Author Archives: lenabellina

Deep breath needed.⤴


Deep breath neeed here. Some honesty.

This is a post for my lovely virtual friend Hope Virgo and her #dumpthescales campaign.

Warning – there is mention of weight and scales here. Possible trigger.

This is the reality of being in recovery from disordered eating.

I am 49.

I am a senior leader in a school.

I am empirically very good at what I do (Ouch. It feels uncomfortable saying that but it is true.)

I am a good enough wife and mum.

In the holidays, I went to my childhood home where there are scales. I have no scales in my own house and could tell you that I maybe weigh 9 and a half stone but most of the time I don’t know.

Years back, it was a very different story and the scales ruled my life.

When I got home to Dorset, the scales told me that I was 9 stone 5 (first morning, no clothes, post exercise.) I felt happy with that.

There was no change to this for the next four mornings.

I then went to France. No scales. Food. Wine. Daily exercise. Relaxation.

I came back from France and back to scales in my parents’ home. On the first morning back the scales showed 9 stone 9. 

Free floating panic. Self hatred. Suddenly my clothes felt tight. I did not want to eat. I felt guilty. Stupid. Ugly.

I engaged with all the positive self-talk and self-help strategies that I could.

I got through it.

The next day the scales told me 9,5 again.

I felt relieved, delivered, forgiven.

What is it that a small metal measuring device can render a grown, strong, capable woman so disempowered?

What is it?

What is it that the anorexic voices are always ready to pounce?

How can I be so self-absorbed, ungrateful, unaware of all that I have when others have so little?

The homeless, the starving, the really needy….

I don’t know. 

But I do know that there are lots of us who are in the same boat and that it isn’t something that we can easily out-think or overcome.

And that we stand more chance of overcoming it if we are honest about it.

Book review: Leading From The Edge. James Hilton. Published by Bloomsbury.⤴


1E5593F4-1555-470F-8A7A-1A60E6BBE9A1.jpegThis book is an absolute must-read for any school leader who is experiencing stress or wishes to understand what it is like to do so. I write and know a lot about teacher wellbeing but this year I have teetered on the edge and wondered about my ability and desire to carry on.

James is living proof that it is possible to step back from the edge (or, in his case, to fall off it for a while but then climb back up) and become a thriving leader again.

Broken for a bit does not mean broken permanently and the advice that James offers will help to ensure that more of us stay sane and in the game.

The book offers an analysis of James’ own personal journey with insights from the mental health practitioner who supported him. It also gives practical techniques and strategies to help senior leaders deal with the likely causes of stress. It looks at sleep, diet, lifestyle, relaxation and mindset and is interspersed with advice from other experienced leaders from across the globe who have faced and overcome the challenges of school leadership.

This book will be my bible over the coming weeks and months. Thanks for writing it, James.

10 Questions⤴


Another outing for this one.

In the summer holidays we often reflect on whether the job we are in the right one, or whether we should have a re-think.

Here, then, 10 questions that you need to answer ‘yes’ to* if you want to be a teacher/stay in teaching, in my humblest of opinions. (Please insert the  phrase ‘on the whole’ at the *. On reflection and after first writing, I have realised that we probably can’t achieve a resounding ‘yes’ on absolutely all occasions as we are human and fallible and all have ‘those’ days.)

1. Do you like children and are you able to love each one as if they were related to you?

2. Do you like hard work?

3. Do you like working in a team of adults?

4. Are you self-aware and self-reflective?

5. Do you understand your own behaviour and its impact on others?

6. Do you genuinely value inclusion and equity?

7. Are you able to see beyond fads and trends and stay committed to your values and evidence based research?

8. Do you understand that the long holidays are not really all holidays? See here for more excellent reflection on this by @teachertoolkit‍ :…

9. If you have never worked outside of education, are you willing to work hard to research and understand other ways of being?

10. Are you able to say sorry?

In the room.⤴


There is a song in the musical “Hamilton” called “The Room Where it Happens”.

Today, for the first time, I experienced a live WomenEd event. Over the last couple of years, I have supported WomenEd online, blogged as part of digimeets, had incredible coaching as part of the WomenEd coaching pledge, Skyped with Hannah Wilson, co-facilitated an event where we tried to get something off the ground in Scotland and created the Scottish #Womenedwednesday hashtag.

All of the support and learning that these activities and connections have brought me has been invaluable. Without the digital connections that have been facilitated through Womened, I would not have achieved much of what I have as a leader and teacher.

But today I experienced the immeasurable impact of being in the room where a WomenEd live event happens. 

The venue was Aureus School and the event was called Breaking the Mould. It was mainly aimed at women leaders from Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and posed the following questions:

Why do women lead differently?

How can we challenge the leadership stereotypes?

What can we learn from role models who have broken the mould?

How can we create a female shaped leadership mould?

I had signed up for the event back In December, knowing that it would be a chance for me to connect in real life with some of my WomenEd sheroes; with Scottish Schools on holiday from the end of June, I’d known that I’d be able to plan my annual summer pilgrimage to family in the South around it….

And so, today, I set off from Salisbury at 7.30 and drove for a leisurely hour an a half to get to Didcot for a 9.30 start.

The first treat was meeting the gorgeous Kiran Satti in the car park; we have been virtual friends for a while and we immediately fell into easy conversation.  

And then the day kicked off with an intro from the inspiring and hugely engaging Hannah Wilson.

She told us of her desire to “fill her cup” and be inspired enough to get her through the last 2 weeks of term.

She asked people to consider their reason for being there and I spoke up: to be there for real; to show that there is a real Lena behind the Lenabellina blogs; to be in the room, (even though I might disappoint in real life…)

And then, eight speakers who made me remember why I do what I do.

It is hard to do them all justice as so much of what they said, the humour, the passion and vulnerability will not be replicated in my black words on a white screen. 

But, here, the essence of what I heard them say:

Jaz Ampaw Farr:

If you have no why as a leader, your why becomes fear. 

The stuff I am scared of you finding out is what connects us.

Do not live in the confines of who you are too scared to be.

Rae Snape

Use the resources you have on the inside and the outside.

Use the WomenEd network as a resource to find answers to your questions.

Be a mentor and be mentored.

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou.

Ladies, you are enough. Just keep learning.

Rae Snape.

Lee Ryman

Seeing children in Kenya and Sweden who were passionate about school made her ask (about England) “what the hell are we doing?” and inspired her to walk

away and start her own school.

Passion, authenticity, commitment to wellbeing, values and real learning.

What schools offer is not suitable for too many people.

Pupils should be able to follow their interests and passions.

What change would you like to see in the world of education?

Debra Kidd

Sometimes we may need to walk away from a mould if we do not fit it, rather than breaking it.

How do we ensure that mavericks can stay as educational leaders?

How we ensure that difference and diversity are celebrated and that we do not have to fit into labels like “I am a teacher of x subject/ secondary/primary”?

We need to lead from within and not wait for change to come from outside.

Alison Kriel

If someone is polar opposites to you, invite them in.

If you are going to lead, be honest in who you are.

To get through every day:

Know yourself.

Know your values.

Stay true to your values.

If you are happy in your job, you will be productive.

What are we modelling for children? Do we want box-tickers or people who connect and accept us for who we are?

What needs to be adjusted to that you can be true to your values?

Having people who are different to you in your team is not the same as having different values to them.

Paulina Tervo

Technology as a force for good.

Wanted to make films that will change the world.

Global citizenship can be delivered through immersive storytelling.

We can be held back by fear and labels.

Tech start-up has no female role models…. so she became one.

Can you see yourself as a leader?

If not, why not?

Carly Waterman

Our inner voices can be both enabling and debilitating. 

Name your inner critic (Doris) and challenge!

Everyone who wants to give back on education should be given a platform, not just the teachers and school leaders. 

Your negative inner voice knows you so well but is filtered by fear and paranoia.

Mary Myatt

WomenEd CPD is very special.

Mary’s ambition is to have used up all of her by the end of her life.

The power of concentration that is nurtured by others is healing.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter has inspired Mary:

Show Up (honestly)

Look Up (literally, at the sky and metaphorically, at your vision)

Speak Up (you have a right to express your voice)

Team Up

Never Give Up (there will always be energy at the start and then a hump but if your vision is right, keep going)

Lift Others Up.

Mary points out that we are human beings first and professionals second.

When children keep talking after a teacher had asked for quiet, they are not being disruptive.

My self esteem as an educator does not trump children’s learning.

We must live our values and not just laminate them. 

I listened.

I nodded.

I made notes.

I cried.

I hugged.

I felt nurtured and challenged.

I decided that now is not the time for me to walk away, no matter how hard it has been recently.

I was reminded of my why.

At the end of the day, Hannah asked us to consider the pledges that we will mark as a result of the day.

Mine is to keep going and to step out of the shadows of fear.

I am hugely grateful to Hannah and the WomenEd team for today.


The Mould in which I have been comfortable has, to date, been one where I have worn a mask; the cartoon avatar, the authentic voice behind the keyboard. That has been the best I could do until now. But now I know better and need to do better; to bring my whole self and resources into the room.

My final word:

“Education is everything.  We can’t and shouldn’t simplify it and talk in terms of it being the job of either teachers or parents. We need to accept that our job, as adults, is to be honest with children and to help them negotiate the complexity ahead.  It is our job to develop in each child the skill to know and understand himself, the tools to express herself and the strategies to meet challenges along the way. And it is our job to talk openly and honestly so that, if and when bad things happen, like abuse, children know to talk about them so that they do not become a source of guilt, a life-stealing force, a legacy of hidden pain and shame.”

Lena Carter

Breaking up and breaking down.⤴


Breaking up and breaking down.

This post is inspired by a tweet from @RogersHistory (Tom Rogers) on Friday:

“Ok, so today we broke up. Major elation at school but does anyone ever get that deflation once that’s worn off and your alone? There can be a strange sort of melancholy in any ending, even a happy one? Weird, but get it temporarily at end of every year before holiday sets in.”

I break up and I break down.

Suddenly everything I know is taken away; routine, what to eat, what to wear, what to do. Excessive pressure is an excellent motivator but also a way of absolving all responsibility for making decisions.

A friend said to me recently that a high-pressure working life can be tolerated, as long as periods of sprinting are followed by periods of jogging; but what happens when you have been sprinting for months on end; if not physically then mentally? What if, even during the other times that you were meant to stop and relax and give your attention to your loved ones and your own wellbeing, your head was secretly still working and worrying because how do you stop worrying about not having teachers to teach and having children who are in such distress that they might be dead after the holidays and having new assessments to administer and having more and more and more and more with nothing taken away and having to protect your colleagues from it all and yet having them resent you because you represent “management?”.

All through this, you keep going. Because you can see that there are small wins and every single day there is something that helps you keep your faith in what you are doing; a smile from a pupil who doesn’t normally smile; a word from a colleague who can see the bigger picture of what you are doing; an end of year review that celebrates the huge achievements in your school; a parent who tells you that you are what the school needs.

And then what happens is that you hit the first day of the long holiday, the only holiday when you really can afford yourself time off, and you break down.

Some folk avoid it by going straight off on holiday.

Some avoid it by launching into DIY, an exercise regime, more doing; maybe even straight into planning for next year.

Each unto his or her own.

But for me, I need to not plan for a while. To not do. To not be responsible.

To take responsibility for me and to remember some key truths about my self. 

To sit on my sun deck for a while and not do. 

It is the hardest thing for me but also the most necessary.



As we approach the end of term in Scotland, this is my message to staff:

It was such a privilege on Thursday to hear the brilliant leaving speeches for staff.

 It got me thinking about what I would say about myself in a leaving speech.

How often do we stop and reflect on what we have done and what we have been to others? Probably not enough.

As teachers, we are naturally inclined towards celebrating the successes of pupils and making them feel good about themselves.

But how often do we look at our own achievements and give ourselves a quiet “thank you” or “well done”.

 Do you, like me, tend to focus on what has not been done, rather than what has been?

 I was chatting to a pupil the other day about the concept of whether we were “glass half empty” or “glass half full” types and they brilliantly said: “but sometimes the glass IS half empty, if you have drunk from it and sometimes it IS half full, if you have filled it half way from the tap.”

 Of course, it can be both. And our thoughts can be both: sometimes more positive and sometimes more negative.

 And so, as we go into this holiday, I set you a challenge. Fill your glass with a favourite drink and write yourself a congratulatory piece about all you have done and achieved this year.

And then drink a toast to you.

I am immensely grateful for all that all of you do and have done. You should be too.

 Have a fantastic summer.

No words.⤴


This is a post from a year ago.

I taught this lesson again today.

I now teach Drama to all of S1 and S2 and 25 have opted to take it in S3.

The silent magic in the room today  made me want to cry tears of joy.

From this time last year:

As you know, I teach Drama.

As you know, I like to talk.

As you may know last term I worked on project about bullying with my S2 classes. It was wordy- lots of talk, dialogues and a chat-show finale. And it was hard work: challenging, emotional and at times upsetting.

And so this term I have reverted to the polar opposite. I have dug out my 1994 “Theatre of Silence” unit.

In it, we talk about non-verbal communication and the 93% emotional intelligence statistic and we look at Mr Bean’s “Sandwich”, Laurel and Hardy’s “Sugar Daddies” and slapstick/ silent movies and Samuel Beckett’s “We Three”.

But this week I took a risk. I did a bit of 10%braver.

When each class came in, I greeted them without words.

I registered with gestures and mimed the instructions to the warm up and other tasks.

They continued to speak and that was fine.

We did a warm up. We then watched Mr Bean and I communicated that I wanted them to work in pairs and devise a short comic piece involving 2 characters on a park bench.

They had 10 minutes to practise and then performed them and got feedback from me.

Here is what I noticed:

I slowed down. I noticed them, looked and listened with intent.

I saw a beautiful smile, a worried look. I made eye contact.

They slowed down.

They talked but the atmosphere was much calmer than usual. They listened to and watched me more but they also listened to each other more.

They worked really hard to understand me.

Several took on the role of interpreter and said what they thought I meant until I confirmed they had got it.

Their performances were funny, sophisticated and demonstrated learning.

5 minutes before the end I began to speak, summarising what had happened.

I have set them homework: to try taking half an hour over the weekend where they communicate without talking.

There is much to be said for not saying. In terms of behaviour management, I was forced to remember the power of silence and the need to use more than words.

I could never have done this a year ago when I walked back into school after secondment and had to build trust and relationships. We have come on a long journey, the pupils and I. And we have such exciting times ahead.

The way not the what.

What are we saying?⤴


In Drama at school I am teaching a unit on The Theatre of Silence. I wrote about it last year here (Shhh):

This week we talked about non-verbal communication and I quoted the statistic from Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence” about 90% or more of emotional communication being non-verbal.

I talked about the power of tone, body language, facial expression and gesture and even touched on smell and pheromones.

And I then went on to talk to them about the fact that when I was their age, there were basically three ways in which I could communicate with another person.

I could do so face to face, in the room together, with the full power of my verbal and non-verbal capacities.

I could do so in a handwritten letter, such as the one I wrote to my beloved Grandma, who lived 100 miles away in Bognor, on an almost weekly basis. 

And I could use the telephone, which was fixed in the corner of our very public hallway. Normally when I did this, my dad would be in the background listening in and commenting things like “that’s MY bill” or “can’t you wait til after six?” or “you have been with her all day and she lives across the road; what more can you possibly have to say?”

No emails.

No mobile phone at 24 hr disposal.

No Snapchat/Facebook/instagram/Tumblr/online gaming…..

Of course, all of these can be a power for great good and enhance communication.

I told my pupils that I personally love to text, to blog, to be in chat groups and that online connections have massively opened up the world to me.

But I also reminded them that the technology has moved on far more quickly than our brains, biology and emotions and that we need to remember that words in electronic format can never show the full intent, emotion and humanity of the person in the room who wrote them.

And that having the words but not the in-the-room communication of 500 online friends may lead to a lot of noise, pressure and overload… without the human emotion, love and connection that just one real-life friend could offer.

If we are using words more than ever to communicate, where has the other 90 plus percent of what we COULD be saying gone?

And after this discussion?

We took away the words and watched some Laurel and Hardy.

Adults working together.⤴


Last night I spoke to parents and carers at my school.

The text of what I said is here (more or less) and there is a video below:


Parental engagement event 28.3.17
Good evening and welcome, to everyone who has come here tonight…and also to those who may be watching after the event on video at a later date.

This evening is in three parts.
The first involves me talking and explaining some things about our school which I hope you will find interesting.
The second involves us having refreshments, a chat and a raffle…. but that bit only applies to those of us in the room.
And the third involves us watching a very powerful film with a strong message for our community. Fortunately viewers at home can see that part too as it is available online and the link will be shared.
My name is Lena Carter and I am the Head of Secondary Teaching and Learning here at Lochgilphead High School.
I think that most of you know me and, with the exception of some of the pupils in S6 who I never really got to teach or work with, I know your children well. I was stage head last year for the current S5 and I am stage head now for S3 and S4. Being Stage Head means that I have the overview of the year group, monitor their progress and help them through the key parts of the year. I also teach drama to all pupils in S1 and S2 and currently I also teach some French to S3. In my spare time, I am also directing this year’s school play.
My two children attend the High School.

I have been teaching for the best part of 25 years. I started my career in the south in London and Cambridgeshire, then moved north to Cumbria and the Outer Hebrides before coming to Argyll in 2013.

So, what does it actually mean to be head of Teaching and Learning and why did I want to take on the job?
First and foremost, it is about ensuring that what happens in our classrooms and our school enables your children to get the most out of their school experience as they possibly can and to be able to make a positive contribution to the world they live in.

The curriculum is the word that we use to describe the totality of learning experiences that our pupils experience; it is about what we teach, when we teach it and how we teach it or, in other words, what pupils learn, when they learn it and how they learn it. It is my job to work with staff to ensure that all of our pupils have curriculum opportunities through which they develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work and grow into the best possible versions of themselves.
Within this, it is not possible to have a one-size fits all approach; each one of our pupils is an individual on a personal pathway that needs to be right for them; we may have future tree-surgeons and brain-surgeons in the room, future musicians and future magicians and so there is no one learning journey that suits all. . Success for one pupil may look very different to success for another.

As a school we are judged partly through the assessments and exam results that we produce and there is no denying that these are important. Formal qualifications are the currency that allow our pupils to compete in a world where opportunities are sometimes hard to come by and it is for that reason that we want all of our pupils to leave school with the absolute best results that they can.
But being the absolute best is about more than just qualifications.
In our Learn to Learn and PSE classes and our assemblies, we focus a great deal on the idea of being reflective learners and of using all situations, both in and out of school, as learning opportunities. The successes and mistakes. The highs and the lows.
Our pupils know that being the best is also about being helpful, being loving, being understanding and being a good human being.
So, my job is hugely exciting and I consider myself very lucky to have it.
This year we have undertaken a major review of our curriculum to ensure that we build on the strengths of our existing curriculum and make improvements where they are need.
The pupils have played a big part in this and we have used number of opportunities to ask them for their ideas on how to make things better:
In the autumn, all pupils in S3 and S4 completed anonymous surveys relating to their experiences of school and learning. The responses were incredibly helpful to us and have already resulted in improvement activities; for example, a number of pupils told us that they would like more personal individualised feedback on their work and so we have shared this with staff and asked them to make it happen.
Over the last 2 terms, all pupils in S1 have been interviewed about their experience of school and their feedback has also helped us to address the issues important to them; in particular, they have helped us to address issues around ensuring that respect is at the heart of all interactions in school.
We have also established a pupil voice group this year where pupil representatives have met face to face with a group of staff to discuss the ways in which pupils’ voices can be made even stronger moving forward. They have made proposals for a new pupil council group which will be established next year.

They have told us about how they want us to support them with their mental health.
They have told us that they want better information and support around equalities and LGBT issues.
And they have also made strong representation that we should have some mechanism for pupils having an opportunity to meet with the same key adult every day, perhaps through a tutor group registration system. We are currently exploring ways to implement this in the new timetable.
All S2 pupils and their parents have been involved in and anonymous consultation around how we tackle bullying behaviours in school and the responses to that are being collated and reviewed to help us make sure that find the right ways to help pupils have positive relationships with others.
Finally this year, we have introduced an Options system that has made the pupils the starting point; rather than asking them to fit into a pre-determined set of option blocks, we have tried to create the option blocks around what they need and want. Early indications show that this will lead to increased pupil satisfaction and more pupil needs being met. The final conversations and decisions about options will take place after Easter.

And why then, did I want to talk to you tonight?
I am now going to say something controversial.

Parents are the main educators in their children’s lives.
As such, it is vital to measure and understand parents’ and families’ influence on children’s outcomes. A range of international evidence has shown that children and young people who have at least one parent or carer engaged in their education achieve better exam results, higher retention rates and smoother transitions between nursery, primary and secondary schools. They are also more likely to:
• attend school more regularly;
• have better social skills;
• have improved behaviour;
• adapt better to school and engage more in school work;
• have better networks of supportive relationships;
• have a better sense of personal competence; and
• be more likely to go on to further or higher education.

Source: Scottish Government

This is not about schools trying to shirk responsibility. It is not about us saying that our role in your child’s education is not crucial because it is. But it is saying that we have to work together and ensure that we communicate clearly, effectively and efficiently with one another if we are to do the best for our children.
And this is something we know we need to do better at.
We have worked really hard on improving communication in here over the last year.
We have asked you all to sign up for our messenger communications system which allows us to send texts, emails and letters to you.
If at all possible, we have encouraged you to download the Xpressions app to your device as this enables us to send you short messages for free which, in times of tights budgets, is really helpful.
If you don’t have the app, we send you text messages with key information.
If we need to send you a letter, we now do this via email (which again saves money and the environment), or for the approximately 32 parents and carers amongst you who do not have email, we still post out letters.
We have hugely improved our website and update it regularly with key information, as well as a weekly news blog from Ann Devine, our Campus Principal.
We have a Joint Campus Facebook page which has proven hugely popular amongst many of you.
But communication is a two way process. It is not just about us telling you things.
The next part of our task is to work out how we can get more of you communicating with us in a way that you feel comfortable with and in a way that will help our children.
Because, in the same way as we have listened to our pupils over the last year to move things forward, we need to find ways of making sure that you are heard too.

Of course it is fantastic and hugely encouraging to see so many of you here tonight. Thank you.
We also have a hugely supportive but small parent council who meet with us regularly to help hear your voices.

But to those of you who are not here tonight, I want to ask you why?
Is that you had a prior engagement?
Is that you felt intimidated about coming into school?
Is it that school was a bad experience for you?
Is it that you don’t feel heard by the school and that there’s no point in trying?
Is that you don’t feel that you are the sort of parent who come to things like this?
Is it that you were worried you might have to speak to people, or be judged?
Is it that you are happy with the way things are?
Is that you would rather watch the video?

I can’t answer for those who aren’t here but what I do know is that we need the answers to some of these questions

In school, we do the absolute best we can with the resources we have to support our children. We don’t always get it 100% and we can only know that we aren’t if you tell us.
But we also need to know that they experience a life that is fair, safe and full of opportunity when they are outside of our environment.
We know that this will not be the case if they are out drinking alcohol from a young age.
We know that this will not be the case if they are taking drugs.
We know that this will not be the case if they are engaging in inappropriate sexual activity.
We know that this will not be the case if they do not have clear boundaries.
If we as adults and parents cannot define the safe boundaries for our children then we need to be honest about it and ask for help.
There is no shame in this. We end up in this parenting role with very little preparation and if we are lucky enough to have had good role models in our families, then we probably do a good enough job.
But if we are struggling to get it right, we need to be honest and say so.
As a school leader, I don’t want you as parents to feel that you need to struggle alone. We need you to be honest and work with us so that we can create the environment both in and out of school that will allow our children to thrive.
I have heard parents say that they don’t want to share ‘personal’ information with school and that stuff that happens at home is none of school’s business. But everything I have learnt in my twenty plus years of teaching shows that pupils achieve best when information is shared that may help us to support children.
If your family dog has died and your child comes into school upset, it helps us to care for them if we know.
If you are under pressure because of a sick relative and family life is difficult, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
If you can’t afford school shoes until after payday, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
If you struggle to read the letters that come home about your child, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
If you struggle to get up in the morning and face the day, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
It takes a village to raise a child. But we will only raise that child well if the adults in the village are honest, willing to work together and able to ask for help when they need it.
So, to return to what I said before.
We have to work together and ensure that we communicate clearly, effectively and efficiently with one another as adults if we are to do the best for our children.
After tonight I would like to invite all of you to take part in a short online survey that helps us to understand what you think we are doing well and how we can engage better with more of you.

The link will be sent out via Messenger and put on the school website with a copy of this presentation.
The next part of tonight relates to our ongoing work in school to tackle bullying behaviour and promote respect.
Bullying is an issue that occurs not just in schools but in wider society and we know that it often involves an inability by one person to accept difference in another.

This year we have done a huge amount of work around anti- bullying including an intensive campaign during anti-bullying week involving a range of our partner agencies, curricular work such as the study of the text ‘Wonder’ in S1 English, followed up by a cinema trip to see the film and the work in S2 drama that I previously mentioned.

What we know is that the most effective way to tackle bullying is to involve everyone in the community and to create a culture where everyone the chance to speak out when they know that something is wrong.
We know that 99% of our children know that they should speak out when unkind things happen to others. We also know that peer pressure and fear stop them from doing so. If you came to my talk about teenagers, you will know that peer massive is very real for teenagers but that they CAN resist it if they are given the right messages by adults who they trust.
Recent research into stopping bullying talks about the power of the bystander and the film that you are going to see tonight gives a clear message about this.
I Am Me tells the story of Charlie, a young man with autism living in his community.
As this week is Wold Autism week, it is a particularly important film to be showing just now
It was developed by a community group , also called I Am Me. They are an winning community charity which works in partnership with Police Scotland to raise awareness of Disability Hate Crime (recognised as one of the most under report crimes in the UK).
The project aims to raise awareness with local young people and disability groups through the power of drama and film aimed at challenging attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people. Since the launch in September 2013, a live performance was delivered to over 10,000 people, including High schools, disability groups, staff groups, the police training college and the Scottish Parliament. A softer version, designed for primary school children was delivered to around 8,000 children in Renfrewshire.
The project also has an initiative called Keep Safe. Keep Safe works in partnership with Police Scotland and a network of local businesses to create ‘Keep Safe’ places for disabled, vulnerable, and elderly people when out and about in the community. People can access these premises to seek assistance and help if they feel lost, confused, scared, in danger, or have been the victim of a crime.
Children and parents here often talk about the fact they don’t want to appears as ‘grasses’ by giving information about others who have done wrong.
I urge you, the adults, to challenge this and work with us and the police to ensure that everyone in our community is happy and safe.
I hope you enjoy the film.

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?