Skip to main content


Sporting models to support coaching and leadership

In his book 'Bounce' (2010), Mathew Syed writes about many things pertinent to education and teachers. At the start of his book, he reflects on the factors that enabled him to become the number one table-tennis player in the UK. He identifies what he considers the four key factors in his rise to the top. These were: having a table to practise on; having an older brother who was just as enthusiastic and willing to play and practise with; having access to an enthusiastic, highly skilled and knowledgeable coach; having access to a club, which was always open, to play against others and support coaching. Syed notes how his small town, and in particular one street and its immediate surrounds, were producing more outstanding table-tennis players then the rest of the UK put together! His argument is that this was more a product of those unique circumstances, that identified and nurtured table-tennis talent, rather than any innate abilities to be found in youngsters in his local area.

Recent posts

More warnings for Scottish education

The last seven days or so have again demonstrated some of the major challenges that lie ahead for Scottish education. These challenges are both long-term and short-term, and how we deal with them will shape the future direction of travel. The prognosis with regard to the possible outcomes is at best looking precarious for the system, teachers and learners.

First we had the motion and debate in the Scottish parliament around the introduction of standardised testing in Primary 1 classes. This whole debate, even before it was aired in parliament, had become very politicised, commonly being presented as an anti-SNP one, rather than about education and how we best support our very youngest learners. Many individuals and organisations tried to point to research and evidence showing why the use of such standardised testing not only did not measure what it was being purported to measure, but that it could potentially skew learning and practices in schools, to the detriment of young learners. …

PedagooGoliath: Pretty Shining People

On Saturday I had the great pleasure to attend the latest, and first Pedagoo event of the new school year. Organised and hosted by Paul Cochrane and Port Glasgow High School, the event consisted of 13 workshops and was attended by around 40 educators, all seeking to engage and share, in order to develop their own understandings and practice, and to support others on their own personal professional development journey. It was my honour to dip in and out of some of the 'conversations' taking place across the day, then try to pull these together at the end of proceedings. No easy task, as there was so much to hear and experience, as well as to try and capture.

This short post covers what I tried to summarise at the end of this fabulous event.

'I will go away from today totally inspired, and in awe, of the commitment, professionalism and wisdom that we have experienced, and which I know reflects the Scottish Education system and the work going on in our schools every day. Toda…

Some summer reflections

This is my first post since June. Apologies for that, but I have used the summer months to go travelling, spending 6 weeks in Australia, only returning last week. Whilst this was ostensibly a holiday, I couldn't resist taking the opportunity to meet with educationalists, and to keep an eye on the local and national news with regard to what was happening in education in Oz. We had a fab holiday, even though it was winter down there. It was a bit wet and windy in the Perth area at times, but still very pleasant, with temperatures in the high teens or low twenties. We did head up to Broome for a few days and the temperatures were a balmy 30 degrees, so we did see our share of sun, but perhaps not as much as was being experienced back at home.

Anyway, back to more musings on education, both in Australia and back here in Scotland and the UK. Most Scottish schools have started the new school year, either last week or this, following the summer break. Already the Scottish Government has …

Developing metacognition and self-regulation in learners, of all ages

Ahead of a session with Rachel Lofthouse and the CollectivEd1, the mentoring and coaching hub created by her, I have been thinking a lot about metacognition. Our session with teachers in a few weeks is to be focused on metacognition and how we can develop this in both young learners and teachers. The title of our seminar is 'Making sense of Metacognitive Teaching Through Collaborative Professional Development' and will take the form of an introduction, followed by round-table discussions around various models that may be used to develop such collaborative professional development. After the round-tables, we hope to pull the main points emerging together and explore key issues. To help attendees focus their attention they have been referred to the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) paper 'Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning' published in April 2018.

Metacognition has been identified as a key skill for learners by many different authorities and researchers, but l…

Testing Times for Scotland

'These are not high stakes tests; there will be no 'pass or fail' and no additional workload for children or teachers.' John Swinney 25/11/16

I start this look at the introduction of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) with  statement above from John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, made when he announced the contract for our new standardised testing had been awarded to ACER International UK, Ltd. This organisation is a subsidiary of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), whom have been responsible for the development of the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) regime of high-stakes testing in the Australian system since 2008. I also believe they were one of a very short list of providers who tendered a bid for this contract.

I was drawn to this statement as I reflected on many of the responses I have received after I put out a request on Twitter …

What really matters in school leadership?

Last week, I was invited to give a 'keynote' presentation for the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) to an audience of Deputy Headteachers and Principal Teachers. Having discussed the possible themes for this with Greg Dempster, the General Secretary of this school leaders' organisation, we agreed the title of my input would be 'What really matters in school leadership?' This post is a recap of what I spoke about on the day.
Thanking AHDS for the chance to speak to the middle leaders from our primary sector, I started by saying what an honour it was to be asked to speak to current leaders, many of whom would be forming the core of leadership in Scottish primary schools for many years to come. Not to put too much pressure on the people in the room, but they were the people who would help shape the future of education, and perhaps solve some of the challenges we still face, or have created, in Scottish education. I hoped to at least stimulate…