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Showing posts from September, 2015

The Scottish Learning Festival, Mel Ainscow and moving knowledge around

I have just returned from a visit to the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow. The Festival runs for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, and is one of the high profile events in the Scottish education calendar. I have attended a number of these events and, as with any such conferences and exhibitions, the experience can be mixed. Last year I was part of a team from The Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) that presented a seminar about SCEL and its inaugrial Fellowship programme. At that event we got the chance to meet with Alma Harris and Michelle Jones on the afternoon before  Alma presented the keynote address on the first day. At this year's event the main visiting keynote speaker was to be Professor Mel Ainscow from Manchester and again, with the help of SCEL, I was privileged to be able meet Mel, along with other Fellows and the latest cohort. Before I consider the main messages and insights shared by Mel during his presentation I would like to consider the even…

We are not the problem, we are the solution

The title of this post comes from a tweet Alma Harris sent in response to Sir Michael Wilshaw's latest pronouncement on education in England. He was speaking about the difficulty we are facing in recruiting into teaching, and, when we have recruited new young teachers, how we then struggle to retain them beyond the early years of their careers. Sir Michael's view is that this is a headteacher and leadership problem in our schools. When is it not? He is of the view that schools and their leaders fail to properly support young teachers at the outset of their careers and this is why we have such serious teacher shortage problems. What astounds Alma, myself, and others I suspect, is the complete lack of any self-awareness within Mr Wilshaw, or the organisation he leads, that they too might bear a heavy responsibility for some of the difficulties we face in recruiting and retaining young teachers. He fails to recognise how every headline grabbing attack on the profession also under…

Relentless incremental improvements or micro-management?

I saw Mathew Syed on the television this morning. He was talking about his new book 'Black Box Thinking', a follow up to his big seller 'Bounce'. His new book, which I admit I have not read yet, seems to be a continuation of some of the themes found in'Bounce', which I have read. Having heard him speak this morning, I visited his web-site and looked at some of the main messages contained in his new book, as well as his insights this morning, and considered these from an educational viewpoint. 
What he was talking about this morning is how we could raise our health service, education and even our own individual lives to 'world class' if we were to apply the same principles found in the aeronautical industry following a major failure, or by some of our leading sports personalities and organisation's. Firstly, we all need to embrace failure and ensure we see it is an opportunity to learn, a stance that will be understood by most in the education system.…

The CAT is out of the bag

'The biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching' John Hattie
'Learning in context requires that we focus on how we change the culture in school so that educators learn continuously in the setting in which they work.' Michael Fullan
I was reminded of these two quotes when we had our first whole-school CAT session this week. 'CAT' stands for Collegiate Activity Time and is well know to teachers working in Scottish schools. Those same teachers, and their leaders, will also know that the quality and impact of such sessions can be best described as 'variable'. I am pleased to say that our programme of CATs got off to a flying start and I was blown away by the contribution from all the teachers at our session this week.
Our first such CAT of the new school year has been given over for the last few years to teachers talking about the professional enquiries they have been engaged in over the course of the previous…

A further response to Nicola Sturgeon

In my last post I gave my initial response to the re-introduction of standardised national testing in to Scottish primary schools, and the early years of secondary ones. As I am vehemently opposed to such a move as a credible strategy for closing the attainment gap that currently exists, or for raising attainment generally, I think it is now beholden on me to offer an alternative. What steps do I think will actually address these two laudable aims and make a difference to so many lives? Speaking as a school leader who recognises there are no silver bullets, likes to start small, scale up and be informed by research and data, I would like to apply the same principles to the system as a whole. One of the problems we constantly face with politicians driving the agenda in education is, not only their lack of understanding of what we all know to be a complex landscape, but their constant need to grab headlines with new initiatives and solutions, or old ones as in Nicola's case. This is…

First response to Nicola Sturgeon

Well there we have it, the much heralded and expected announcement came today. First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that national testing will be returning to all primary schools, and S3 in secondary schools. Ever since she took charge of the SNP after Alex Salmond vacated the post following defeat in the referendum, Nicola has set out to prove that she is different form him and should be seen as a tough leader, not afraid of making tough decisions. Can I just say, like so many others, I was very impressed by Nicola Sturgeon during the referendum and the general election. She seemed like a breath of fresh air to myself and so many others. Here was someone who it would seem was destined to break the mould of political leadership and to promote a new way of being and thinking for politicians. So it is with some dismay, that I heard today's announcement. The announcement is a definite step backwards politically and educationally.
I support Nicola's aims for education, raising …