Monthly Archives: September 2018

National Coding Week Reflection⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

A slightly different post this week as I look back rather than forward.  I’m looking back on the fantastic National Coding Week that we’ve just had – 17th-21st September, 2018.  As you will know from my twitter feed and previous blogs, I love coding.  I love the skills that it can help learners to develop.  I love the fact that we are really starting to teach it properly, and we’re aiming to give our children the chance to build their digital futures.

I celebrated National Coding Week in three ways; first, I wrote a blog on ‘The Digital Revolution’ for the National Coding Week Website, which can be found here.  Second, I wrote a blog on ‘Using Technology to Visualise Learning and Tackle Misconceptions’ for Twinkl Scotland, which can be found here.  Finally I published a series of resources and teacher help-sheets on twitter for each day of National Coding Week.  You will be able to find the resources below.

I’m also putting some of the best examples that I’ve found on Twitter of coding in the classroom from #NationalCodingWeek.  Hopefully, this blog will inspire you not only to continue/start coding with your classes, but also will give you the opportunity to connect with other schools and practitioners that are starting coding with their classes.

Day 1 – A great way to start coding with Scratch

Monday’s challenge was an introduction to coding.  This lesson has been tried and tested hundreds of time, and even formed part of Dr Amanda Ford‘s thesis (my partner in crime for creating these resources).

You can find the full downloadable image and accompanying teacher cards here.

The idea of the maze game, is that it’s a fun and fairly simple game for children to create, and each game is very unique to the designer as ‘design’ and ‘creativity’ are probably the biggest parts of it.  It also teaches about ‘looping’ and ‘conditionals’ – two of the most common concepts in computer programming and thus skills that can be transferred into most other programs.



Day 2 – IDL: Learning music through code

Tuesday was my first example of how coding can be taught across the curriculum.  Digital skills are officially becoming ‘core skills’ in the next update, and so will be a responsibility for all.  I have long believed that computer science should not be taught as a discrete subject, as the skills developed are transferrable to almost every aspect of the curriculum and life.  This set of resources were aimed at giving ideas for ways to teach aspects of music through computer science.  The featured resource was ‘Code your own musical instrument in scratch’, but I also published a breakdown of composition in Scratch and a ‘name that tune’ challenge card.  You can find all of the resources from day 2 here.



Day 3 – IDL: learning probability with code

Day three was my maths day (although, I did post an additional maths resource for #MathsWeekScotland on Twitter prior to coding week – you can find that resource here.) Something that I love doing in teaching maths is to use coding skills as an introduction into teaching probability.  For this lesson, we are asking children to program their own random number generator by create a dice that ‘rolls’ to a random number.  After the children have ‘coded’ the dice they then test out the randomness of each number using their developing knowledge of data handling, and also test their peers’ games.  Sure, I could have given them each a dice to do it, but I’ve found that this has been much more stimulating in the past and has allowed children to really want to test games and use their creative skills rather than just rolling a dice.  The resources from day 3 can be found here.


Day 4 – IDL: coding dialogue and animations

Whilst lots of my learners like creating their own games, many just want to allow their creativity to shine as they bring their stories and scripts to life.  You can do that in Scratch!  I used to love, as part of the children’s learning in literacy, to have the children write their own stories, establishing characterisation, and then bring scenes from their stories to life in Scratch.  The power of Scratch in creating animations is only limited by the children’s own imagination and their understanding of code – you literally can make anything happen, from characters teleporting, to animated talking, to importing your own drawings and bringing them to life.  Whilst they could have filmed each other acting out scenes, this can be limiting and also isn’t always inclusive as there are children who find that situation intimidating.  With scratch, everyone has a chance to create fantastic animations.  Day 4’s resource is a quick guide to creating a simple animation that includes dialogue.  The full resource can be found here.


Day 5 – extending learning in the maze.

Variables are a tricky concept to get to grips with.  Scratch does make them fairly easy to work with, however, learners need a lot of exposure to them in order to fully grasp how and when to use them.  By taking the maze game – a game that the children are already familiar with (from lesson one) we can extend the game and add challenge to it by using the variable ‘time’.  This is a great way to introduce the concept of a variable as ‘time’ (in addition to score) are the most commonly used ‘visible’ variables in gaming, and the children will be used to seeing them in the games that they play.

The full resource can be found here.




Your examples

There was so much amazing work going on across Scotland that it was hard to choose only a few examples to feature in this blog post.  You can see all of the tweets posted during the week by using #NationalCodingWeek.














I do hope that you’ve all enjoyed #NationalCodingWeek as much as I have!

Have a great week everyone, see you next week!


Why we need to teach and talk about mental health in schools? For ResearchEd Scotland 2018.⤴


Yesterday I was a speaker at ResearchEd Scotland and talked about the reasons why we need to teach and talk about mental health in schools. The text and slides from what I said are below. It being me, I went a little off text at times but I managed to say most of what I had planned. Where text is in brackets, it means that I did not get to say it due to time constraints.


Today I am going to talk about why I believe we need to teach and talk about mental health in schools. Some people like to argue that mental health education should be the remit of parents or health professionals or trained staff, but I would argue differently.

I think that there are 5 key reasons why talking and teaching about mental health must be part of our work in schools and they will be at the heart of what I talk about today.


To start, then, with the first.



This is the World Health Organisation definition of mental health and I really like this. When we look at this, we have to question why there is stigma around talking about mental health. How is this any different to the broadest aims for education that any of us would aspire to achieve?


And in fact, in spite of all the recent wranglings about the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence, there is a huge resonance between the WHO definition and these capacities. I would not want to work in an education system that has anything else at its centre.

But just to return to this slide for a moment, although I love this, I do have a slight issue with one word here and that is the word “normal”:




When we talk about mental health we need to remember that there is no normal; my mental health is not necessarily yours. What is important is that each one of us understands what we need to do to keep mentally healthy.


But now to my second reason from my earlier slide:


For a long time now, we have been bombarded with press reports suggesting an unprecedented crisis in teenage mental health and calls to urgent action. But, is the crisis real?4C97D6E7-CA8F-4205-A1C9-4D20D59D4ED2

Back in 2016 there was a report that basically told us that things were pretty bad for our teenagers.

If we weren’t feeling pessimistic before we read this, we probably would have been afterwards as it did not contain a great deal of good news.


My response to this and similar reporting in the Guardian on what they referred to as  Generation K was to write a blog post where I argued that just maybe, things weren’t quite as bad as the reporting suggested.

It all got me thinking about a lesson that my dad once taught me. It wasn’t one of those life lessons that takes place over a camp fire and stays etched in your memory for ever but rather a literal lesson; my dad served a double purpose in my life for a while as father and economics teacher. I had a brief flirtation with economics in sixth form. I started off doing A Level EPA (economic and political affairs) but being hopeless at maths sent the economics the same way as both physics and a career in medicine had gone a year previously. I decided to settle with an O level in economics and went on to do straight A level politics. However, I remember that dad …or rather Mr Bell…talked in an economics lesson about the fact that within our lifetime we would experience a shift in working patterns as technology created efficiencies that would result in more leisure time. The leisure industry would grow and people would work less because tech and IT would make it possible to achieve tasks in less time.

I do remember wondering about the subtle difference between having more leisure time and being unemployed…..however, there was clearly an economic model underpinning the ideas.

So, where has the Generation Leisure, forecast in 1986, gone? Seemingly, instead having more time and leisure in which to have fun, we find that  “British teenagers are among the most troubled in the world”: of the 42 nationalities surveyed in one report, only Macedonian and Polish teens were less happy with their lot.” It reported that we have teenagers crippled by anxiety; about debt, about terrorism, about social relationships. But in fact the article did then go on to give some hope, pointing out that teenagers generally also value authenticity, connection and friendship but it was hard to find this amongst the gloom.

There is no doubt that we live in a society that should have more free-time and where technology has created efficiency. Take a practical example. In 2016 I was studying for the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ course which required me to read a lot of academic literature. Twenty years ago, this would have probably required me driving to Glasgow (2 hours each way), going to a library, checking out each and every book and article (because they would have been the type that you could not take home), sitting and reading each one and taking copious notes. I cannot begin to calculate the time that this would have taken; time away from family, dead time travelling, time finding parking, time stuck in traffic. Today, I can click on a link in a virtual library and the book is here, on my laptop. I can read parts of it, go and put on a load of washing, come back to it, add notes electronically, spend an hour on a family walk, come back to it again.

Hours of my life have been saved in this way. I have hours more time that I can spend on leisure, with my friends and family, relaxing, meditating, right?

But actually, no. Because those hours that I have gained have somehow been hi-jacked by other things; learning Spanish, exercising, cleaning the house, trying once again to sort the finances. Doing, doing, doing……worrying, worrying, worrying.

Because the reality is that free time is SCARY. And space and quietness are times where the mind can ask those disturbing questions:

Who am I?

What is life all about?

Who do I want to be?

I would argue (and I know that others have done it more eloquently) that these questions are particularly disturbing in our now largely secular society where God, the church and the state no longer provide the majority with answers to questions about the meaning of life.

And so instead of trying to provide secular answers to the meaning of life and self, we have created a religion of busyness.

And in my 2016 blog, I suggested that it was not just an issue in the world of young people and education. Read Ariana Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’. Read or watch ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ by Allison Pearson. And listen to John Lennon’ s ‘Beautiful Boy, written as long ago as 1981, where he said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

In my 2016 blog, I also went on to talk about the fact that what we may have come to label as a crisis of individual mental ill-health is perhaps in fact more of a societal dis-ease that education can help to play a part in addressing. Surely, as educators, parents and people, we need to encourage Generation Leisure to learn how to live and be happy in the life they have.

To know themselves and their minds.

To self-regulate.

To live with uncertainty and understand the things they can be certain of.

To embrace the best in social media and to reject the rubbish.

Back in 2016 there was a growing movement who were working hard to take this forward. They included the ‘#teacher5aday group, the #optimisticEd group, those who are fighting to raise the profile of PSHE (including Dr Pooky Knighstsmith @PookyH) and of course the man who now goes by the title ‘my favourite Doctor’, Dr Tim O’Brien and his book ‘Inner Story’; you can read my review here:

My blog finished with a reference back to Mr Bell and economics. Another lesson led me to the work ‘Leviathan’, written by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 which referred to the state of mankind, when unregulated, as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Over 300 hundred years later and, even though we haven’t left the EU yet, our lives (at least in the Western world) are far from this. Yet, reading about Generation K and the crisis in teenage mental health in 2016, and we might have been led to believe that they are.

By 2017 we were still reading more of the same:



And this summer, we got this:



I don’t deny that provision in the UK for children and young people who are highly distressed, suicidal and suffering mental illness are woefully inadequate and I have been fairly relentless in my campaigning to improve things.  It hasn’t always won me friends or helped my career prospects. But when I see austerity impacting on the wellbeing of children and leading to the deaths of children then I will not keep quiet.

Children with acute mental illness need specialist support an often they need it urgently, or they are at risk of death.

I don’t disagree with reports like this when they are evidence-based and if they help raise awareness that we need to talk. But I also think that we need to be clear what we are talking about. Teenagers have always suffered from emotional difficulty; it is part of being an adolescent and it is really important that we acknowledge that and talk about it as teachers and as parents/carers. For more on this, check out the pioneering research being done by neuroscientist Professor Sarah Jayne Blakemore and others in her field. We also need to ensure that we don’t create a crisis of “mental illness” or teenage depression by somehow turning normal emotions into something pathological. In perhaps the greatest and most popular study of teenagers ever, Shakespeare presents adolescence in all its terrible, emotional beauty; “Romeo and Juliet” deals with the issue of teenage suicide.

Last week we had this in the news. The slightly heart-breaking but also inspiring revelation that chirpy, positive Ruth Davidson suffered as a young person but hasn’t let it hold her back:


Now, not to labour the point, there was clearly some degree of teenage mental ill health back when Ruth was younger, a good 20 years ago when there was no social media and none of the associated pressures.

And back when this young university student was smiling on a German statue around 30 years ago there was also a lot of turmoil and mental distress under the smile:


Maybe more of her later…


If we look at the various articles I have referenced above or other sources to find suggestions as to the cause of the ‘crisis’ that we are facing, what do we find?

Well, social media gets apportioned a lot of the blame, that’s for sure (we hear about its alleged impact on body image fears, perfectionism and the fear of missing out) but actually what we know is that social media is still in its relative infancy in terms of robust and longitudinal research into its impact. Much as we THINK or FEEL that young people are more body conscious because of social media, we don’t KNOW.

In fact, if you follow the right you-tubers as a teenager on social media, you might, in fact, discover a whole tribe of like-minded individuals who make you feel better about yourself and your body, rather than worse.

What we DO know is that the ability of young people (and adults) to SWITCH OFF and have time away from connection with others is hugely reduced by social media and that this is likely to be affecting our thoughts, emotions and relationships.

We do know that technology is likely to be having a worrying impact on the quality of people’ s sleep in the 21st century and that poor sleep hygiene and poor mental health are clearly interconnected. For more on this, look at the research of Dr Mike Farquhar, Consultant in Sleep Medicine at Great Ormond Street Hospital:



However, the causes behind the so-called crisis are not easy to define…because if they were, surely they would be easy to address.

Last summer I read a book by Matt Haig which I would highly recommend as an analysis of the possible reasons behind the societal dis-ease that is affecting many young people.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is brilliantly written as it tells Matt Haig’s personal story of anxiety, depression, existential doubts and literary genius but also draws on the ideas of other researchers and thinkers. Here, for example, he quotes Harari’s hugely influential book Sapiens…..and I don’t think this is a million miles away from what we talked about back in Mr Bell’s economics lessons.


Before we move on from the possible causes of any mental health crisis, I just want to mention this:


Because the world is confusing and hard to understand a lot of the time, not just for children, but for us adults too. And it’s only if we talk about it, that we will be able to manage it. I am not sure why this man is a role model. If I could, I’d ask him what he has to say about some of the mistakes from his past and debate whether he is actually the ultimate authentic role model who admits that he is flawed and has erred but is now repentant and looking to be forgiven so that he can work productively and fruitfully to make a contribution to his community. Maybe I would be able to forgive him and move on. But maybe some of the victims of his past would find it harder.

But to return to my first slide, whatever the reasons may be, a lot of young people would appear to be struggling and it seems logical that we, as people who are working to educate and support young people, should talk and teach about it.

The third reason behind my assertion is this.

In 2016 I did a poll on Twitter about staff mental health.




A friend who is a teacher in England and whom I really trust had said the phrase quoted to me.

I had heard of a school leader who had recently said that she had concerns over a prospective employee because she knows that she had suffered depression in the past.

I  was aware that the virtual community of which I was a part at the time was something of an echo chamber. The amazing, positive, empathic, wonderful people whom I was engaging with through #teacher5day, “HealthyTeacherToolkit” and other forums did not, I feared, represent the whole of our profession. And that bothered me. I had written a lot on this matter and about how I think it SHOULD be in schools.

Of course, the poll was pretty unscientific and I am sure that the wonderful researchEd crew and Tom Bennett would have been pretty unimpressed:

For a start, there was no definition of what I meant by mental health.

I did not specify whether I wanted people with a medical diagnosis or the self-diagnosed to respond

And I did not ask the same question relating to physical health in order to make a comparison. I  was hugely thankful to those who engaged with this and showed a shared passion to make things better.

The slide shows the final result:

Unscientfic or not, there was a message here. Thank goodness for that 65%. But 35% agreeing?

Many people also tweeted thoughts and several sent me longer direct messages.

And the  real value of this exercise was in these responses and stories:

Some teachers and leaders answered with a definitive “I do not agree” and talked about schools where the mental wellbeing of staff is prioritised.

Others talked of having experienced terrible treatment in one school only to find a sympathetic approach in another so that they could continue successfully in their careers.

Some teachers talked of having been dismissed in defiance of equalities legislation but without the resilience or support to challenge this; the law is one thing but invisible prejudice that cannot be proven is another.

Others spoke of being forced into early retirement having shown vulnerability or having asked for support or reasonable adaptations.

And so on.

It seemed clear that there were some amazing schools out there doing an amazing job. There was a lot to be learned from them. But there were clearly also schools where there was room for improvement.

Some observations I made at the time

The education of our children is not something to be taken lightly.

Having someone who is able to be nurturing, calm, positive, realistically optimistic and caring for children is vital. If you aren’t those things, you probably need to do some reflection on whether now is the right time for you to be working with young people.

But that is not to say that you can’t be all of those things and suffering from mental health issues. There are teachers who put on the act during the day but struggle out of school with stress. There are functioning, thriving depressives. There are those who experience anxiety but manage it.

Let’s be honest. If someone is suffering from a bout of severe depression, they will probably be incapable of putting everything needed into teaching a class of thirty adolescents.

But then again, so would someone suffering severe back pain.

Teaching is stressful and maybe those who are not mentally resilient are not best suited to be in a classroom under intense pressures.

But there are other options. Teaching adults. Teaching part-time. A career break for recovery.

Absence in school through any type of illness is hard to manage. Getting quality supply can be difficult and absence can impact on teaching and learning. But school leaders can minimise absence through awareness of their staff members’ wellbeing, early intervention and by creating a culture where it is ok to ask for help.

The individual school context and ethos are key. If ethos is not right, it is this in itself that may lead to a person suffering from mental ill health even if they had no issues previously.

If you hit me with a stick, I will suffer physical injury and distress. If you shout at me, bully me, exclude me, undermine me, I will suffer mental injury and distress.

(In the long term, I (and others) would like to see the following implemented in order to ensure that moving forward, all schools are happy, healthy environments:

The inclusion in all leadership and headship development courses of modules on staff wellbeing management.

The inclusion in all initial teacher training courses of modules on managing emotional health and wellbeing in a high-challenge profession.

Awareness raising around equalities legislation that tells us that it is illegal to discriminate against someone who has mental health issues (current or past).

The development of education-specific occupational health teams.)

In the short term, here’s what I suggested that people could do, whether they were a head teacher or a dinner lady:

  • Be reflective about your own assumptions and prejudices and learn about mental health, what it is and what it is not. Do a mental health first aid course or look at website like this:
  • Engage in all those behaviours and kindnesses that you teach your pupils about.
  • Challenge gossip and rumour about others.
  • Challenge bullying behaviour and cliques.
  • Avoid repeating certain clichéd phrases – for example “she’s off her head”, “he’s a psychopath”.
  • Watch out for each other and ask people how they are. Listen to the answer.
  • Challenge stigma.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Celebrate the wonderful diversity of your colleagues and embrace them for all they are, vulnerabilities and strengths.
  • Love the ones you’re with. You never know when they may not be there.



Back for a moment to this book; I really like the way that Matt Haig talks about stigma here:


If as adults, we stuggle to talk, how on earth are children going to manage?

But hopefully, things are changing.

And this brings me on to my next reason.


We need to create cultures in schools where pupils meet with adults who care about them and show them unconditional positive regard.

What this means is adults who see them as lovable and full of potential and able to learn, even when sometimes they can’t act loveably or learn for the moment. Who show them that they respect and have time for them even when they sometimes have difficult things going on in their heads and make poor choices.

Who don’t judge them because they sometimes act out because they are feeling so bad.

Who don’t shame or punish them for their behaviours but allow them to get it wrong in the hope that with good teaching and support they will learn to get it right.

Who don’t punish precisely those pupils who are living the hardest lives and deserve more support than others.

These are the teachers and adults who make a difference to children who are struggling to make good choices and are therefore mentally unhealthy.


Chris Kilkenny is a care-experienced speaker in his early twenties who grew up in poverty, in care and in addiction services because of the addictions that had been passed on to him in utero. I am honoured to call Chris my friend. He talks about the very poor experiences he had in school when there were no adults willing to see beyond his behaviour and take the time to see that he was struggling. No-one who asked how he was. No-one who was there, day-in, day-out. Chris  now goes into schools and talks about the difference that just one adult can make to the life of a child by doing the simplest things. If you want to hear Chris talk about this, find last week’s Ricky Ross Show from Sunday morning on STV catch-up.  Or watch out for him on the STV Appeal this coming Tuesday, 25th September at 7.30pm. Chris is also part of the ACE Aware Nation movement in Scotland which is driven by the fundamental belief that adults working together can mitigate against the damage of trauma that children may experience in their lives.

(The movement has been responsible for bringing screenings of the film Resilience to Scotland under the passionate leadership of Dr Suzanne Zeedyk who is is a research scientist fascinated by the connections between our emotional and physical health. More information can be found here.

Suzanne’s core aspiration is to strengthen awareness of the decisions we take about caring for our children — because those choices are integrally connected to our vision for the kind of society we wish to build.

Her team have been working for some time to bring awareness to the UK and Scotland around what have come to be known as Adverse Childhood Experiences and which are the subject of the film.

The Scottish Tour took place between 29th April and 1st July 2017. Over that nine week period, 28 screenings of the film were hosted, all over the country. Almost all of them sold out. Twenty-five were community screenings, held as far north as Shetland and as far south as Dumfries. The remaining three were additions: the Premiere, a screening for the business community, and a screening for Scottish Government civil servants. In total 2,435 people came.

Since the tour, there have been numerous screenings and the film has had huge impact in moving forward Scottish society’s understanding  of what needs to happen to help children thrive.

Interestingly, Vincent Felitti, one of the doctors who appears in the film was here in Scotland 10 years ago and spoke about the issues– but there was no revolution then.

The power of this film seems to be that it has sparked what Suzanne calls a revolution in kindness to children.

Revolution happens because individuals want it to happen.

One of the key messages of the film is that to be resilient role models to children, we have to first acknowledge our own uncomfortable feelings and take ownership of any bad things that have happened to us so that we can move on from them.

Jack P Shonkoff MD speaks about the fact that children who are born with a poor start in life are not doomed. The science shows otherwise. He speaks about the term toxic stress stress which is the chronic activation a stress reaction with no support to manage that stress.

Resilience (the ability to survive and thrive in spite of trauma) is learnt but you cannot learn it if you are living in a culture of fear. A child cannot learn conflict resolution if his parents are constantly fighting.

A child cannot plan for the future if she lives in a culture of fear where the future seems frightening. A child cannot learn to delay gratification if she is constantly mixing with friends who do drugs. The key to learning resilience is the presence of stable and caring adults. In order for adults to be caring and stable they need to acknowledge their own early experiences and transform their own lives. Adults need to build their own capabilities in planning, monitoring, and impulse control. This is about more than just reading to kids.

It’s crucial that those involved with the children are trauma informed. We should not talk about what is wrong with children. We should talk about what has happened to children.

– Some teachers may feel that they are not qualified to do this work as they are not therapists But this is not about therapy. It is about life. It is about us adults being honest about the ups and downs of life but showing up and being role models.

– And no matter how jaded we feel, we can’t give up.)


Just for a moment, I would like to return to the idea of us being role models. It is important that, as role models to young people, we show our own vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. Even though I am the head teacher in my school, all my pupils knew a year ago that my dad was not well with cancer and that I was struggling a bit because I talked about it ins assemblies..but they also saw me come out the other side of it and manage the emotions around this difficult situation.

They also know that I struggled with anxiety and perfectionism when I was in my early 20s because I have told them; I want them to learn from where I went wrong. I fell into some very helpful at the time (but damaging in the long term) coping mechanisms that have taken me years to unpick and are still hard to shake.

They don’t know the full details but I can tell you that it was a pretty dire time for me and that I fought some really difficult battles to stay mentally healthy. I am 100% certain that if someone at school had talked to me about mental health I wouldn’t have had such a difficult time. When we do talk and learn about it we can feel better and children need to know that. More on this type of experience from a friend here, if are interested, though it does not make for easy reading.

Even Mrs Smiley, positive Carter goes through difficult patches and that is ok. In my opinion, children need to see that. My own two children need to see that too.


Perhaps it is better to say that children are at risk of death when we don’t teach them to be mentally healthy. Let’s not fall into the press tendency to over-dramatise.

But there is no expressing what you go through, as a teacher, when a young person in your care commits suicide.

And of course, adults who have not been taught to be mentally health are at risk too.

So. What can we do, in practical terms, if we want to talk and teach about mental health?

Just start. Use the WHO definition of mental health and start a conversation.


Look at the Action for Happiness website. It is a fantastic resource, full of free to use material and fully backed up by robust research from great thinkers like Lord Layard and the Dalai Lama:





A caveat.

Although we need to talk about mental health, talking is not always easy.

We started this campaign in our school a couple of years back and it worked well in many cases, but not for all pupils.


One of the things that has upset me the most recently is hearing professionals from CAMHS say that they can’t do anything for a child because the child won’t engage, by which they mean, talk.

Who has a teenage child in the room?

And how chatty are they?

We KNOW that teenagers often lose the power of verbal communication and revert to monosyllabism when they hit adolescence so why would anyone expect them to talk to a therapist or counsellor about feelings?! We need to do better than that and offer something else.

For me, that is often simply hello and eye contact at the morning bus drop off. Or just offering a smile every day in class. Or maybe writing a postcard to say something positive. Or organising a lunchtime club.

You don’t need to be CAMHS trained to do these things. But they DO make a difference.


We can talk to children about some of the difficult issues in life and we can create a culture where we use assemblies and lessons to model openness and honesty. But they may not always want or be ready to talk back and therefore we must never push it.


Thanks for listening. I hope that some of this may be of some use.

Response to International Council of Education Advisers recommendations⤴

from @ Engage for Education

The Scottish Government has accepted a list of far ranging recommendations from the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) to help empower and strengthen the Scottish education system and ultimately improve attainment.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We are fortunate to have the advice and guidance of the International Council of Education Advisers. They are helping support our ambition to deliver excellence and equity for all of our young people and ensure Scotland is a world leader in education. I thank them for their valuable time and insight.

“The ICEA made 19 far ranging recommendations to help empower and strengthen our education system and ultimately improve attainment, and these have all been accepted.

Their expertise and variety of perspectives have helped to drive real improvement within our education system, and it is clear from our response to their recommendations that progress has already been made. By challenging and scrutinising our plans each step of the way they have helped to ensure we are making the right decisions to improve outcomes for all of our young people.”

Dr Allison Skerrett, speaking on behalf of the International Council of Education Advisers, said: “The International Council of Education Advisors (ICEA) were pleased to attend the Scottish Learning Festival to present and discuss our June 2018 report with educators from across Scotland and beyond. We also valued the opportunity to reflect on our recommendations with the Scottish Education Council and the Deputy First Minister at Broughton High School.

“Over the two days of meetings, our discussions with the Deputy First Minister, Scottish Government and Education Scotland focused on how Scotland can enhance a collaborative culture across the system to support all young people to achieve their full potential.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s response to our report and look forward to our continuing role to provide advice for policies and practices to improve the Scottish education system.”

The post Response to International Council of Education Advisers recommendations appeared first on Engage for Education.

wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display 2018-09-19 19:09:21⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Bookmarked EdTechTeam Summit (Melbourne West) by Aaron DavisAaron Davis (Read Write Collect)
My presentations with Cathy O’Halloran and Richard Callanan held at Manor Lakes College on 6th and 7th April, 2017 Connecting Learners with Google

Huge pile of resources and links for folk who use gsuite and google classroom.

Guest blog from Maths Olympiad Agnijo Banerjee⤴

from @ Engage for Education

As Maths Week 2018 draws to a close, we welcome a guest blog from Maths Olympiad Agnijo Banerjee.

Agnijo won gold at this year’s International Mathematical Olympiad in Romania receiving a perfect score of 42 out of 42 in the 2-day/nine hour-long competition, he was one of only two out of 594 contestants to achieve a perfect score. This was the UK’s first perfect score in 24 years. A truly remarkable achievement.

Last week Agnijo met the Deputy First Minister for lunch at Holyrood, after which he reflected on his achievement at the Olympiad and his hopes for the future.

I knew I had a passion for mathematics from a very early age. In primary school, I was always moved up several years until eventually they contacted Grove Academy and I ended up going there for maths. I was taught one-to-one by one of the maths teachers from Grove Academy and I did my Standard Grade in Primary 7.

Grove Academy has been extremely supportive of me throughout, and has always ensured that I am adequately challenged. In the last two years of school, I went to Dundee University to try some of their modules (third year in S5, fifth year in S6).

Grove Academy has also encouraged me to take part in a number of mathematics competitions and I have been doing the British Mathematical Olympiad ever since S2. The British Mathematical Olympiad is part of the long selection process that ultimately leads to the International Mathematical Olympiad, which I did this year .

It was a wonderful experience to go to the International Mathematical Olympiad. The actual competition was over two days. On each day there were 3 questions to solve in 4 1/2 hours, with the first question on each day being “easy” (they are all extremely difficult, but these were easy relative to the others), the second being “medium”, and the third being “hard”. The two hard questions were extremely difficult but I managed to solve both of them. It was amazing to be the first UK contestant in 24 years to achieve a perfect score. ie 100%.

It was a great honour to meet the Scotland’s Education Minister Mr. John Swinney . I was invited to Holyrood to meet him during the Scottish Maths Week. I was very pleasantly surprised when he took a keen interest and asked me questions about the IMO and my other academic achievements. I felt greatly motivated by being recognised by the minister. I presented him a copy of my book Weird Maths , which hopefully he will enjoy reading.

In the future I want to reach the top of my chosen field- Mathematics and hope to able to make Scotland proud.

Reflecting on his meeting with Agnijo, Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said:

“It was a pleasure to meet Agnijo and his father today and Maths Week Scotland 2018 is the perfect opportunity to celebrate his astonishing achievements in the Maths Olympiad.

“Agnijo is a credit to Grove Academy and a shining example of how Scotland’s state school education can nurture ability and help talent flourish.

“We need to make sure that as a country we have all of the skills that we require for the future and in schools we need to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills that will serve them well for life.”

The post Guest blog from Maths Olympiad Agnijo Banerjee appeared first on Engage for Education.

Free STEM Events at the Easter Bush Campus- University of Edinburgh⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

The story of two Mellanbys, some dogs, cats, mice, sheep, penguins…- Public Lecture

Interest in vitamin D has rapidly grown in recent years with numerous studies linking a lack of vitamin D to the development of a wide range of health problems in both humans and animals.

However, many researchers remain skeptical about the non-skeletal health benefits of vitamin D and believe the growing reputation of vitamin D as a cure for many different diseases is wildly over-stated.

In his inaugural lecture, Richard will discuss how studies on dogs were pivotal in the discovery of vitamin D and how research on man’s best friend, and other animals, continues to illuminate the ongoing debate of the importance of vitamin D on health beyond the skeleton.

He will also discuss some of his group’s recent research which is showing the remarkable effects vitamin D can have on shaping the immune system.

This lecture will be followed by a reception in the area outside of the auditorium.

This lecture is free and open to all.


Date: Monday 24th September, 2018

Location: The Roslin Institute

Cost: Free

Age: Everyone

Booking link:



Rabies Lab: Let’s Talk About Health pre-lecture workshop

Would you like to get hands-on with real lab techniques used in the fight against rabies? Are you a pupil in S4, S5 or S6 with an interest in science? If so, sign up for our free 45-minute pre-lecture workshop in the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre. 

During the workshop you will carry out a laboratory technique called ELISA, which is used to screen dogs for successful rabies vaccination as part of the pet passport scheme. The hands-on workshop will cover some of the science behind rabies prevention and is an ideal introduction to the Let’s Talk About Health lecture that immediately follows the workshop – free tickets for the lecture can be booked here


Date Wednesday 10th October

Cost: Free, but you must reserve your place

Location: Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, Charnock Bradley Building – Easter Bush Campus

Age:  Adults and children aged 10 and over. Please note that all children must be accompanied by an adult, with no more than 2 children per adult.

Booking: Booking is essential – please reserve your free place(s) via our Eventbrite page.



Lets Talk About Health and Disease – Public Lecture

Join us to hear about how we have partnered with the Mission Rabies charity to deliver mass canine rabies vaccination programmes in Malawi, India and other rabies ‘hotspots’ across the world, and the challenges this work presents. Hear about our programmes to increase rabies awareness and safety for children and the impact our work is having.

Speakers:  Richard Mellanby and Stella Mazeri


Date Wednesday 10th October

Cost: free, but you must reserve your place

Location:  Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies


Doors open 4.30pm with teas and coffees available.

Refreshments will be available after event.


Booking link:


How can we teach digital skills with a very limited number of devices?⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Even where schools have limited, or next to no access to ICT provisions, lots can still be achieved.  Whilst I would always recommend investing in additional technology it’s not always possible, so it’s good to make the most of what you already have.



The best way to make full use of ICT provisions effectively, is to timetable it for good use.  Even for schools with masses of technology available to them, it’s not going to have any impact if it’s not used.

  • In-class computers: In my previous school, we had been given advice not to have an ICT suite, and to instead have 2/3 computers per class. The thought behind this was that children would have constant access to computers and thus skills could be developed as part of daily learning.  In reality however, computers were often just left, and ICT skills couldn’t ever really be taught as that would mean teaching only 2-6 children while the rest of the class were doing something else.  Fortunately, we did have a good space available and were able to create an ICT suite with 16 desktop computers.
    Space is a huge issue in some schools though, and those schools have to rely on class computers.  Where this is the case, timetabling for the use of the computers is essential.  Children should be in the routine of turning them on first thing in the morning and should be timetabled on them.  In my recent coding blog, I noted how for a time my children accessed ‘hour of code’ in pairs as part of a timetable.  Computer coding teaches children not only computer science but instructional writing, logical thinking, problem solving, aspects of maths (including angles, measure, directional language, coordinates etc), and many other skills, and should never be seen as children missing out on other areas of the curriculum.  In a week, one hour of a lesson – be it language, maths, R.E. or anything – is not going to impact on a child’s learning of that subject when they are instead developing vast amounts of skills through a course such as an Hour of Code course (
    Sumdog is another fantastic tool that can be timetabled for during maths time – 5 maths lessons a week at normally an hour each.  This time easily allows for your children to be timetabled on to the class computers for 20 minutes individually to complete Sumdog challenges (
    Often the importance of touch typing is underrated.  In our day and age, typing quickly and efficiently is just as important as being able to write legibly and quickly.  The skills developed in typing are the same as those obtained through writing.  For dyslexic children, cursive handwriting is very beneficial to their retention of words due to muscle memory so should not be underestimated; this is also true for touch typing. Two great touch-typing websites are BBC dance mat typing (p2-4) and
    Class computers are of course also great for research tasks and for interactive finisher tasks.
    For younger children, Microsoft paint is fantastic for developing Mouse Control and practicing drawing and writing letters.  There are also many interactive games that can be left on the computers for children to explore.
  • Small ICT suite: Used well, an ICT suite of only 8 computers can be just as effective as one of 30 computers, again, it is all about timetabling it to be so. With a smaller number of computers, I would recommend fewer scheduled sessions (none less than one hour long).  I would recommend three main uses of the ICT suite.
    –ICT suite for developing digital literacy.  org has the most fantastic code course that your children can work through at their own pace.  Teachers can create a free account and provide their children with a login where they can work through the course at their own pace.  This can be done in school or at home.  I’d suggest, in a small ICT suite to have children doing paired-programming (working with a partner).  This is something that are really big on, and most of their videos are tailored to it – one child is the ‘driver’ and in charge of operating the computer, whilst the other is the ‘navigator’ and in charge of spotting errors or better routes.  In a smaller suite of say 8 computers, this would only be about half the class; however, with effective timetabling, the other half could be doing an unplugged coding activity (I will blog more ideas about this soon) or an instructional writing or other task.  After half the lesson (30-45 minutes) your two groups could swap.  This is a very effective way of delivering high quality digital literacy sessions, and with an instructional teaching input at the start and plenary at the end can really deepen the children’s understanding of coding as a problem solving and literacy experience rather than something separate from their other learning.
    –ICT suite for developing numeracy.  I’ve already mentioned Sumdog.  Sumdog should always be done as an individual activity.  In a similar manner to code above, I’d have three maths stations in a small ICT suite with Sumdog as one of them and two other stations, with children rotating after 20-30 minutes.  Sumdog has been proven to raise attainment in numeracy and is included in the Scottish attainment challenge.
    –Other.  There are many other ways to utilise a small ICT suite, but again timetabling is key.  An unused ICT suite is a wasted learning opportunity as in this digital age children should be preparing themselves for a digital world of work.  Unused times to prepare for that world are wasted opportunities.
  • iPads – Where there are limited numbers of iPads (say 5) they can either be used as part of a timetabled learning experience, as with the ICT suite, or be used to enhance learning experiences. I’d strongly suggest the latter.  For this section, I will assume that there is no WiFi with the iPads.
    –Peer assessment and evaluation.  Use of the ‘camera’ to record video and/or photos can be a valuable self/peer assessment for the children, especially when used with apps such as clips and iMovie.  Let’s take P.E. for example, and the ‘Evaluating and Appreciating’ Outcomes HWB 0-24a to HWB 4-24a, children could use the iPads to film their partner doing say a gymnastics routine.  The children could then look at the footage and use it as evidence during the ‘feedback’.  The children could import it into clips and add text and arrows to highlight aspects of their feedback.  Again, the learning experience could be achieved without the iPad, but the use of it truly enhances that learning experience as the children are much more quickly able to recognise how they can improve their own performance.  In literacy, children can use the camera to take photos of parts of other children’s work and highlight why they think it was good, by using ‘mark-up’ to write on and highlight parts of the work without actually damaging or changing the original.
    –EXA.  So many aspects of the EXA experiences and outcomes can be better realised with the assistance of the iPad.  Creating short films in iMovie can bring to life children’s dramas and ideas.  Garageband (although its interface can be intimidating at first, it’s actually very simple to use – especially ‘live loops’ – I’ve had P2 using it in the past) is a fantastic tool for letting children compose and create their own music without having to worry about first learning musical notation.
  • Logins – I’d strongly recommend a whole school login and saving work into a class folder in ‘my documents’ rather than class logins – as these eat into time. In Mosspark, our Tech Team are timetabled to log on to the computers every morning as part of their duties so that they are ready for the children to use as soon as they go to class.  Children don’t log out of the computers.

Digital leaders

I have published a blog article recently about the power and importance of a digital leaders team and I can’t recommend them enough.  Not only can they support children, they can support teachers.  Whereas in the past, teachers would all come to me for advice on something that they were doing, and then it was a case of finding time for me to come in to them when I wasn’t in class; now, they can ask for a member of the team to come in and support them at any point – be it, show them how to work something, or work with some children.  Where my team don’t know how to do something, I support and then train the team in that area so that we are always learning.   A digital leaders team is truly invaluable!

ASN support groups

In Mosspark, we are being followed by Education Scotland this year as part of their ‘live narrative’ in our use of digital tools to raise attainment across the curriculum.  As part of this, we have daily Sumdog groups where targeted children have a daily 30-minute Sumdog session with a member of support staff, either from 9am-9:30am or from 1pm-1:30pm, and the ICT suite is not timetabled to classes during this time.  This daily Sumdog input has had a very positive effect on our young learners, and you will soon be able to access this information on the Education Scotland website.

We have also had a fantastic input from the ASL Technology service, with an especial focus on Ivona Mini-Reader (available on all GCC computers and most authority ones – just search for it in your start menu.) This program will read any computer based word-processed text (if you can highlight it and copy it, it can be read).  This means that our children can highlight any word/sentence/paragraph and the computer will read it to them, allowing them to access the same content as their peers without a member of staff working individually with them.  All they need is headphones.  The self-confidence of our children that use this program has improved dramatically, as there is no stigma now of someone having to read everything to them.

I am still looking into more ways to raise attainment in literacy this year through tech as my main focus and look forward to blogging about my findings towards the end of the year.


PLNs or Professional Learning Networks

Often the thing that holds schools back the most in the deployment and effective use of digital technologies is staff confidence and knowledge about what is available.  Many schools, including ours, are now encouraging their staff to use twitter as a PLN as part of their CPD.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough as since being on twitter my own practice has improved so much, as I am continually inspired by colleagues from across the world and get ideas every time I go online.  There are of course many other PLNs including Facebook groups, but Twitter is the one that I get the most out of.



Sharing Learning on Social Media

Most schools do use Twitter and other sites now to share learning which is fantastic.  One thing I think schools could do better to allow parents easier access to their children’s work is to use hashtags.  In Mosspark, each class has a class hashtag (e.g. #MossparkP1a or #MossparkP7) so that parents can simply search for their child’s class to see what they’ve been learning rather than having to search through the school feed continually.  Note though, if you’re doing this, special characters can’t be used in a hashtag, so composite classes, such as P3/2 have to be tweeted as #MossparkP32.

We have also built into our WTA that teachers send at least one example of learning and photo per week to be tweeted so that all classes are represented on a weekly basis.


I hope that this has been helpful.

There are so many ways that technology can be used where there is limited provision, but I think the above is a good starting place for any school.