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A glitch in the system, or more than that?

As I write this, the annual International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) is taking place in Singapore. This event brings together researchers, writers and policy makers from education systems across the planet to look at and consider what is happening, and what is working, across those systems, as well as where we should focus next. The theme for this year's congress is 'Deepening School Change for Scaling: Principles, Pathways and Partnerships'.

Whilst not being able to attend this year, though I did manage an appearance two years ago, I have been an interested follower of keynotes and workshops via Twitter and social media. This is one of the joys of such technology, that you can still observe what is happening and being discussed at an event like this, even though you might not be there in person. The various keynotes are also made available online so that you can see and hear these yourself, especially if you want to refer or think more about…
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200

If you are reading this, dear reader, then I am extremely grateful to you, and wish you to know this is the 200th post of my Blog. When I started this blog in 2013 I had little understanding or idea of how it might develop over time. Originally, my intention was to share some of my journey as a headteacher/principal in Scotland. I wrote then, and still do now, to help develop and clarify my own thinking around various issues related to my leadership role and learning. Over time this original purpose has grown and developed as more people engaged with my Blog and I recognised the potential to share, collaborate and reach new understandings, that could impact on my thinking, practice and learners in the schools I led. What I also discovered was that the blog was another way for me to have a 'voice' in the wider discourse around education, schools and leadership, one which was not restricted to Scotland, and my immediate physical location, but which easily crossed international b…

Another year of change, but is anything different?

As we come to the end of another year, it is often a time of reflection on the year past and all we have achieved, as well as the disappointments, personal and professional. At the start of any year, twelve months seems like a long time away. However, as adults you soon come to understand how quickly that time will disappear, especially when you are busy and have lots you want to do. In education, as in other sectors, we are always thinking and planning ahead of ourselves. A lot of our thinking is often focused on the future, whilst our bodies, and responsive reactions, remain firmly fixed in the present. We can spend our working lives consumed by the future, and all those things yet to appear over imagined and real horizons. This is especially so if you have a formal leadership role. Too often perhaps, we fail to stay in the moment, mindful of all our current experiences, and how these are changing us, or we dwell to long in the past, especially on things that have gone wrong, rather…

When do we start to push back?

It is fair to say that, as ever, there is lots going on in the Scottish education system, and many others. There are structural changes being put into place in education systems across the globe. Scotland has been embracing the education reform movement for the last three or so years, certainly since Nicola Sturgeon was appointed First Minister in 2014. She took office asking the electorate to judge her and her government on what they achieved in transforming the education system. To many observers, her call to arms around education sounded very familiar to Tony Blair's battle cry of 'Education, education, education' as he identified his priorities prior to being elected UK Prime Minister in 1997. Blair was to  begin a process of structural reform in English education which was to lead to academies, higher accountability, competition and privatisation, and which were enthusiastically embraced and enhanced by Conservative governments that followed.

Blair's agenda, and …

Inside the black box revisted (again)

'Inside the black box', written by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam was written in 1998 and consisted of nineteen pages. How come  this pamphlet, because you can hardly call it a book, has had such major impacts in education systems in the UK and across the world?

The answer lies in the content, which was to herald the focus on formative assessment in classrooms and schools across many systems, but particularly here in the UK.

My earliest memories of hearing about formative assessment was, first of all at an In-Service day for teachers with our local authority, in which we were told there had been some new research written about how we could all improve our teaching, and we were to start getting the learners involved actively in learning, deciding what they wanted to learn, and that we would all be doing this from now on. The second, was seeing Dylan Wiliam on a TV programme talking about formative assessment, and the techniques teachers could use in their classrooms. The teachers …

Informed by research, but which research?

For many years as a school leader I tried to engage with, and use, research evidence to inform the actions we took in our schools to improve learning and teaching. I have always been an avid reader and consumer of professional reading, both as a teacher and later, when I became a school leader. When we took a collective decision to embrace practitioner enquiry as a vehicle for professional and school development, myself and colleagues began to extend this reading into more academic writing, as well as research papers. However, the more I read, and the more I engaged with researchers, academics and university staff, the more murky became the picture I was looking at.

The old Mark Twain adage about there being 'Lies, damned lies, and statistics' could equally be applied to research, especially in the complex world of education and learning. It would seem, to my poor layman eyes, with respect to research in this field, that you can find evidence from across the globe that will te…

Are we there yet?

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 t…