Category Archives: Professional

John Byrne National Drawing Competition – 2017 runner-up blog⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Eleana Meikle, S3 pupil at Wellington School in Ayr scooped 2nd place at this year’s John Byrne National Drawing competition.  Find out why Eleana entered the competition.

I found out about the competition from my art teacher. The department entered lots of work to the competition. To decide on what I was going to draw I decided that I really like textures and thought that a contrast of rough textures with smooth shiny shoes would be very powerful.

I decided to work in mixed media and used biro pen, white pencil and newspaper collage on brown paper to let me layer and create multiple textures. This mixture also gave the drawing boldness but I could also manage to draw the detail with the pen and pencil.

When I was told about my win I felt ecstatic about gaining 2nd place. This made me really happy and proud of my work.

It was a very positive experience coming to the gallery and seeing my work in a frame with other pupils work. I have never done this before and it really was confidence boosting.

If I had to say to other pupils why they should enter the competition I would tell them to go for it, it’s excellent. The feeling was great and the prize was so generous.

The 2018 John Byrne National Drawing Competition is open for entries, find out more on the Education Scotland website.

John Byrne National Drawing Competition – 2017 winners blog⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Cameron Lawson, S3 pupil at Cedarbank School in West Lothian won this year’s John Byrne National Drawing competition.  Find out what inspired Cameron to enter and how he felt being announced as winner.


How did you hear about the competition and why did you take part?

I heard about it in the Art class from the teacher Miss Galloway, and I took part because she asked us to.

What inspired you to create your piece?

Usually movies and games that have monsters and weird creatures.

How did you feel when you were told you had won?

I felt surprised because there were a lot of schools that would have entered the competition.

Tell us about the experience of going to the awards ceremony and seeing your artwork on exhibition.

Happy because seeing something that to me was just a simple drawing, winning something that was just so big was amazing.

What advice do you have for pupils entering the competition next year?

Try your hardest and use your imagination.

The 2018 John Byrne National Drawing Competition is open for entries, find out more on the Education Scotland website.

Inside the black box revisted (again)⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

'Inside the black box', written by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam was written in 1998 and consisted of nineteen pages. How come  this pamphlet, because you can hardly call it a book, has had such major impacts in education systems in the UK and across the world?

The answer lies in the content, which was to herald the focus on formative assessment in classrooms and schools across many systems, but particularly here in the UK.

My earliest memories of hearing about formative assessment was, first of all at an In-Service day for teachers with our local authority, in which we were told there had been some new research written about how we could all improve our teaching, and we were to start getting the learners involved actively in learning, deciding what they wanted to learn, and that we would all be doing this from now on. The second, was seeing Dylan Wiliam on a TV programme talking about formative assessment, and the techniques teachers could use in their classrooms. The teachers in the programme, and myself, were particularly taken by his 'no hands up' strategy, and the use of lollipop sticks to support everyone to be engaged in a lesson.

Both these memories, reflect some of the reasons why the work of Black and Wiliam with regards to formative assessment is still being discussed and debated today, and has still not been fully implemented properly in so many schools and systems. There work is an example of a piece of well researched and well intentioned advice that has somehow mutated into other things in many classrooms and schools, and therefore has failed to have the impacts, or results, expected across the system. There is no doubt that this work has had positive impacts for teachers, schools and learners, but there still remains a feeling that we still 'haven't got it' in many instances.

Perhaps the two biggest failings associated with the research were the lack of time given to assimilate and understand its main messages, and how quickly it was turned into a series of techniques to be used, and observed, in classrooms.

I have returned to 'Inside the black box' many times over the last nineteen years, and each time I find messages that have either been lost or twisted into something else over this time period. I consider some of these in this post, to help remind myself of what was said, and the actual impacts we experienced as formative assessment became the latest 'thing' in education.

Lets remind ourselves of some of the main messages.

'Learning is driven by what teachers and pupils do in classrooms.' This seems such an obvious observation, but Black and Wiliam thought it so important that it was worthwhile stating on page 1 of 'Inside the black box' (ITBB). This remains just as true today as it did then, despite all the government focus on curriculum, testing, accountability and structures that had proceeded it, and which continue to this day. The statement points us, and policy makers, to where our attention needs to lie, if we are to improve what we can achieve for all our learners. Much of the work of others like Fullan, Hargreaves, Sahlberg, Harris, Hattie, and more, have emphasised the same point, around the primacy of teachers and learners in the learning process. Black and Wiliam, and other researchers, all recognised the complexity of learning, and that if we wanted to improve this, our focus has to be on teachers, individually and collaboratively. They felt we were too focused on inputs and outputs, rather than what happens between these. The 'black box' of which they wrote, was the classroom and the teaching and learning that happened therein. Indeed, Wiliam has commented recently that he wished they had not used 'assessment' at all, because what they were talking about was good formative teaching and learning practices.

'We start from the self-evident proposition that teaching and learning have to be interactive.' This is stated on page 2. They point out that teachers have to know their pupils well and, using their knowledge and experience, they have to adjust their teaching according to how their learners are responding to the learning taking place. They describe this ability as 'formative assessment', where teachers are responding and giving feedback to learners as they are engaged on learning tasks and activities. The learners would also be receiving feedback from their peers about their learning, as they supported their own, and others', learning. Black and Wiliam observed that good teachers had always operated in these ways, but that they wanted to question whether such practice positively supported learning, and could it be improved further by making the process more systematic and visible?

' we also acknowledge widespread evidence that fundamental educational change can only be achieved slowly - through programmes of professional development that build on existing good practice.' This appears, on page 3, as a caution to governments and system leaders, as well as teachers themselves, to not to try and go too fast, but to build on what they do well already. I am sure many of us who have been involved with the adoption of formative assessment strategies and practice, would think that this is definitely one piece of advice that was generally ignored. There was a push from all levels in the system  to introduce everything Black and Wiliam talked about as quickly as possible, without giving people the time to engage with the research and the associated literature, so that they thoroughly understood what they were doing and why? Black and Wiliam had looked at nearly 600 pieces of research, as well as their own, in order to offer the advice they did in 1998, from this there first key message was about taking our time with changes we made. If only!

They quickly demonstrated in ITBB that formative assessment did indeed raise standards of attainment and 'improved formative assessment helps the (so-called) low attainers more than the rest, and so reduces the spread of attainment whilst also raising it overall.' (page 4) They said that for this to be the case, feedback was crucial, learners needed to be actively engaged in their learning, the results of teacher assessment had to be used to adjust future learning, and that teachers needed to consider pupil motivation and self and peer assessment to support learning. Because of the rush to implementation, these message were quickly skewed into pupils being up and about in all their learning, 'three stars and a wish' was given and expected to be seen, more 'flexible' planning proformas were introduced, and learners spent  a lot of time assessing their own work and that of others as a ritualistic part of many observed lessons. Everyone  rushed to 'prove' they were 'doing' formative assessment. The local authority I worked for interpreted some of these messages as meaning each child needed an personal learning plan (PLP), the first section of which required learners to identify their 'preferred learning style'. Teachers were instructed to take note of these as they planned the learning. I would like to say that these have all disappeared, but I still see and hear of such plans being used, and insisted on, in schools across Scotland.

Black and Wiliam then went on to identify a whole raft of common teaching practices and approaches that were actually detrimental to learning, but which had commonly been observed by themselves and other researchers. To them, this demonstrated that there was still much we could do to improve practice, and therefore attainment off all our learners. They pointed out all the legislation and structural changes that had been introduced in England, and elsewhere, designed to bring about improvement and development, in which they noted 'that existing good practice could hardly have survived, let alone risen to the challenge of a far more demanding set of requirements.' (page 8)

So, yes there were still many things we could do to improve how formative assessment was understood and used in schools, and by teachers. They identified that 'the ultimate user of assessment information which is elicited in order to improve learning is the pupil.' (page 8) This could produce a negative impact if classroom cultures focused on extrinsic rewards which promoted fixed mindsets in learners about what they could, or could not, do. But, if teachers 'created a culture of success, backed by a belief that all can achieve' (page 9) then formative assessment could become a powerful weapon for improved outcomes. Feedback was crucial, should help learners improve their learning and understanding, and should be specific to them, in order to have the biggest impacts. These findings and advice were to be supported by later work by Carol Dweck, John Hattie, and others.

There was still great scope for pupils to self-assess and peer-assess, though they recognised the reliability issues that lay around this. They pointed out that 'pupils can only assess themselves when they have a sufficiently clear picture of the targets that their learning is meant to attain.' (page 9)They saw this element as a key component of formative assessment practice, provided the pupils were taught how to carry out such assessment in a meaningful and accurate way. This was to lead to the setting of learning intentions and success criteria by teachers for every lesson, with a great deal of time getting learners to write these down, or stick them, into their jotters. It also seemed to lead to a lot of meaningless peer-assessment comments appearing on pupil work, and most of this was designed to 'show' that formative assessment was happening, rather than to support the learning of learners. A consequence of not giving teachers enough time to understand and think about what was actually being said, then considering how they might meaningfully shape this for their learners. such mutations were occurring across schools and systems, and most teachers were so busy they didn't have the time to look at the original recommendations and research themselves. We had created cultures where teachers and school leaders waited to be told what to do, and from which we still suffer today.

Black and Wiliam considered effective teaching and how teachers planned for this. They pointed out that planning should change so that learning is clearly identified, and time provided for learners to 'communicate their evolving understanding.' (page 10) A more dialogical approach to learning was being recommended, as the importance of questioning by teachers was being emphasised, with teachers seeing these times as another opportunity of assessing the depth of pupil learning. Again, they recognised inherent dangers in this process if teachers didn't thoroughly understand what they were doing and why. I would suggest, that this is exactly what happened in many cases, and more lip-service was paid to this aspect, rather than any deep understanding of how it improved learning. This was as much the fault of those observing and directing teachers, as the teachers themselves. There remained a distrust of seeing pupils talking for too long, rather than 'doing' something, which generally meant writing stuff down.

The authors recommended that teachers needed to consider carefully tests and homework exercises they set. They must be all designed carefully to support the planned learning taking place. Feedback on these tasks needed to be given that supported the learners with their learning, showing them how they could move this on. Too much testing and homework had been observed which had little connection to the learning supposedly taking place in classrooms. Done correctly, and well thought out, such tasks could still help to support the learning process, especially in older pupils. This was to lead to more demands on teachers, rather than for learners, with more homework being set as well as there being an expectation of more detailed feedback being provided, usually written, for all learners. Another example of increased activity by and for teachers, but with questionable outcomes for learners or learning.

Black and Wiliam identified a number of ways learning and teaching could be improved through better understanding of, and engagement with, formative assessment by teachers. Key was teachers asking 'Do I really know enough about the understanding of my pupils to be able to help each of them?' (page 13) They recognised the difficulties that existed for teachers and schools of all that they proposed should happen, and that there was no one single answer to bring about improvement. Not least, they saw the requirement for more time to be given so that teachers and learners could make the changes necessary. Both teachers and learners needed more time to deepen learning. Teachers would need to consider and face some of their entrenched beliefs about learning, as well as their beliefs about the potential of all their learners to learn. They would need alongside this, changes in policy so that there was more focus on improving what goes on in the classroom, and that developing formative assessment practices should become a priority for all.

Black and Wilaim consistently pointed out that formative assessment was not a 'quick-fix' that could be added to current practice. It would take time and support if we were to achieve all the benefits they had identified. They recommended four steps for development. The first was to be an extensive programme of professional development for teachers, as well as other in the system. They recommended clusters of schools working to support each other, as well as to provide external evaluation of the impacts being achieved. They wanted a dissemination process where teachers and schools could share their progress and what had worked, or not. They did caution against slavishly copying what another teacher or school had done, noting that gains will only accrue when 'each teacher finds his or her own ways of incorporating the lessons and ideas ...into his or her own patterns of classroom work.' (page 17)  Thus, they had identified the importance both of context and for focused collaboration. The removal of obstacles that might get in the way of full implementation would be key. These included curriculum structures and policies heavily focused (even then) on summative assessment and accountability measures. They recommended policy makers to look closely at anything that might get in the way of teachers focusing on formative assessment, then doing all they could to remove or reduce these. Finally, they recommended further research into formative assessment strategies and impacts, and that this should be ongoing, aimed at supporting teachers and schools further.

On page nineteen there are two quotes that are crucial, and which I believe so many people have forgot or never even noticed. They are worth repeating so that you consider yourself where you, and we, are.

'The main plank of our argument is that standards are raised only by changes which are put into direct effect by teachers and pupils in classrooms.'

'Our educational system has been subjected to many far-reaching initiatives which, whilst taken in reaction to concerns about existing practices, have been based on little evidence about their potential to meet those concerns.'

My question would be, are we really any further than where Black and Wilam thought we were in 1998?

Wiliam is correct in stating that what they were talking about and recommending was to do with effective learning and teaching practices and the supportive collaborative cultures and structures that would be required to assure these. They based their recommendations on the research that existed at that time, and there has been a whole host of research that has emerged since then that backs up what they were saying. Their thinking and their recommendations were generally sound. However, can anyone really say they have been assimilated into professional practice, or have we moved on to other 'things'?

We still remain a profession that is constantly busy and seeking the Holy Grail of perfecting schooling and learning. That puts us at risk of any 'thing' that comes along or is being peddled as the answer to all that ails or concerns us. We have to engage with research, like that of Black and Wiliam, and, where we understand that it can help us improve, take the time to implement properly and understand the impacts we are having on learning. Constantly jumping from one thing to another, being pushed by the system to do so, doesn't get us any further forward, and continues to fail learners and teachers.

Reference: Inside the black box Black P., Wiliam D. King's College London 1998 London



Hi there
It’s me.
Not sure if you remember? I write a blog. It used to get a lot of praise, sharing and admiration.
The words associated with it… and therefore I guess with me…. were mainly “honest” and “brave.”


Now I know that lots of people would see those words as a good thing; those people who I would consider to be part of my tribe; those who live by the values of Brené Brown; those who want to change the world and stop us from living a life of artificiality and dishonesty; those who, like me, have valued the quote attributed to Tom Hanks: “The only way you can truly control how you are seen is by being honest all the time”.

But I have come to realise recently that for many, those words trigger an underlying suspicion that I am foolish, a loose cannon, difficult, unable to understand that my way is not the only way.

You will notice that I haven’t written much lately. The wellbeing updates, the honest reflections, the analyses of the type of honest school leader I want to be have stopped.


Because I don’t think that people want to know the honest truth about some things.
And because I have realised that my truth is not absolute and that sometimes I need to accept that other truths are equally valid.

Rest assured that this is not about my current situation or my current school. I absolutely love where I am and what I am doing just now.

But it is a reflection about the world.

It was just over thirty years ago when I experienced the sense that I had misjudged the appropriateness of honesty.
I was head girl in my school and the MP David Mellor had come to speak to our sixth form.
He began to talk about the benefits of grammar schools and I challenged him, asking how he could possibly dare to do so while speaking in a comprehensive school.
The daughter of a Lithuanian peasant and working-class-boy-made-good who had both devoted their careers to teaching in comprehensive education could not hold back. This was much to the delight of my socialist/pacifist/revolutionary friends at school.
But the disappointment on the face of the headteacher and senior staff in the school and the feeling that I had somehow done something distasteful remain abiding memories of that day.

There is a time and a place to be honest.
As a school leader you have to be skilled in exercising selective honesty. I don’t think that this means compromising on values as long as you stay true to the fundamental value of ensuring that every child is happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

But it means knowing which battles to fight and when, knowing when to speak and when to be silent and knowing that sometimes sensitivity towards the feelings and beliefs of others must take priority over self-righteous impatience.

Sometimes you can’t afford to be too honest about the things that you can’t change.

But let’s also remember that we need to be honest about the word can’t.
Is it that we really can’t? Or simply that we don’t want to?
Because in all honesty, we need to do what is right and not what is easy.








from @

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’m feeling a bit ranty this morning. Crazy Scottish lady is rising a little close to the surface.

I’ve been reading articles (old and new) and watching videos (old and new) this week which are replaying familiar EdTech tropes and I’m sick of it. I’m not going to quote anything directly here because I have no interest in fighting with or offending anyone. Rather I’m going to rant and people can take offence broadly. Sorry in advance. I love you all.

A summary of what is annoying me goes a bit like this:

VLEs are bad because: vendors, surveillance, no access after courses finish, no access for academics to each other’s work. It’s a closed system. It’s a waste of student time. If only we could all just use WordPress instead (insert other variants on the theme of open technologies).

“IT” run our stuff and they don’t understand. Snake oil salesmen charm our senior management. If only they knew what we know.

Learning analytics are bad, evil. Algorithms, surveillance, surveillance capitalism.

Repeat the above for AI and automation, add in something about loss of teacher agency too.

Fundamentally I am getting cross because whilst I see genuine issues and *genuine* concern, I also think that I see a quite a lot of lack of agency and responsibility. Not across the board, but enough to piss* me off.

I completely get that some of what I’m reading is from people who have little agency or traction in their particular EdTech setting. Some of what I want to rant about requires an amount of privilege to action. That I can even have a wee rant on my blog is privilege, however: Some of the people I’ve been reading are quite senior in their organisations or have significant platforms; there is always *something* that can be done, no matter how small.

Don’t just complain that this is the nature of the IT / the approach of senior management / the power of big vendors (don’t not complain though!). Things are not perfect by a country mile, but a whole lot of this is about local institutional choices and culture, and until that changes, institutions are going to keep investing in and implementing technologies in the same low denominator, low trust, uncritical way.

I don’t have all the answers. I’m
not sure anyone does, but I can tell you what I believe. If you want to resist, you can do worse than to start occupying territory. Institutions are fundamentally collections of people, not abstract concepts. Culture is not immutable.

Get to know your IT colleagues. They are on the same below-industry-salary as you because mostly they give a damn about the same things as you. Talk about the “virtual team” who make our EdTech activities doable. Include them where you can in your work, ask to be included in theirs. Prove that together you can do more interesting things. Demonstrate the value of working closely to the institution by talking about the great things you achieve together. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Remember that at the point you advocate technological solutions (WordPress etc) you are “IT” too. This learning technologist / IT bullshit* is a false divide. If there are big divisions between your job functions this is organisational culture in your institution, or in your head.

Find out who your data protection or legal people are. Learn from them. Implement their best practices in whatever small way you can. Permission to use data, record keeping, contractual negotiations, bringing them into conversations with suppliers, consent forms. Arm yourself with whatever weapons you can find in this area. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Do the same for data architects. If roles like data stewards, data owners etc are defined in your organisation then try make sure someone with EdTech awareness is the owner for things like VLE activity data. It might even be something you need to do. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Get to know your procurement people. Learn about what they do. Understand better how to use procurement processes to your advantage. Once the ink is dry on a contract it’s all over. Give thanks privately and publicly.

There’s probably lots more to add here, the main point is start always by holding your own internal setup and choices to account, and being as active a participant in those processes as you can, because that’s something you can and should influence. If our field is as important, critical and vital as we think it is, then be prepared to get into the trenches.

This is dirty, dull work. There are no prizes, no conference presentations, no sexy innovation projects in this space. But it has integrity.

Also do this work with grace. Do it without aggression, do it respectfully even when you deeply disagree. If you are genuinely motivated by improvement then don’t do this work by being an asshole* to people. Even EdTech vendors.

This is a rant btw. So it doesn’t have coherence, you will be able to pick holes in it, I probably have contradicted myself. I don’t care. It’s not important. What is important is that we all do something that is doable in our context to move forwards. There is no magic bullet here. Just hard work. Get on with it. And be proud of it too.

* don’t be a potty mouth like me either.

Week beginning 27 November 2017⤴

from @

Reading Time: 2 minutes


  • Submit proposal to OER18 based on Open to All blog post.
  • Talk to colleagues about a Festival of Creative Learning Week vox-pops session.
  • Discuss API access to our media servers for search indexing videos as part of a new University search engine project. Can we have a Creative Commons filter on the search please? Need data protocol forms filled out.
  • Review the beginnings of a video and graphic design style guide for new online content.
  • Review Web Governance vision and objectives with Colan ahead of workshop later in the week.
  • Discuss whether we should extent the coaching / feedback report we built for QMP into something that all users can have access to. Following up with potential users and guage interest.


  • Meet with project team for Notifications project – API access to Learn for Announcements data and permission to use data protocol to be taken forward.
  • Run to IAD and review PTAS applications as part of the adjudication panel. 2 lecture recording related projects approved.
  • Meet with colleagues on Service Excellent projects to share experiences of procurement processes, and some ideas around building buy-in for their direction of travel.
  • Catch up with the team on their impressions of the Wiseflow product demo on Tuesday PM.


  • Web Governance workshops with Colan et al. Really starting to pull things together. Can see where DOOO and blogging fit within the bigger digital strategy. This is good stuff and we are getting quite excited about it. We talked a lot in my group about content design and development; the extent to which content needs to be highly design in some areas of our web estate, and the extent to which a wide variety of user generated content might be curated in other areas.
  • Met with the Surgical Sciences teams to check progress and plans on their VLE migration projects. Everyone is really very positive about the opportunities they see in coming off their bespoke platforms.
  • Implementation Steering Group for Lecture Recording Programme. Signed off briefs and scope of this stage; update on comms plan; update on rooms for the next phase from Euan. Still a lot to do and aspects like timetabling integration will be technically challenging.
  • Marc was at Sheffield Echo360 User Group – learning all about their opt-in project and timetabling integration.


  • Met Chris Cheong from RMIT for an overview of his learning analytics work. Described the Task, Test, Monitor system and how it supports student self-reflection. Some really interesting observations from this project. In terms of how students use TTM – starts as a testing system, but flips into being a diagnostic system around mid-semester as assessments kick in.
  • Whole afternoon workshop with Shane and Aaron from Pebble Learning, looking at what we want from ATLAS assessment tools for the future.




from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Education Scotland is evidencing many successes for Gaelic (Learners) from the implementation of the policy, Language Learning in Scotland: a 1+2 Approach. Teachers’ commitment to delivering Gaelic within the curriculum is acknowledged.  A presentation on the successes and challenges for Gaelic from implementing the policy is available here.  One such challenge is that there are many children learning Gaelic as L3 in primary schools for whom  a progression pathway into secondary is still to be identified.  However, a newly-announced change to how L3 may be delivered may assist with this.  In Scotland, we also have an important target to meet in increasing the number of speakers of Gaelic as part of the National Gaelic Language Plan.  For this, education has a key role.

Currently, at the primary stages, children who experience a coherent and progressive experience of L3 from P5-P7 may choose to continue with that language into S1 and to the end of the broad general education (BGE).  For purposes of planning the secondary curriculum, this language would become young people’s L2.  For this to be the case, children need to have achieved the second level by the end of P7.  In addition, there should be pathways to National Qualifications in the senior phase for that language.  The 1+2 policy has recently been relaxed to state that L3 may be the language that children continue with, as they move from primary to secondary, if schools are able to demonstrate that children’s achievements are “approaching the second level”.  To achieve this, the planning for the L3 language needs to result in a coherent and progressive experience from P5-P7.  This new arrangement does not replace the opportunity for schools to introduce more than one language as L3.

Here are some useful steps to guide how you may incorporate this new delivery model for L3 into planning for improvement:

  • Revisit your curriculum rationale, particularly in light of the local context, to ascertain if increasing the numbers approaching the second level of Gaelic (Learners) is a priority for your school.
  • Ensure strong links between primary and secondary specialists who are delivering Gaelic (Learners).
  • Work with the other primaries in your cluster and the associated secondary school to plan a coherent 3-18 experience.
  • Review the structure of the curriculum to see how you can plan learning, teaching and assessment to enable children’s achievements to be approaching the second level.
  • Review how well you use the contexts of the curriculum as a means of increasing outcomes for Gaelic and assisting young people in making connections in their learning.
  • Review how you are using Gaelic partners and organisations to increase the time allocated to Gaelic (Learners) in the curriculum.
  • Plan for progression and coherence by using the experiences and outcomes to show how you will develop knowledge, skills, attributes and capabilities of the four capacities.
  • Plan the use of Benchmarks for Gaelic (Learners) to set out clear statements about what learners need to know and be able to do to achieve a level across all curriculum areas.
  • Plan how you will integrate Gaelic (Learners) as a language in the life and work of the school.
  • Use the principles of curriculum design to plan learning to motivate children in their learning of Gaelic.  In particular, ensure that children understand the relevance of Gaelic, including for achieving a positive destination on leaving school.

For more information on the delivery of L3 in the 3-18 curriculum, please see Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach – Further guidance on L3 within the 1+2 policy.  It is a matter for schools to determine the exact design of the curriculum, using the flexibility that Curriculum for Excellence affords them, to ensure that children’s achievements are “approaching a second level”.

Everything in moderation⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

A blog by Jamie Farquhar
Deputy Head Teacher of Dumfries Academy

Jamie Farquhar
Deputy Head Teacher of Dumfries Academy

I am a QAMSO.

Increasingly – in the second year of there being QAMSOs – colleagues know what that is. Good; it saves me unpacking the acronym to its full glory of Quality Assurance and Moderation Support Officer and it suggests we* are having an impact.

My role is to support colleagues in their understanding and application of Moderation in its widest sense through the lens of a particular Numeracy or Literacy level. In my case, this is Third Level Writing.

I am not an English Teacher. However, I am a passionate advocate for the Teaching Profession and of the Responsibilities of All as key priorities for our learners. I believe the Broad General Education (BGE) provides the platform for teachers to co-create a curriculum that meets the needs of individual learners, in individual schools.

To achieve this we need the confidence to spurn the false panacea of centrally distributed WAGOLLs (What a Good One Looks Like) and resist ‘mimetic isomorphism’. In other words; it’s not about teachers doing the same thing, in the same way, either through decree or by the copycatting of perceived eminence. Rather, we should aim for the contextualised consistency of quality; as a QAMSO I advocate achieving this through planning, professional dialogue, reflection, sharing, experimentation and evaluation i.e. through Moderation.

Moderation is about skilled professionals working together to plan, evaluate, feedback and feed forward learning to all learning partners. Moderation is groups of teachers subjecting the entire learning process to rigorous professional scrutiny and so trusting and being trusted in their judgements. Through collaboration we empower a move beyond consistency of practice to an increased confidence in individual judgements, planning and interventions.

The Moderation Cycle provides a framework through which to embark on this process. In my own school, we accessed the cycle through the Evaluation stage by leading engagement with the Literacy Benchmarks and developing professional confidence in making judgements of CfE-levels. This starting point was chosen due to a familiarity, within a secondary context, of judging work against set standards in the Senior Phase. The challenge is to move thinking and practice from summative evaluation of output to include moderated planning of input; to ensure we are teaching and supporting what we later assess.

We have begun. Our Literacy Strategy produced Evidence which, as well as debate over CfE-levels, led to dialogue about the evidence’s relevance and validity. This demanded we reflect on our Assessment tools; which asked questions about the effectiveness of our Learning and Teaching and learners’ understanding of what they were learning and how well they had learned it (Learning Intentions and Success Criteria).

Colleagues then began to revisit their planning (Es and Os) to reflect learning and the Learner more holistically. This provided a range of on-going and holistic Evidence which demonstrated strengths, successes and nextsteps which informed Feedback, Reporting and planning of the next learning experience and so on. The principles of the Moderation Cycle as applied to Literacy have started to impact on practice in other curriculum areas and beyond the BGE.

The Moderation Hub provides an incredible resource to support this work. I will use it extensively in my QAMSO role to support Professional Learning in schools. The Hub provides off-the-shelf material for Professional Learning Workshops and e-learning. I recommend it to all Literacy / Numeracy Leads and Professional Learning Coordinators. I also commend the Moderation Cycle and Hub to all school leaders as a means to lead and evidence genuine Quality Assurance of Learning and Teaching.

The workshops take a little time as they work through each stage of the cycle, asking colleagues to reflect on examples and craft improvements collaboratively. A commitment to mutual engagement and knowledge creation through the Moderation Cycle should lead to a sustained shift of culture and improvement in outcomes for learners that simply being ‘given the answers’ cannot hope to achieve.

The Moderation Cycle provides the framework to be autonomous, contextually-aware, professional leaders of learning.
This QAMSO’s advice: Follow the Cycle – Co-Create – Trust your Judgements.

*There are lots of us: Each Local Authority has a QAMSO for each CfE Level from Early to Fourth in Numeracy, Writing and Reading.

Celebrating Book Week Scotland⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Deputy First Minister John Swinney visited Forthview Primary School in Edinburgh today to celebrate Book Week Scotland and the delivery of this year’s Read, Write, Count bags to Primary 2 and 3 pupils across Scotland.

The Read, Write, Count initiative gives practical support to parents and carers to help them get involved in their child’s learning. Read, Write Count bags are delivered to all children in Primaries 2 and 3 alongside Bookbug bags which are gifted to Primary 1 pupils and Read, Write, Count ‘home kits’ which have been delivered to P4-7 classes in selected schools for the first time this year.

As part of the visit to Forthview Primary School, Mr Swinney met Primary 2 pupils who were reading stories and doing counting activities from the Read, Write, Count bags with the help of Primary 7 buddies.

Mr Swinney said:  “Evidence shows that parental involvement has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and I was pleased to hear how Read, Write, Count helps children and parents have fun while learning together.

“I want to see standards and attainment improving and literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing are the priorities for our children’s education. Parental involvement and engagement plays a prominent role in our national plan to tackle inequality and close the attainment gap between our least and most disadvantaged children.”

The Scottish Book Trust worked in partnership with Scottish Government, Education Scotland and Creative Scotland to devise and deliver this year’s bags. In total, 453,450 free books will be gifted to children in Primaries 1, 2 and 3 during Book Week Scotland.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said: “We are delighted to be gifting the ‘Read Write Count’ bags during Book Week Scotland as there is no better time to celebrate the joys of books and reading. Each bag contains books and activities especially chosen to encourage learning and storytelling in a fun way that engages the pupils’ interests, and supports their learning in the classroom. Book Week Scotland encourages reading for pleasure and the ‘Read Write Count’ bags build on this.”

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