Monthly Archives: February 2014

Leading for Sustainability⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

As I write this post I have been off work for a couple of days due to illness. This has got me pondering the issue of sustainability. I am entirely confident that whether I am there or not, very little will change in either school I lead. What is it that gives me confidence, when I meet so many other school leaders who fail to share my optimism?

Firstly, I have a great senior management team who I work closely with, and who, most importantly, have been centrally involved in the identification of how the schools can and will develop. They have helped shape our direction of travel and have challenged my thinking and ideas, and I theirs, as we have developed our collective understanding of what we can do to improve. This gives me great confidence that they understand deeply what we are trying to do, and how we are going to achieve our aims. So, even when I am not in school for any reason, and for any length of time, I have confidence that they have the same clarity as I about where we are in our development journey and our direction of travel. This means they are able to keep working to support colleagues on their own individual journeys.

Like me, my DHT does not have a classroom commitment so how do we ensure that what is going on in classrooms matches what we have been working on? This is an ongoing quandary for all school leaders. I know of lots of colleagues who struggle to be convinced that what they would like to think is happening in classrooms, is what is actually happening in classrooms, especially when they are not around. 'We can't be everywhere all the time' is a common lament. Again, this is not a concern I share. Why not? Well, for similar reasons that I have such confidence in my senior management team. All staff have been involved in identifying where we are in each school, and helped identify and shape how we and they could develop and improve.

Key to this is our recognition that, for us to be really confident that colleagues would embed changes into their practice, then it was crucial for them to identify themselves what they could do to improve.Their professional development is owned by them and not imposed upon them by management. In my experience, when teachers are told they have to do something which they do not agree with, or understand, they will display those behaviours or practices reluctantly when managers and others are around, but as soon as they are on their own they revert to what they know best and are comfortable with. As a result I have long held the view that the very best CPD activities are those that are identified by teachers themselves, not those imposed from outside. CPD should come from within the individual and their own recognition of what they could do to improve their understanding and their practice.

So how did we give colleagues ownership of their own professional development? Well, we asked them to look closely at their own practice in their classrooms, and in particular how this was impacting on learning for their pupils. This is very challenging and requires high levels of support as what colleagues began to discover was that practices they had long subscribed to were not impacting as positively on learning as they believed. However, we all recognised that we each needed to come to that level of realisation before we were at a point of considering how we could improve. To keep this approach manageable and proportionate we asked, and supported, colleagues to look at a small number of their pupils and in just one area of the curriculum. Such an approach is not possible if you're trying to look at all learners and everything you do. What we and they discovered was that keeping the focus small led to more insights into their practice and the learning taking place. What also happened was that such insights and adjustments to understanding and pedagogies had impact in other areas of the curriculum and their teaching.

What we have created through our approach is a culture and ethos amongst colleagues that promotes reflection and adjustment of their own practice. They have become adaptive experts and we have created adaptive expertise across both schools. What we now have are professionals with an active curiosity in how their practice impacts on learning and the desire to make small changes to deliver big improvements. This is entirely driven by their own understanding of where they are and their desire to embrace career-long professional learning. My role is to support them with this and to ensure their new insights, practice and the principles behind are shared with their colleagues. This way, not only do individual teachers learn and develop, they can help inform and share experiences and insights with their colleagues, to help their development.

By adopting the developmental practices we have, we have created self-regulatory dispositions and attitudes in all staff. They don't expect someone else to identify how to keep developing and improving their practice. If they feel, as a result of their enquiries, they need external input, they know how to go about getting this. They have the necessary strategies and experience to solve most of the issues they identify. Those they can't solve themselves, or collaboratively with their colleagues,  are where myself and the management team will support them with. This may involve us in accessing external expert support, but this is becoming a less frequent need.

A word of caution. Where we are has not been achieved overnight. I and the SMThave been working for some years to get where we are now. We needed to spend time building confidence, and almost giving teachers permission to question what they were doing, and why. They had to trust that we would support them and they would not be getting judged over what they discovered about their practice. We have all made mistakes and this is to be expected. We learned from these and moved on. As a result,  all of us have improved and developed our practice, some more than others but that too is to be expected. What I do know is that changes are embedded in practice of each teacher and have just become part of how they deliver well thought out and impactful learning experiences for their pupils.

In my view, this is the only way to produce sustainability in terms of teacher and school development. It's not about doing lots of 'things' but about each teacher looking closely at their own practice and identifying how they might improve. Not through major and complete change to what they may have done successfully for a number of years, but at small incremental and informed changes that can lead to deep impacts for learners. It has to be part of what they do as professionals throughout their careers,and my role is to help and support them for the betterment of them as individuals and the schools I lead.

When I get back to school, I suppose some things will have changed, because everyone will have moved on a little in their understanding and their practice. It's what we do.

Some suggested reading:
GTCS Professional Standards, Career Long Professional Learning, Management and Leadership 2013
A background paper to inform the development of a national framework for teachers and school leaders by Helen Timperley
The Teaching and Learning Project by GTCE

Aileen Campbell blog – Childcare and information for families⤴


aileencampbell 178 x 201I want Scotland to be the best place for children to grow up.  I share that ambition with lots of other mums and with dads, carers and many others working in the public, voluntary and independent sector.  At 8.32 pm on Wednesday last week, as parents across the country were getting their young ones to bed for the night, the Scottish Parliament voted to pass legislation that will help us achieve that ambition.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill – influenced and shaped by many of those people I mentioned above – is a landmark piece of legislation.

It is focused on giving every child the best start in life and ensuring that they, their parents, carers or others can easily and effectively access advice, help or services to support and enhance their wellbeing.

This includes extending funded, flexible early learning and childcare entitlement to at least 600 hours a year for three- and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds from this August. 

This is an important step towards our ambitious plans to deliver a transformation childcare – with the aim of ensuring that children from age one to school age will be entitled to 1,140 hours of childcare per year.

Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’ outlines how, if the people of Scotland vote ‘yes’ in September’s referendum, we will then have the powers and resources required to progressively and sustainably invest in that truly transformational expansion.

Our immediate focus is on working with local government and other childcare providers as parents make arrangements for their children from this August.

One thing parents often tell us they want help with is to find out what services are available in their local area.

That’s why I’m pleased that, as part of our preparations for expanding childcare following the CYP Bill’s passage, we have re-launched the Family Information Servicewebsite.

The site is now easier to navigate, with an improved local and national search function, allowing parents to find different types of childcare provision, including nurseries, child-minders, playgroups and out-of-school care near their home or work.

It includes other information, such as links to organisations offering support, information and guidance for parents.

The site will continue to be enhanced over the coming months to ensure it has the kinds of free, impartial information that parents want.

I would encourage you to visit the site and also to use the ‘Contact Us’ option if you want to give us your views on the resource and how it might be improved.

Aileen Campbell

Minister for Children

The post Aileen Campbell blog – Childcare and information for families appeared first on Engage for Education.

Karen’s Reflections⤴


As another month draws to a close I have been reflecting on our last four weeks.

Following on from the Creative Maths session held in November we were able to invite our primary probationers along to a further session on Friday 31st January.  Mrs Maths (Hazel) engaged us in some deep and creative thinking about how we approach teaching and learning for numeracy and maths.

We tried out Mathticulate, a timed challenge game.  We had to give clues to the challenger without saying the actual word!



Thinking about ‘Think, Make, Do, Say’ we were challenged to make up cards showing mathematical words and symbols.  As a group we made up cards, and then we swapped with another group.   The nominated person in the group was then responsible using Play-Doh to re-create the word or symbol.  The others in the group had to say what they thought it represented.


Mrs Maths introduced her ITZAmazing Maths Set 1 resource.  We started with number bonds, worked through fractions, 2D and 3D shapes.  We all agreed that this was an amazing resource which had endless possibilities for being creative with maths.

foam shapes

Samantha McGregor, our Arts Development Officer, has secured sets of this resource and they will be available soon to book out for use in schools.

Looking at Raising attainment through school improvement our primary and secondary probationers had an opportunity to discuss approaches to raising attainment in their schools and to share good practices.  We discussed the new Raising Attainment Document and explored the classroom level attributes of success.  This work will also help probationers prepare for interviews.

With report writing approaching in our primary schools our primary probationers got the chance to look at the report format and had an opportunity to create a mock report to help prepare them for the real thing.  Some probationers had already started writing their reports and shared their experiences so far.

Next up for probationers will be Career Review and Development on Friday 7th March for primary probationers and Tuesday 11th March for secondary probationers.  Both sessions run from 9.15 am – 3.15 pm.







What is a WDC teacher?⤴


Queen_Elizabeth_ConstructionWhat are the particular skills required to be a West Dunbartonshire teacher?

On the face of it, the answer to this may well be “the same skills that are required to be an effective teacher anywhere”. Teachers all have to be organised and skilled in leading and motivating learners. However the very nature of small local authorities, based in distinct local settings with their unique social mixes, may well indicate an optimum recipe of skills and beliefs.

West Dunbartonshire is an area characterised by change and reinvention. It has two distinct historical areas, Clydebank and Dumbarton, bordering the once highly industrial River Clyde and the Vale of Leven with a once major textile industry on the river that links Loch Lomond to the Clyde. As the textile industry and in turn the major shipbuilding concerns have fallen to the inevitable effects of globalism, West Dunbartonshire has had to learn to celebrate its past, while inventing a future. This process is very much an ongoing one, with some resulting deprivation as communities that grew around heavy industry in days of high employment, live with the consequences of a shift to so-called Small or Medium Enterprises (SME’s). These communities, only a few generations ago, had manual labour as the main work asset, but now have to shift to a far higher proportion of so called Knowledge Workers, who need higher qualifications, social skills and creativity to take part in and to start new businesses.

Of course the raw analysis of changing work patterns perhaps diverts us from the largest challenge West Dunbartonshire faces, and that is the crisis of confidence that results when an area has counted itself as the very engine room of shipbuilding for a nation which has needed ships to service an Empire. Singer sewing machines and before that, textiles from the Vale travelled all around the world on ships from the wooden clippers to the iron behemoths from the Clydebank yards. Now that this has to all intents and purposes gone, with parents and grandparents of our children having hammered rivets, and in turn welded seams, how do those same parents bring up Knowledge Workers? Understandably they have often found it difficult and there lies the crisis of identity; West Dunbartonshire is reinventing its economic life, but it hasn’t replaced the old story with a new one of learning and innovation. Of course, in many families and communities, this has happened easily, but across WDC, it is a slowly emerging story, and many families still need support in developing these new skills for their children’s future.

This is arguably the distinctive role of a WDC teacher; that of a lynchpin between the proud past and our emerging future. A WDC teacher helps build confidence and optimism in young learners as well as their parents, while consciously developing the skills for our new workplaces.

  • Self reliance and motivation to both love learning and to learn from difficulties
  • Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills to help build new enterprises
  • Qualifications as passports to the global economy
  • Good team behaviours to benefit from learning and to work well with others
  • Openness to new approaches to learning that will help our young people succeed
  • A shared vision of a reinvigorated WDC economy and people

Yes it’s true that all skilful teachers can serve any area effectively, but how much more effective can we be if we are conscious of the particular skills that are at a premium for a particular area. WDC teachers are highly skilful and working towards exciting outcomes for a very distinct set of families who need very good outcomes.

What professional learning helps us to become more effective as WDC teachers?



Watching yourself teach?! Cringe?⤴

from @ mr jamieson flips

One of the guidelines that I have given myself when producing the videos for the Flipped Classroom project is that they are ‘one take’.  If I screw up, then I do it live, just like I would in class, recover from the ‘deliberate’ mistake and move on.  We have all thought from time to time, no matter our level of experience “I wish that I’d explained that better” and it is this kind of reflection that makes you a better teacher.

What better way to do this then, than watching yourself give a lesson on video?  This in itself is an extremely brave thing to do…just ask any actor, and will make many people cringe with absolute embarrassment.  I have found though, that it is a very valuable way to reflect on my own teaching practice.  That is not to say that I have made drastic changes to the way that I teach, but I have noticed little things, for example, I say ‘OK’ waaaaayyy to much!  See this video for liberal sprinkling of OK!

Of course, lecturing to an empty classroom feels weird.  There is no interaction with your audience, no questioning throughout the lecture portion of the lesson, and let’s face it…you are speaking to a wee camera on a tripod!  This means that you behave differently in front of the camera to your regular scintillating personality in the classroom.  Another challenge of flipping, is to not let this happen, bring your hidden Oscar-winning acting skills to the fore and deliver the lesson in an engaging and interactive way.

The main thing is, that as teachers we reflect and evaluate on a consistent basis.  In the hurly burly of curriculum change, exam preparation…I could go on forever but you get the point – we are BUSY! Flipping the classroom has allowed me to reflect on aspects of my repertoire that I would not normally, and it has been a cleansing and worthwhile experience.

iTunesU – Half a Million Ways to Consume and Create⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

Apple and Microsoft both have really mature education ecosystems, with the Apple Professional Development/Distinguished Educator and Microsoft Partners in Learning/ Innovative Educator programmes.  iTunesU is billed as the world’s largest repository of free education content (at last count there were over half a million different courses in there) – and it has to be one […]

Creative Learning Programme – March⤴


CLN March Programmecln programme

Click the link above for a preview of our jam packed programme of Creative Learning CPD opportunities in March.

The aim of the CLN is to champion creativity in learning and to bring together local practitioners, creative partners and learners providing high quality learning experiences, practical support and opportunities to share practice.

Our Creative Learning CPD programme is now in its 3rd year and we are looking forward to a whole month of creativity and CLN activity. With activities ranging from debating to dancing, singing and creative writing, we hope that there will be something for everyone.

Week 1: Music & Movement

Week 2: Drama, Storytelling & Literacy

Week 3: Commonwealth

Week 4: Science