriad Hotel. We took our tea nonetheless, an upturned rubbish bin serving as a coffee table. We were seasoned campaigners, and were not about to let a bit of random slaughter get between us and our refreshment.

Find out about Glow’s new login screen⤴

from @ Learning Network

Glow now has a different login screen, shown left, and the login process has changed. What’s going on – and does it matter? Login screen The Glow login screen has been redesigned, with three large tiles which you can use without logging in: The Glow Connect tile links to a public blog which serves as a one-stop-shop for information […]

Michael Young seminar⤴

from @ SQA Computing blog

I attended a lecture by Michael Young on Friday afternoon as part of SQA's series of research seminars. Michael is a professor at the University of London and has recently written a book about the role of knowledge in schools.

The theme of Michael's lecture was knowledge, and its importance in today's world. He stressed the importance of conceptual knowledge over "context based knowledge". Conceptual knowledge, he said, was "generalisable"; context based knowledge was "particular" to a specific set of circumstances. He used the term "powerful knowledge" to describe conceptual knowledge that "emancipates" and permits the learner to "think the unthinkable". Michael contrasted conceptual knowledge with dogma. He said: "If you only have skills then you are just another machine".

I enjoyed his talk. It was challenging and thought provoking. It has made me think about the role of knowledge in vocational qualifications.

SQA's research seminars are for SQA staff, and invited guests, to keep staff up-to-date with the latest thinking on education, learning and assessment.

Support for young people with additional support needs⤴

from @ Support for All

Futures fair-

The Futures Fair will be held on  Thursday 6th November at The Brunton Hall, Musselburgh.  It will be a drop in between 2pm and 5pm.

This information fair aims to help young people with additional support needs and their families plan for adult life.

There will be approximately 50 organisations who can tell you about what they offer and how they can help with:

  • Education
  • Work and training
  • Money advice
  • Social work and health
  • Social life and leisure    ….and much more!

For full details, have a look at the information poster here