Monthly Archives: March 2018

Broughton High School students’ social enterprise units the community over a cuppa and some cake⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

BRO Enterprise is a social enterprise and cooperative which aims to look at ways to tackle social isolation and loneliness in the community by bringing people together to enjoy a cup of tea and a cake, and to have fun together through crafts and interactive reading activities

Students of Broughton High School have created a safe and welcoming space featuring a community café and intergenerational workshops where everyone is welcome. Established in late November 2017, the enterprise has been running each Friday afternoon and boasts a growing customer base of café regulars and workshop participants from early years to the golden agers. A recent partnership with the Cyrenians Fareshare movement enables the enterprise to provide very low cost and healthy home-made soups and baking. Natalia’s red velvet cake is a definite favourite.

The social enterprise has been a really positive movement in our school.

Learners have real opportunities to become effective contributors and responsible, caring citizens who feel empowered to bring about change within their community. Students are developing skills for work and life in addition to building confidence and creativity. They plan and lead the interactive workshops, create the activities and resources and manage the running of the café. Already, we see that working closely with our community is helping to build a stronger and more caring society.

Each week we provide workshops for people of all ages. We might have an eighty year old making playdough with a seven year olds, or a whole room reading together with props and mimes.

Contested curricula: MBAs past, present and future⤴

from @ Stuart Allan

I wrote a version of this post as the introduction to a research proposal that I’m putting together. Among other things I’m hoping that my research will show how, through curriculum redesign supported by innovative use of pedagogy and digital technologies, business-school education can be realigned with the changing needs of students and society. Anyway, I’m sharing it here as a way to record my thoughts and in case it’s useful to others.

We have built a weird, almost unimaginable design for MBA-level education. We then lay it upon well-proportioned young men and women, distorting them (when we are unlucky enough to succeed) into critters with lopsided brains, icy hearts, and shrunken souls. (Leavitt 1989, p. 39)

Since their inception, business schools’ curricula and the graduates they produce have been the subjects of heated debate. As the first business schools spread across the USA in the early 20th century, critics argued that subject coverage and teaching methods were at a vocational level and not grounded in research, leading to claims that they lacked academic credibility. In response, many schools began emphasising more quantitative, analytical approaches to education, and making greater use of statistical modelling and ‘rational planning’ approaches to strategy, thereby aligning themselves with more established faculties such as mathematics, economics and engineering.

These measures established business schools’ credibility and increased the demand for their provision for almost a century; however, by the early 21st century MBA curricula were being critiqued again for de-privileging many of the skills that contemporary managers needed in practice. These criticisms reached something of a crescendo when business-school graduates (and by extension the schools themselves) were seen by many to be complicit in the global financial crisis of 2008.

The literature on the perceived shortcomings of the MBA is now considerable in both breadth and depth, but consensus seems to be emerging around some of the capabilities that managers need but MBAs typically fail to deliver. These include leadership, self-awareness, change management, interpersonal and communication skills, innovation and creativity, and the ability to solve complex problems by integrating the disciplines. Moreover, there is some evidence that these missing capabilities are the very skills that are most likely to determine graduates’ future career success.

Perhaps even more seriously, there are accusations that business schools are failing to develop graduates who possess an understanding of the moral and ethical dimensions of business: critics say that many MBA graduates are detached, driven by self-interest, and lacking in both empathy and leadership skills. In particular, ethics, sustainability and social responsibility are seen as being either absent from MBA curricula or not meaningfully inscribed into practice. This situation has led to demands that business schools re-examine their curricula and the assumptions that underpin them, and even ask themselves why they exist at all.

Meanwhile, many business schools are seen as being too slow to embrace the complexities of digital technologies, both in terms of their implications for practice and in terms of how programmes are designed and delivered:

[Business] schools remain desperately slow to embrace the digital world. Strong brands have enabled them to escape the implications of this, but they are likely to be found out as online courses become ever-more accepted and sophisticated. (Crainer 2015, p. 48).

Almost three decades on, Leavitt’s plaintive cry about lopsided brains, icy hearts and shrunken souls still seems to echo – unheard – through business schools. However, for schools that are perhaps smaller and more agile, there seems to be an opportunity to reposition themselves ahead of more established institutions that have been slower to embrace change.

Here are some of the questions that business schools might wish to consider as they think about their curricula, and particularly how they approach their online programmes:

  • What processes are required so that a dialogue can be established between schools’ curricula and the needs of students and businesses over the long term?
  • What academic, technical and administrative infrastructure is required in order to support online education that aligns with these needs while operating on a global scale?
  • How can business schools leverage the potential of global communities of online learners to meet educational goals, develop highly skilled graduates and inform future curriculum development?
  • How do business schools assess students in ways that are appropriate to complex and ever-changing learning outcomes, while operating at scale and protecting assessment validity?
  • To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the MBA appear to be greatly exaggerated. But do business schools need to shift at least some of their emphasis (and their resources) from the MBA to other qualifications, such as hyper-specialist MScs or micro-credentialing for business?


I’ve removed most of the citations to avoid interrupting the flow too much here, but some of the main works that informed this post are:

Crainer S. (2015) ‘MBAs: facing the future’, Business Life, October 2015, pp. 44–48.

Glen R., Suciu C. and Baughn C. (2014) The need for design thinking in business schools. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 13 (4), 653–667.

Laud R.L. and Johnson M.S. (2013) Progress and regress in the MBA curriculum: the career and practice skills gap. Organization Management Journal, 10 (1), 24–35.

Leavitt H.J. (1989) Educating our MBAs: on teaching what we haven’t taught. California Management Review, 31 (3), 38–50.

A short post -So what exactly are we developing on development days?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

Here’s where I am on teacher education after nineteen years of teaching.

If you have, on average, six Development Days every year, and those last, let’s say, six hours each  at a conservative estimate. That’s thirty six hours of development time every year. If a school has one hundred teachers, which is not unheard of, then that adds up to, unless I’m worse at Maths than I thought, 3600 hours of development time. Imagine what we could achieve if all of those hours were focused on improving pedagogy which directly improved the education of our children, instead of meaningless processes of management speak.

Looking back at how much of my development time over those nineteen years has been wasted with comically time-wasting processes, box-ticking and time-serving, passively sitting in front of forty pages of someone’s Powerpoint presentation, is it any wonder that we become passive in our approach to Development Days?

Get Going with Green Screen film-making in the classroom⤴

from @ ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

So what is green-screen?

Essentially it’s using software or an app to combine different images or video so that one appears as if part of the other. The green screen part makes use of chroma-key feature of the app so that anyone standing in front of a green screen will appear in the video with the green screen not seen at all, but replaced by another chosen background image or video. Wikipedia gives a much fuller explanation here:

But how do I create a film in the classroom with green screen?

With an iPad, and a green screen app (such as the Doink green screen iPad app) and with anything in the background which is green (whether frieze paper on the wall or green sheeting, or specially made green screen fabric on a frame) you are ready to go.

Have a look at the Sway below for examples of videos created by pupils using the DoInk green screen iPad app, along with how-to guides to starting to use it yourself. And then it’s creativity on the part of your learners in the classroom – for further inspiration have a look at the DoInk green screen app blog  to see how others have shared about using green screen film-making in the classroom.



Where next for Curriculum for Excellence?⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Today, I took part in a seminar in Edinburgh which focused on Scotland's curriculum and the priorities for the new Education Bill currently being prepared for parliamentary approval by the Scottish Government. Entitled, 'Next steps for Curriculum for Excellence - supporting teachers, tackling the attainment gap and priorities for the Education Bill' it was held at the Royal Society Edinburgh, and featured a range of educational and political speakers, starting with Graham Donaldson as someone heavily involved at the outset of CfE and who is now helping to shape the new curriculum for Wales. Graham is also a member of the International Council of Education Advisors to the Scottish government.

He started the day with an overview of CfE as it was originally envisioned and proposed, as well as a consideration of where we were now at. He said that it had been acknowledged by the OECD, academics and other countries that the approach encapsulated in CfE was one that many sought to emulate. He cited Singapore, Australia and Wales as examples of systems who were looking to better develop curricular and learning experiences, so that they better prepared their learners for the shifting sands of rapid change in society and economies. He pointed out that much of the change agenda was linked to the technological changes that were taking place, and which continue apace. He also believed that change in education would be gathering more pace over the next ten to fifteen years, to match the technological developments happening, and that we should be prepared for this. I queried this during the Q and A session afterwards, because it is my belief that such a scenario is even more unstainable than where we are now, and that in fact we need to slow down, in order to deepen and embed meaningful change. Another key point he asked us to consider was that the curriculum needs to keep developing, if we are to maintain our place in the vanguard of system development. he queried whether we were in danger of slipping behind others, and asked us to consider the danger of us just getting better at the wrong things.

There then followed a mix of speakers, providing a range of perspectives on CfE. I was one of these. A full report on all that was said will emerge in the next week or two, but in this post I wish to give a view of my own input, and the points I tried to make in a very limited times slot of just 5 minutes per speaker. As I was the last one on, I think I had less time to get my main messages across, so hopefully this can do that, whether you were at the seminar or not.

I began by stating that I remain a supporter of CfE as it was originally envisioned and set out. However, like many others, I am not a fan of what it has become in many instances. For many headteachers, and teachers, the key issues were as follows. What it has become. The current iteration of CfE is so far from what was originally envisioned, to be almost unrecognisable from those founding principles and philosophy set out by its architects. It possibly resembles too much the previous 5-14 curriculum than we would like, with all the associated problems. Bureaucracy. Schools, and teachers, in all sectors are awash with paperwork to such an extent that they have little time to think about and create exciting and engaging learning experiences for learners. This has come at them from local authorities, Education Scotland, the HMIE, Scottish Government, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and many others. We should not ignore the fact that a lot of this paperwork and bureaucracy has been created and generated by schools themselves as well. Micromanagement of something that was supposed to be grown from the ground up. Because systems never changed to match the new curriculum, CfE was shoe-horned into what was already there. So all the different points in the system exerted their 'control' functions with a plethora of 'support' and 'advice', which quickly turned into mico-management of the whole process. We didn't spend enough time at the outset up-skilling school leaders and teachers in a new way of thinking and being, resulting in some chaotic interpretations, which created the space and opportunity for micro-management. The Es and Os and Benchmarks. Designed to help and support, as well as ensure consistency, these have become a manifestation of the bureaucratic tendencies and the desire for micro-management by some in the system. They are promoting a tick-box approach to development in many schools, as well as another flurry of paperwork for teachers and school leaders to deal with. Accountability measures have come to dominate. Having teachers and schools 'prove' everything they have done, and are doing, has come at the cost of improving what they do. A lot of what I have already identified, has accountability at its core, not the development of learning and teaching. Teaching still being viewed as a technical activity. All of the above, as well as other actions, and actors, in the system, still view teaching as a technical activity, with teachers and schools needing to be told exactly what to do, how and what resources to use, rather than the complex professional activity it really is. They also portray learning as a simple linear progression.This linked to my final point which was about mindsets. The issue of the fixed mindsets that existed, and still exist, both within schools and beyond them, had never been addressed. I think this was a bigger problem outside of schools, who were trying to implement CfE as originally intended, but who were thwarted by the mindsets and practices of those beyond the schools, who were still fixed in the 5-14 curriculum and associated practices.

I then asked, is there another way? I referred to 'Flip The System UK', edited by Lucy Rycroft-Smith and JL Dutaut, and 'Practitioner Enquiry' authored by myself. Both of these focused on another way of promoting school and system development by harnessing and unleashing the power and agency of teachers. I identified that it had been noted by McKinsey, Hattie and others, that teachers were the key to system and school development, therefore teachers needed to be supported, encouraged and trusted to develop what everyone was looking for.

This would require the following focuses. We need to develop true teacher agency. The ability of teachers to make decisions and take action needs to stretch beyond their immediate classrooms and practice, and needs to become part of all school and system cultures. Some teachers, and many in the system, may find this difficult, but it has to be done if we are to release the power that already resides in every school and across the system. We need to help them develop adaptive expertise, again not just in their practice, but also across schools and systems. They need to be supported to develop the skills and aptitudes necessary for high levels of reflection and adaptability. Connected to this is teacher leadership. Leadership is crucial in any school or system, but it should not be confined to those with formal leadership titles and roles. We need to flatten hierarchies so that the system and schools are more democratic, with all valued and able to contribute. This will lead to the development of true system leadership practices and understandings. By developing self-improving teachers and schools, we are helping to develop a self-improving system. Collaboration and collaborative practices need to encouraged and supported. This will support all and help develop everyone's practice. Next we need to create curriculum experiences that are grounded in local contexts. Our schools need to reflect the local community and learning should be linked to these wherever possible. This should happen at a local, area and national level. Finally, I asked for there to be more trust and true support for our teachers and our schools. We need to stop them having to spend so much of their time proving to others what they are doing, instead of improving for the betterment of all their learners.

I then shared some recent quotes from leading  academics and educationalist, that I thought reflected what I had been saying, or gave us cause to stop and think.

Mark Priestley said on his blog earlier this year,

'The  new Celtic curricula are grounded in specific purposes of education, which provide a clear starting point for schools to develop a curriculum. In Scotland these are articulated as attributes and capabilities, set out under four headings, successful learners, responsible citizens, effective contributors and confident individuals.'

'I believe that is greatly preferable to a curriculum apparently devoid of purposes and framed primarily around content decided by national policy makers.'

Alma Harris said on Twitter in 2017,

'Teachers are not the problem in our education systems, they are the solution.'

In 'Leading system transformation' 2010 she also noted that,

'To change an entire system undoubtedly requires leadership of a different nature, order and scale...the importance of developing leadership at all levels in order to be successful.'

In Teacher learning and Leadership' published in late 2017, Lieberman, Campbell and Yashinka wrote,

'Improvement cannot be simply driven down by a system into classrooms, nor cannot be based on individual practices that are not shared and supported more widely.'

'When educators', policy makers', and researchers' voices are heard and when these groups learn to work together, there is tremendous potential for the good of the students and the professionalization of teaching.'

My presentation ended with two conclusions for the audience and policy makers to consider, which I feel will make a massive difference to teachers and what we are trying to achieve. These were,

'Our focus has been out of kilter, and perhaps still is. We are still too focused on systems and structures and not enough on equipping and supporting our teachers to co-create a curriculum that reflects the four principles of CfE, in order to deliver something that works for all learners as well as the system as a whole.'


'Improvements cannot just be mandated from above, they need collaboration and trust between all partners.'

Having read all this again, I can see why I might have been struggling to cover all these points in the time allocated. But, hopefully, you have a clearer sense of what I was trying to say.

There was a lively question and answer session at the end, and some more important points raised from the floor. The importance of early years and pre school was mentioned and talked about, especially learning through play and the impact that standardised testing may be having on P1 learning and well-being. Questions were raised about primary education and the development of literacy and numeracy as discreet areas of study. We also talked about winning the hearts and minds of teachers, and my belief that improvement cannot be mandated or forced from on high. In my view, what does work is the creation of deep learning cultures and an ethos, built on trust, which encourages and expects everyone to keep developing and growing their practice, informed by evidence and data.

Before I left, I had the chance to speak to a few people over coffee. A common comment was that we seem to have been having the same conversations for thirteen years and more, as well as how do we change all this and make the improvements that are still required? In truth, there are no easy answers or panaceas, but we are being dishonest with ourselves, our learners and their parents, if we do not expose these issues to debate and scrutiny, so that we can find a better way forward. In any learning, making mistakes is a key part of the process, as long as you learn from these to improve what you do. A culture of trust and mutual respect is crucial.

The Greatest Show⤴


I have a new obsession; the film musical ‘The Greatest Showman’.

I took my children to see it last month and we all adored it. Last night we took my husband and he loved it too; we had said beforehand that he was at risk of being excluded from the family if he didn’t but luckily it all turned out ok.

The soundtrack has been in my car and head for the last month and reminded me once again of the power of music, drama and the arts to inspire, teach and enlighten.

In a month where the arts are fighting to survive in schools and society, the need for us to shout about this power is never greater:


I know that the historical accuracy of the story is highly blurred by dramatic licence. I am sure that the actual Mr P.T. Barnum was not quite the poster-boy for inclusion and the flag-bearer for vulnerable minorities that the story makes him out to be (just google him). But in this story, he is in an incredibly well-drawn character; passionate; principled; strong; weak; flawed; wrong and right.

Every song in the film is a hit and I have been thinking about how I could use each one as a teaching tool; either with staff as part of CPD, or pupils, in PSE or an assembly, or both.

Maybe one a month throughout next year?


The Greatest Show

Message: Life is here for the taking. Don’t put it off, seize it.

It’s everything you ever want

It’s everything you ever need

And it’s here right in front of you

This is where you wanna be.



A Million Dreams

Message: Even when life is tough, imagination and dreams can help us find solutions and set us free. Barnum as a child is abused, neglected and orphaned but he has big dreams and forms alternative secure attachments that help him though. There is hope for children who suffer early trauma.

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy

They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind

I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy

We can live in a world that we design.



Come Alive

Message: We can beat sadness, low mood and negativity by connecting with others and finding the light and colour in life. There can be sunshine after rain.

‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking

Think of that your only option

But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day

Sun is up and the color’s blinding

Take the world and redefine it

Leave behind your narrow mind

You’ll never be the same.



The Other Side

Message: Be prepared to take risks in order to achieve your potential and find fulfillment. Don’t stay with what is safe and known. (This is a good one for me just now as I try to persuade some staff and pupils to take risks.)

Don’t you wanna get away to a whole new part you’re gonna play

‘Cause I got what you need, so come with me and take the ride

To the other side

So if you do like I do

So if you do like me

Forget the cage, ’cause we know how to make the key

Oh, damn! Suddenly we’re free to fly.



Never Enough

Message: No matter how much we have, it can feel as if it is never enough. In the film, we see that this is true at times for both Jenny Lind and Barnum. It has certainly been a theme in my life. Interestingly, we discover that Jenny was born out of wedlock and has clearly spent her life looking for something to replace a missing bond; in the film, she seems unable to find a way of healing her internal hurt child and to find a love that might help heal that.


All the shine of a thousand spotlights

All the stars we steal from the night sky

Will never be enough

Never be enough

Towers of gold are still too little

These hands could hold the world but it’ll

Never be enough.



This is Me

Message: We are all beautiful, unique, worthy of love and respect. There is no such thing as normal. There is no need to be ashamed of who we are. Bullies, stop.


When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me.




Rewrite The Stars

Message: The love that dare not speak its name must be named and celebrated. Race issues back then, LGBTQ issues now; we need to keep changing the world….. and it is not impossible.

How do we rewrite the stars?

Say you were made to be mine?

Nothing can keep us apart

Cause you are the one I was meant to find

It’s up to you

And it’s up to me

No one can say what we get to be

Why don’t we rewrite the stars?

Changing the world to be ours.




Message: Life is never straightforward but it is the most wonderful adventure; to make the most of it we need to acknowledge that it has ups and downs, that we need to take risks but that we also need a stable hand to hold.

Hand in my hand

And you promised to never let go

We’re walking the tightrope

High in the sky

We can see the whole world down below

We’re walking the tightrope

Never sure, will you catch me if I should fall?

Well, it’s all an adventure

That comes with a breathtaking view



From Now On

Message: We can learn from our past mistakes, see what is important and choose to live by our true values and with love. Right now.

I saw the sun begin to dim

And felt that winter wind

Blow cold

A man learns who is there for him

When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold

Cause from then, rubble

What remains

Can only be what’s true

If all was lost

There’s more I gained

Cause it led me back

To you.


So there it is.

In writing this, I have listened again to all the songs again and I have found lyrics and subtleties that could make me start all over again. I am inspired, moved and amazed all over again.

I know that not everyone likes a musical. That some will find it cheesy. But if not, why not embrace this incredible opportunity to help you develop a culture that celebrates love, life, creativity, diversity, vulnerability and the immeasurable power of the arts?

WonkHE: Openness in Education – a call to action for policy makers⤴


As part of Open Education Week I’m delighted that Maren Deepwell, CEO of ALT, and I have an article published in WonkHE on Openness in education: a call to action for policy makers.  The article introduces the recent ALT policy guide,  highlights some of the benefits of OER, and articulates why we need policy makers to embrace open education.