Author Archives: Sinead Wylie

The Scottish Attainment Challenge within overall school improvement⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

By Graeme Logan, Strategic Director, Education Scotland

We have a once in a career opportunity to make a significant breakthrough for children living in poverty in Scotland through the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC). The areas for improvement highlighted in our recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) report are all very relevant to our national mission to close the poverty-related attainment gap and to strive for excellence and equity for every child in Scotland.

SAC, including the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF), gives us the additional resources to transform children’s progress and attainment. I know that many headteachers I speak to are excited about the possibilities. They are also keen to make sure we make the best use of these resources.

At Education Scotland we aim to provide you with the best possible advice on what works. In addition to the inspection evidence in QuISE, our advice includes access to a Scottish version of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Learning and Teaching Toolkit, and also our own Interventions for Equity, which shares a range of interesting examples and approaches from Scottish schools which have been involved with the SAC programmes.

Other significant changes we have introduced this year will also help. These include clarity on the model of assessment for the broad general education, which is teacher judgement of children’s achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, informed by a range of evidence and high quality moderation.  This demonstrates the value and trust placed in our teachers to make overall judgements about children’s progress. In doing this, teachers helped us to create the new Benchmarks for literacy and numeracy, which clarify the national standard for the achievement of each level.

We are taking a broad definition of the attainment gap and are not just considering statistics on overall attainment in isolation. If we are to achieve the vision of Curriculum for Excellence we need to think about achievement in a range of areas too. Earlier this year I spoke to around 2,000 headteachers from every part of the country in a series of events. We encouraged them to think about the attainment gap in the context of five key areas:

  • Attendance
  • Attainment
  • Exclusion
  • Engagement
  • Participation

The first three may seem more obvious and in some respects easier to measure. However, engagement and participation are equally as important for children’s progress and development. Some schools have started to track all five areas, for example, observing the extent of children’s active engagement in learning through use of tools such as the Leuven Scale of Engagement.  They have also started to track the extent to which children participate in the school’s wider curriculum and wider offer.

Schools will not be able to make the breakthrough we want to see for children living in poverty on their own. Many third sector and partner organisations are making a major contribution to improving children’s progress and engagement, and there are examples on the National Improvement Hub; type ‘Scottish Attainment Challenge’ into the search box to see all our resources.

One of the most important partnerships is that with families and communities. In the first year of the Challenge this was the area in which we saw least activity, and we’re actively looking at how we can change that. Our Review of Family Learning provides a good evidence base and recommendations for ways in which family learning can be developed within communities.

With inspection looking at attainment (QI 3.2) from August, including how schools are using PEF to close the gap, now is a good time to self-evaluate your approach to attainment. We will be particularly interested in the rationale and initial decision making for the use of PEF, as we believe that this will be key to ensuring that the most effective interventions are selected for each individual school and community context.

Online collaboration is also a key feature of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Our Yammer group on Glow for headteachers has over 1,000 members! The largest ever online collaboration between Scottish headteachers. My keynote presentation from the pupil equity conferences is available on the Yammer group. Further key materials will be shared through the Yammer group too. I am currently preparing a keynote presentation for our September Curriculum for Excellence conferences for headteachers. During this presentation I will discuss ways in which curriculum flexibility and curriculum design can be used to close the gap. I will also share the most effective approaches attainment advisors have shared and also draw on the key strengths from schools where HM Inspectors have evaluated the new QI on raising attainment and achievement.

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a national endeavour and something which many teachers feel passionate about. For many the main reason they entered the profession was to make the biggest difference to children’s chances in life, particularly those who live in poverty. Reflecting on QuISE’s five priorities for improvement, as well as the specific focuses of SAC, will help ensure the success of our drive to remove the pattern between lower attainment and living in poverty.

QuISE’s five improvement priorities are an excellent place to start.

Ruthvenfield Primary School Inspection Experience⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

As part of Education Scotland’s on-going Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign, which has been developed to help beat the common misconceptions of inspection which have built up over the years, we have invited the Headteacher at Ruthvenfield Primary School, Andrew Clark, to blog about his inspection experience.

“After the initial ‘excitement’ of receiving pre inspection notification had passed, my preparation for inspection followed four main areas:

  1. Engaging with staff: I met with all staff in the school to plan out our inspection week, listen to concerns and ensure that everyone would be prepared to deliver their best throughout the process. We scheduled meetings and arranged time to get together. The management team worked on the Self Evaluation, reviewing this with teaching staff before sharing with all staff for agreement.
  2. Engaging with pupils: This was about ensuring our learners would be ready to share their school and really show all their best qualities throughout the week. That was easy!
  3. Inspection week timetable: This phase was about managing the timetable across the week, ensuring parents had opportunity to meet with inspectors and that nothing was left out. We wanted to make sure everyone in our school had the chance to speak and share their involvement in our school.
  4. Paperwork: I spent time preparing paperwork for the inspection process and cross checking sources of evidence to make sure that no stone was left unturned.

I also found that the self-evaluation for inspections is an ideal starting point for discussions about your school’s context. Throughout our inspection I referred back to our self-evaluation to make sure that the stories that go along with the statements were easy to find and that examples were a true depiction that could be ‘lived’.

Meetings were held throughout the week and we used these to work together to develop the school’s picture. Quick ‘catch-up’ meetings in the morning were always welcome and allowed me to add detail to any points from the previous day’s meetings.

Our inspection team made themselves available in a non-threatening, supportive way throughout the visit. Inspectors spent time throughout the week interacting with staff about learning and particular learners. We also found the Professional Dialogue session on the Tuesday afternoon was an opportunity to ask some deeper questions about our practice.

Overall, our Inspection validated the very good practice across our school and provided insight into themes of development. As a result, our direction after inspection is even clearer and more focussed, and we are a stronger school community with a refined vision for how we move from Good to Very Good and from Very Good to Excellent.”

Andrew Clark, Headteacher at Ruthvenfield Primary School, Perth

For more information about the Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign please visit the Education Scotland website.

Larbert High School Inspection Experience⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

As part of Education Scotland’s on-going Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign, which has been developed to help beat the common misconceptions of inspection which have built up over the years, we have invited the Headteacher at Larbert High School, Falkirk, to blog about his inspection experience:

“You know at some point an inspection is inevitable and it was actually a bit of a relief when we received notification of our inspection for January 2017. No more ‘dreaded boxes’, just a simple and efficient email from our Inspection Administrator at Education Scotland and a call from our Head of Service.  This was followed by a lengthy conversation with our Managing Inspector, who in a very reassuring manner, described the process in detail and answered our (many) questions.

There is definitely some lingering scepticism in the system as to whether or not ‘HM Inspectors are working in partnership with the school’ (as is heralded) but our experience – before, during and after – absolutely affirmed that this was their genuine intention from the start. Each and every member of the team operated with that mindset in every interaction we had with them, we just treated them as part of our team and viewed it as a rare opportunity for some robust external validation.  You always think what you are doing is the right thing, and you constantly self-evaluate and compare yourselves to others, but you do not always have the luxury of having the national perspective.  Therefore, the validation for us was important.

It is important to ‘manage’ the preparation, ensuring everyone remains calm, reassured but focussed. The most significant preparation for the Senior Leadership Team following notification was the collaborative approach to completing the Self Evaluation Summary and we were forensic in its completion, matching the evidence we were providing for the team against HGIOS4. We thought we knew our school really well but having completed this exercise, we know it even better now and this is something that we would strongly recommend all schools do in advance as part of their self-evaluation cycle – even if you are some time away from a visit.

Inspectors are busy people and there is a lot to fit in during the course of a week. As the opening discussion was taking place with some members of the team, others were out and about in classes.  We did not have a big, elaborate presentation just a very honest and direct conversation around the paperwork that we had previously submitted.  During the course of the week the conversations and interactions continued and we found the team to be flexible and accommodating – it genuinely seemed like a partnership and we got the impression that they wanted to do the very best for us (as well as us for them). 

The hardest part is the build-up to the actual inspection week which undoubtedly does comes with a little professional anxiety; everyone wants to do their very best. The self-evaluation summary is the building block from which it all starts, and if it is robust and honest, it makes the week far easier allowing time to be spent engaged in conversation – we could not stress that enough, so make a mental note to start on it soon.”

Jon Reid, Headteacher at Larbert High School, Falkirk

For more information about the Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign please visit the Education Scotland website.

 

John Byrne National Drawing Competition⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Budding young artists in Scotland are being urged to enter the third annual John Byrne Drawing Competition.

Since the launch of the competition in 2014, over 7000 entries from pupils across Scotland have submitted their artwork to be judged by the renowned artist and playwright himself, John Byrne.

The competition, in partnership with Education Scotland, is aimed at pupils from primary four through to third year.

John Byrne, along with a selection panel, will choose the overall winners and runners-up, whose work will then be exhibited at Paisley Museum and Art Gallery on Friday 17 March.

John said: “It’s important we give the young people in our country the opportunity to harness their artistic skills and love for drawing. This competition is a great way to showcase that and, once again, I look forward to seeing the remarkable talent that will be unveiled.”

john-byrneLast year’s competition winner, Alba Cooke Ribes (P5) from Hermitage Park Primary School in Edinburgh was selected from over 4,000 children and young people from across Scotland.

Ron Cowie, Senior Education Officer at Education Scotland, added: “Art is an important part of the curriculum and this competition aims to encourage pupils across Scotland to develop their drawing skills and use their creativity. Education Scotland is proud to be involved in this competition as it is a great way to raise the profile of drawing.”

Pupils can catch up on an interactive online event with John Byrne where they can learn more about the competition and his work. Watch here.

The closing date for entries is Friday 3 March 2017.

Read more for competition rules and information about submitting entries in the link below.

john-byrne-national-drawing-competition-2016-competition-rules