Building the GME Curriculum⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Following on from the successful conference, Transitions to Secondary we are pleased to announce two further opportunities to support the development of the secondary GME curriculum.

The Scottish Learning Festival (SLF) is Scotland’s key educational event. We look forward to inviting you to a seminar for Gaelic Medium Education (GME) at 9.30am on Wednesday 20 September.  This will have a focus on promoting excellence and equity for learners through an improved GME curriculum.  We are delighted to invite Angus MacLennan, the headteacher of e-Sgoil, to co-present with us.  Angus will share how e-Sgoil has been using technology to deliver different aspects of the curriculum to schools throughout Scotland.  This seminar will be of interest to senior managers, teachers and curriculum partners.  Registration for SLF 2017 is still open.

Following on from the SLF, we will provide professional learning at An t-Alltan to support the delivery of the secondary GME curriculum. E-Sgoil will co-present with us.  This session will give practitioners an opportunity to become familiar with the digital technology that is used by e-Sgoil while promoting effective pedagogy.  Registration for An t-Alltan is now open.  Please visit,

Please also refer to our Advice on Gaelic Education, some of which is statutory, on how to structure and design a curriculum for GME.

Practical Suggestions for Tackling the Teacher Retention Crisis⤴

from @ Memory & Education Blog - Jonathan Firth

Career progression: is there enough scope - and enough practical support - for teachers to keep developing and challenging themselves throughout their career? Image: Fras333

Career progression: is there enough scope - and enough practical support - for teachers to keep developing and challenging themselves throughout their career? Image: Fras333

The quality of teaching matters to how well pupils do at school. So how do we, as a society, encourage high-quality and experienced teachers to stay in the classroom rather than leave the profession or move into management?

This question was addressed by the Scottish Government's recent report, 'Teacher Workforce Planning for Scottish Schools', and also featured in the initial findings from their panel of international advisers earlier in July 2017.

It is becoming a major issue well beyond Scotland, too, with record numbers of teachers leaving south of the border. Teaching unions have spoken of a perfect storm of negative conditions: funding cuts which have reduced (real terms) pay, increasing workload and hours, and the likely impact of Brexit on the availability of teachers from the EU, among other pressures.

This problem is of personal interest and relevance to me as someone who works in an HE education department, as my day job involves preparing and educating new trainee teachers. However, my role also puts me in the category of someone who has left the school classroom! I see this choice as being largely due to my enthusiasm for helping to develop the new generation of Psychology teachers at a key time for the subject's development in Scottish schools, but it's also the case that I was motivated by a desire for pedagogy-related career progression which was otherwise absent.


Both reports mentioned above highlight the need to find ways of motivating experienced classroom teachers to remain in post. This excerpt comes from the Teacher Workforce report:


The Chartered Teacher Scheme was withdrawn in 2012, having previously provided a way for pay increases to teachers who undertook a course of further academic study. A number of colleagues had attained Chartered Teacher status during my early years of school teaching (my first permanent secondary post began in 2001), and it seemed to me that the view of the Scheme among the staff as a whole was quite negative. In particular, people who were not Chartered did not feel that it rewarded the 'best' teachers or significantly benefited the pupils.

Nevertheless, it certainly did provide an option for progression outside of promotion to management, a route which does not appeal to everyone (and not can everyone be a manager), and which inevitably results in reduced classroom time for the promoted staff member.

Scotland is keen to emulate other countries such as Finland in making teachers a Masters-level profession. This is welcome, but is not likely to tackle all of the issues around retention of staff, given that Masters qualifications tend to be completed early in the teaching career, and are therefore not likely to function as an incentive for more experienced staff to remain in teaching.

It can, of course, be argued that establishing this level of qualification (or above) as the norm will result in teachers being treated as professionals to a greater degree, and that this higher regard throughout society would impact on teacher retention and make teachers less demoralised. I certainly think it could help - though it could be argued that UK teachers already have relatively high status compared to the European norm. Clearly the nature of the job itself also plays a key role, irrespective of career progression; going hand-in-hand with societal respect, we urgently need greater agency for teachers to manage learning and exercise professional judgement in their own classrooms, rather than the more top-down accountability processes which are increasing worldwide. It is also vital to reduce the workload associated with a non-stop round of curriculum updates. However again, these things don't apply specifically to the experienced professionals who exit teaching.

Could a Chartered Teacher programme be reintroduced with more success? I don't think the negative attitudes that I mentioned can be put down just to jealously over colleagues' higher pay; departmental heads, in contrast, tend to be viewed positively by colleagues, with fellow teachers recognising their commitment and hard work. It seemed like Chartered Status was resented in part because it seemed like money for nothing - besides being supposedly expert practitioners, the Chartered Teachers didn't actually do anything more for the school than their colleagues did on an ongoing basis. The other side of this coin is that it provided little for a Chartered Teacher to engage with intellectually. They role wasn't any different, and therefore beyond their initial studies there wasn't much to maintain motivation and provide a sense of purpose.

It follows that there is a need for a means of progression for classroom teachers which is linked to a clear role of benefit to the school - a quid pro quo, where the promoted member of staff is doing something of tangible value, akin to that provided by departmental heads and other middle management, and in doing so gains genuine and meaningful progression throughout their career. 


One possibility is to establish a specialist mentor role for those who guide and support trainee teachers during their work placements. This possibility is hinted at in the Teacher Workforce report, which refers to an additional time allocation for mentoring of students:


Having mentored two student teachers last year, I can confirm that it is certainly time consuming (if anyone thinks that the students do all your teaching while you get a break, this is far from the case!), but it is also professionally challenging and very rewarding. The idea that teachers in positions could have a reduction in teaching workload is interesting, and it would be useful to know exactly what this would involve. To do it well, freeing up time for professional reading, meetings and detailed feedback, something like 20% of contact time, equivalent to a day a week for a full time teacher, would seem reasonable to me. Any less and it is likely to result in increased stress for the mentor, and make it hard to guide students as well as it should be done.

This could provide a specialist route that would allow the most skilled practitioners to not only remain in the classroom, but to make their teaching craft (and perhaps, specific aspect of that craft) a specialism. It would be of benefit to trainees, too, who would be mentored by a motivated expert teacher rather than someone who lacks the time and/or experience to fully support them.


Another possible route for professional progression, via an essentially similar model, would be to create a teacher-researcher role. In my previous school, a number of teachers engaged with research as part of a research centre (see 'Can teachers be researchers?'), and the GTCS and other teaching bodies encourage practical research engagement for teachers (often termed 'practitioner enquiry' - but that's another debate!).

However, the objection that is most often raised by teachers about the prospect of conducting or otherwise engaging with research is that they lack time.

A reduced workload, again of around 20% of contact time while otherwise remaining in teaching duties, could facilitate teacher research engagement very significantly. Most teachers can see the value of research, and it typically links intimately with classroom practice (for example, research into memory, motivation, etc, or research which develops their specialised subject knowledge). Given time to do it properly and to develop the required technical skills, they are much more likely to engage with the research community more broadly, follow high standards and produce good quality work. It would provide a stimulating addition to their teaching work that might help to motivate teachers who would otherwise choose not to remain in a teaching role. What's more, their research work could be part of a school-wide agenda and the findings shared with colleagues, circumventing the criticism of Chartered Status discussed above, i.e. that they weren't contributing anything extra to the school on an ongoing basis.

I'm aware that a significant number of schools/clusters in England and Wales have established a 'research lead' role, and while very interesting, this is not really what I'm advocating - such a position is essentially unique within the institution (we can't all be the research lead!) - and I'm more interested in a route that any experienced teacher could potentially undertake.

As a follow-on from the prospect of engaging more teachers as researchers, any school in which teachers are conducting active data gathering should have an ethical approval process. Again, in my previous role, this was done by volunteers on top of a full teaching workload. Making a position on a research ethics board (which could be run across a cluster of schools rather than one) a specialised form of teacher-researcher role - with extra pay and a time allocation - seems to me a more sustainable model, and one that would encourage those who do it to prioritise it appropriately and to develop the necessary skills and knowledge.

In short, I don't think the answer to the retention crisis is for teachers to do another qualification and then essentially be handed money for nothing for the rest of their career. I do think that they should be offered one or more pathways for career progression that would mean still being in the classroom for the majority of their contracted hours, but would add a stimulating new challenge which was of broader benefit along with increased pay. As well as the prospect of advancement without the need to enter management, such roles would be highly motivating to experienced professionals who perhaps feel that they have developed their skills as far as they can in a standard classroom role.

I have suggested two key types of promoted role - student mentor and teacher-researcher. I'm sure that there are other possibilities, including in pastoral and extra curricular areas.

Want to find out more about your rights? Check out the Launchpad game online⤴

from @ Reach

St. Patrick’s Primary School, a UNICEF partner school, in Coatbridge, in Glasgow, Scotland, on 27 March 2015.

Did you know that you have the right to the best possible childhood, where you are respected, listened to, well looked after, safe and happy?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or UNCRC for short, sets out what your rights are. When countries sign up to it, they’re promising to protect your rights and make sure you have what you need. Almost every country in the world has signed up, including the United Kingdom.

Want to find out more while having fun playing games online? Check out UNICEF’s Launchpad game to explore your rights and how to enjoy them.

The post Want to find out more about your rights? Check out the Launchpad game online appeared first on Reach.

Gaelic as part of a 1+2 Approach to Languages⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

SCILT have published a programme of professional learning which practitioners may find useful in implementing Gaelic (Learners) as part of the 1+2 Approach to languages. We have also taken this opportunity to list a few resources which curriculum planners may find useful in taking forward Gaelic as part of 1+2.

 SCILT CLPL Programme

Advice on 1+2 and the role of Gaelic

Resources for teaching Gaelic as L2 and L3 at the primary stages

Professional learning for teachers, including those who have little or no prior knowledge

Resources for teaching Gaelic (Learners) as L2 and L3 at the secondary stages

Advice to support improvement in Gaelic across sectors:


This link is useful for keeping practitioners up-to-date with our support for quality and improvement:

Hacker head on⤴

from @

Reading Time: 1 minute

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

(The Principles of Universal Design)

In reading a little more about Universal Design I have learned that there are 7 Principals (first drafted in 1997):

Principle 1: Equitable Use
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Each principal is broken down into 4 or 5 key points and one in particular leapt out at me.

5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

At the same time as reading about this I have been reading Tijmen Schep’s lovely book “Design my Privacy”. He has 8 principals in his book including:

2. Think like a hacker. Many pitfalls can be avoided by better anticipating and concepting options for abuse.

Many of the big-data gathering social network platforms have had significant investment to make them as usual as possible by as many people as possible. These platforms are explicitly designed to encourage unconscious action when vigilance is actually just what is needed.

We need to get our hacker heads on.

Comhairle nan Leabhraichean Bileag Ùr do Phàrantan⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Tha Comhairle nan Leabhraichean air bileag ùr a chruthachadh do phàrantan aig nach eil Gàidhlig, aig a bheil clann ann am foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig. Tha molaidhean agus fiosrachadh ann mu dheidhinn leabhraichean agus goireasan a tha rim faighinn airson diofar aoisean, bho phàistean gu inbhich òga. Cuiribh fios Shelagh is cuiridh iad pasgan dhan sgoil.

The Gaelic Books Council has produced a new leaflet for non-Gaelic speaking parents of children in Gaelic Medium Education. It contains information and advice about books and resources for all ages. Please contact Shelagh for more information.

Developing the Young Workforce : Marketplace⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Developing the Young Workforce : Marketplace

Mark Steell, Development Adviser, DYW Employer Engagement Team, Scottish Government

I am seconded to Scottish Government to support the Developing the Young Workforce strategy and the regional employer groups that have been set up to deliver employer engagement with young people in education to help their awareness and access to the world of work.

This is the second time I have had this privilege having been involved in Determined to Succeed and people have asked me what is different this time round. I think one area for change is how we use digital technology to communicate employer offers and support to education.

Last year, the Edinburgh, East and Mid-Lothian DYW group launched Marketplace which is a digital platform for employers to offer schools insight, inspiration and awareness activities and events. The National DYW group led by Rob Woodward of STV has since agreed to the roll-out of Marketplace as the recommended tool for DYW groups to use.

Skills Development Scotland in collaboration with Scottish Government, Education Scotland, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ayrshire, and North East DYW groups have led the development of Marketplace.

The benefits of Marketplace are to make it easy for employers to communicate an offer to education and, for teachers it sits on My World of Work website which will make it easier to search for opportunities. The system allows teachers to book employer offers and will be open for young people to be able to see what’s on offer too

In addition, the Founders4schools service is available in Marketplace and this links teachers with entrepreneurial employers who wish to offer learning opportunities to schools. So the platform allows you to see what’s already available and to build your own event with employer support if you require this.

If you want to find out more about Marketplace, register and sign in at and speak to your regional DYW group at about plans to bring this to the area where you work and live.

An Enquiry Video⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

Since first sharing my short guide to practitioner enquiry a few years ago, more and more teachers & schools have been approaching me to come and speak about this to groups of staff. Whilst I absolutely love saying yes to such requests, it’s becoming harder and harder for me to do so. With this in mind, I thought what might be helpful would be for me to make a short video sharing some of my thinking around practitioner enquiry which schools could use as part of their professional learning.

In advance of making the video, I made a few small tweaks to the PDF guide which I’ve been meaning to make for some time. You can download the most up to date version here.

And, here’s the video. I’ve tried to keep it short so that it could be used as a part of a session with groups of staff. I hope it’s useful…

If YouTube is blocked in your school, there’s a version on Vimeo here.

Some thoughts on Scottish education⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

This week I was asked if I would go along to speak to labour MSPs and MPs about Scottish education and schools. My brief was to talk about education. its current state, the reality of how the attainment gap can be tackled, how teachers can help government address the challenges of poverty, and how we might start to reinvest in our schools and our teaching staff. The politicians did not want to hear from the 'same people' who always spoke to them, and wanted to hear from someone 'fresh from the chalk-face'. I had forty five minutes, about twenty minutes input from me then a discussion and question and answer session. No pressure there then! Anyway, I gave it my best shot.

I started with a brief introduction to myself and my background, to give them some idea of who this person was, and why they might be able to help them and I tried to cover most of the following in my time slot.

I started with some the positives from our system.

Stuff we should be proud of:
  • Our learners and their achievements. I pointed out that we had the honour and privilege to work with fantastic young people every day, and we never cease to be astonished by all they achieve, at all stages of their education. They are enthusiastic, creative and knowledgeable, and as they move through the system they become more curious and inquisitive about their role in our society and how they can help shape this.
  • All the staff who work in our schools, and elsewhere, and their commitment to what they do. We have fabulous people who work in, and lead, our schools, who want nothing but the best for their learners. They are professional, well educated and prepared for their classroom roles and to support our learners. They want the best for all learners, but understand that they can get even better, with the right conditions and support. I spoke of Henry Hepburn's recent survey of teachers on Twitter, about why they feel they are in the best job. The results were so affirming of what we are about and what we think about our role.
  • Our Parents. We rarely, if ever, come across parents who want nothing but the best for their children. We have many committed parents working on a daily basis with their child's school to help support their learning and development. Part of our role is to tap into, and reach out further, to our parents, so that they feel better able to support their children, and we break down many of the barriers, perceived or real, that still exist between some parents and their local school.
  • The commitment of communities. At all levels of the system, we have communities that are committed to helping develop and improve the educational experience of our learners, and to support schools to do this. Some of these communities are populated by education, health or social work and political professionals, but many of them are from different backgrounds and just want to support local schools, and wider education, as best they can. Like everyone else in the system, they are looking to make a difference.
  • Curriculum for Excellence. Despite the well-founded criticisms directed at CfE, and what it has become, there is still a belief by many in the system in regard to the original principles that sat behind this curricular development, especially in our primary sector. It is still a radical and different curricular approach to many others, that still has much to offer, if we are able to get back to it's founding principles. My message is that it has to be seen as a verb, its what we do, rather than a noun, and some other 'thing' for schools and teachers to do. Of course we still have to address the issues, in particular the middle to upper secondary years.
  • Our higher education sector and the expertise therein. For a small country, Scotland has lots of high performing universities, spread across the country. There is a wealth of educational expertise that resides in many of those universities. I mentioned Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Stirling, Dundee and Aberdeen to illustrate this. and the geographical spread Within those universities we have world-class and leading educationalists, and perhaps we are a bit guilty of not tapping into that expertise first, before we start looking further afield. Good examples of university, local authority and school partnerships are beginning to emerge and be more common.
  • Collaborative structures and practice. We are a small country, and so we should be able to collaborate easier than some larger ones, and we do. We are not perfect, but there are many examples of collaboration happening at national, local, and school levels that help us become greater than the sum of the individual parts. We are better at speaking to each other, across sectors and across agencies to help connect all that we do for our young people and families, and to improve our performance. We understand the power and necessity of collaboration at all levels.
  • SCEL. I singled out SCEL as an example of structures and practices in Scotland which had been recognised as world class. The work that has been done by SCEL over the last two years to develop system leadership and teacher leadership has helped to greatly improve and develop the practice of many school leaders and teachers, with positive impacts for learners. Members of the Scottish Government's International Group of Advisors had particularly commented on the impact SCEL has had, and as an example of new structures that are sector leading and have impact.
I then turned my attention to some of the major issues or concerns felt by myself and others. I broke these down into bigger policy directions and then into specific issues that resulted from some of these.

  • The drift towards Tory education policy. From day one of the first minister's work she has said 'judge me on education' and she, and her education ministers, have said they will not be afraid to look outside of Scotland for examples of what works elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with this approach, if you look in the right places. My suggestion was that perhaps they have been too quick and keen to look down south and at England, for these examples. Many of the announcements and actions of the Scottish Government over the last few years have looked a bit like 'Tory-light', if not exact replication. This is a concern for many in Scottish education, but people feel they can't voice those fears, or if they do they are soon pulled to one side to have there voice quietened, or become easily isolated.
  • The belief by some that improvement can be mandated. There are too many micro-managers in Scottish education, and they tend to want to focus on changing systems and structures to bring about improvement. Lots of research has shown that, whilst these can help and support development, it is people, and in particular teachers, who bring about real change in our schools. That is where our attention should lie, a relentless focus on learning and teaching and supporting our teachers to be even better.
  • GERM agendas. One of our Government's own international group, Pasi Sahlberg, described the various government reform agendas for education around the world as GERMs. These were characterised by greater accountability, league tables, top-down direction and high-stakes testing supposedly to measure the performance of the system. Examples he identified included, USA, Sweden, Australia and England. Such countries that followed these tended to also be characterised by falling attainment, wider gaps and less equity. We seem to be heading down the same path.
  • Everything being dropped onto schools. There is no doubt that we have lots of gaps that need to be closed, as much as possible, in education. A concern around this is the feeling by many that the onus for dealing with all of these is falling entirely onto schools and teachers, when we all know there are wider societal problems at play here. In the discourse around 'raising attainment' and 'closing gaps' it seems that it is only schools and teachers who are being targeted. We recognise that we have important and vital roles to play, but the impact of other factors needs to be similarly recognised and addressed also.
  • School resourcing. It remains a concern that resourcing for schools is very much a political football and is not as clear and as transparent as it could be. The algorithms for allocation of resources are only as good as the people who constructed them, and all their biases. Whilst 'extra' resourcing to schools and headteachers is welcomed, the tools used for allocation of these seem to be very broad and arbitrary. Leading to individuals and families missing out just because of a post-code or whether they take free school meals. Throwing money at schools, and demanding impact in a school year is unrealistic, and promotes short-termism.
  • The failure of policy makers to understand the complexity of schools and learning. As with any field of knowledge, the more you come to know, the more you recognise what you don't know. So with education and learning. The very best practitioners, can make it look teaching and learning easy, but we all understand it is not. What works on one day and for one teacher, might not work the next, or for other teachers with different children and contexts. We still seem to suffer from policy makers who went to school once, or have visited schools, and think they know what works. If it was that easy, we would all be doing it!
  • Structures and systems that don't do what they 'say on the can'. There are examples throughout our system of structures and systems purportedly designed and created to 'support' schools, but which actually muddy the waters of school development and get in the way of what schools are trying to do. We have organisations and policy that are high on rhetoric around meeting and supporting needs, but in reality they pass all this responsibility down to schools and their leaders, failing to understand, or connect, all that we want, and have, to do.
Then I looked at specific concerns people have, that are a direct result of some of these bigger concerns.

  • The governance review. Another attempt to change structures to bring about improvement, which is likely to lead to greater issues for school leaders and teachers, as well as learners. I am concerned about the impact on local-democracy of this proposed change, believing, as do the Government, that education decisions should be taken as close to source as possible. The danger of this proposed change is that headteachers will find themselves between a rock and a hard place, i.e. the LA and the Collaborative and their will be a 'pitch-war' between the different parties involved that school leaders will have to deal with, and make sense of.
  • Teacher shortages and Teach First. There is no doubt that their is a big problem with recruitment and retention of teachers and school leaders at present, not surprising given some of the above. We have to continue to make teaching an attractive profession, and terms and conditions need to be addressed to help with this. We need to look at different pathways into the profession, but not at the expense of a dilution of standards and expectations for those wishing to enter our profession. teaching should never be seen as a stop-gap till you find something better. 
  • The National Improvement Framework. I have written and spoken before about concerns myself and others have about the NIF, not only in its wording but also in the elements it contains. Stephen Ball spoke in Glasgow a couple of years ago about his concerns with the NIF and how it looked very like a typical GERM agenda. Despite verbal reassurances from civil servants, and Government ministers, it still looks and feels the same. As ever, it not what you say that counts, but what you do.
  • A narrowing of the curriculum. All anyone wants to talk about, it seems, is literacy and numeracy, with health and wellbeing getting a cursory nod in its direction. No-one would argue that these are not crucial, but we do our learners a dis-service if we fail to meet their holistic development and growth. Already we can see evidence of subject hierarchies being established and promoted, at the expense of the creative arts and other areas. This should concern us all.
  • The introduction of high-stakes testing. No matter what the rhetoric around this says, this will very quickly become high-stakes with consequences that are detrimental to learning and learners. These tests were never designed to measure the performance of systems, and cannot do so in any meaningful way. They can however destroy learning and raise stress levels. as Stephen Ball noted, systems that introduce such testing always talk about them 'supporting teacher's professional judgements' at their outset. But very quickly the results of these are all anyone wants to talk about, then look to improve.
  • Education Scotland. There are some fabulous people working at Education Scotland, but many of us feel that the organisation has an identity crisis. It is not sure what role it is now fulfilling, and neither are many people in our schools. There were a lot who expected the organisation to be split from its inspection and support roles, to help give it more clarity. But that has not happened, and now it has subsumed SCEL into it. Is it to support or is it to push and measure Government policy? I think many people are unsure, but more think it is now the latter which dominates its thinking. Time will tell.
I finished by looking at some of the ways we could make a difference, that are supported by sound research and evidence.

  • Build trust and collaborative practices. Trust is crucial at all levels, and politicians have to demonstrate they have trust in the profession to do the right thing. Yes, we should always be accountable, but it needs to be recognised that the expertise to improve, and to close gaps, resides within the profession. To achieve this we need structures and systems to support us to collaborate to find solutions to issues and to improve learning.
  • We have to use research and evidence to inform practice. More and more teachers and school leaders are beginning to recognise this, and perhaps the gap between the research base and practice is one we can begin to see closing. We have to support the profession with this, through organisations like SCEL and GTCS.
  • Focus and resource properly interventions for pre-school and early years. There is a raft of evidence that firstly identifies issues have grown and developed in many young learners before they even start school, and that money and time spent in those formative years reduces the interventions and resourcing needed in later years and adulthood. We have to get better at understanding and dealing with the impact of attachment issues, ACEs, and learning through play, not starting to test our children soon as they put foot into a school.
  • The professional development of teachers and school leaders. It is generally agreed that teachers, followed by school leaders, are the most important determinants of school performance and learning. Therefore, we need to support and develop our teachers, with a relentless focus on learning and teaching, so that we develop teacher agency and adaptive expertise. We need to develop our school leaders in the same way.
  • We need national policy that support and expects collaboration. Not just policy we also need practice that promotes, encourages and develops collaborative practices within schools, across schools and beyond schools.
  • Focused and fair resourcing. We need resourcing that is fair and which targets practice that has been shown can make a difference. We need to use resourcing to encourage our best teachers to work in schools facing the most challenges, and which gives them time out of class to improve their knowledge, develop their practice and know their impact.
  • Time. This is an issue for every school and every system. But, it is really important that our politicians, and others, understand that deep embedded and sustainable change happens over time, not in a few months. Then they need to support schools and teachers to achieve this.
  • Culture and ethos. There is also a lot of research that demonstrates that culture and ethos are crucial in growth and development. This needs to be recognised and supported at national, local and school levels. Headteachers and teachers need support to explore how they develop deep learning cultures focused on impact for learners within schools and beyond, so that we develop the social capital that will allow our schools to thrive.
As I said, I only had forty-five minutes, and I could talk about all of this for forty-five days if required! My input acted as a stimulus for interesting conversations and hopefully I helped the audience develop their own thinking and understanding around some of these issues, as they consider their own policy direction with regards to education in Scotland. I certainly appreciated the time I was given, especially as they had spent time before my arrival considering the process of finding their next leader after Kezia Dugdale stepped down earlier this week.

The message they tried to give loud and clear was that they understood and recognised many of the issues I spoke about and they wished to support the profession with these and others going forward. They pointed out that we ourselves had a role to play in addressing issues that exist, and they also wondered aloud about why there had not been more push-back from the trade unions on some of these important issues.

Whether you agree, or not, with what we discussed there is no doubt there is much for us all to consider throughout the year ahead. I concluded by repeating my own view that it is perhaps time for us to have another national conversation around education and what we want from our schools, before we continue down paths that may lead to further problems for the system and our learners. We owe it to all of them to not let this happen.



Working with teenagers is the most wonderful, inspiring, challenging and life-affirming privilege.
Having done it for over twenty years, I am absolutely delighted that in the last three, I have discovered research and literature that backs up my rather intuitive feeling that we need to look very carefully the way we teach and interact with teenagers.
There are five key messages that inform my practice as a secondary school leader;
1. Teenagers are not just big children or young adults. They are a valid entity in their own right. Adolescence is not something to be survived or tolerated. It is an exciting phase of development where we need to nurture and facilitate.
2. Everyone who works with or parents teenagers needs to look at latest research.
3. Schools need to accept that educating teenagers is not easy within a system where one adult who represents authority has to manage the energies, personalities and potential of approximately 30 adolescents in a confined space for around an hour at a time. But difficult is not impossible. Allowing spaces for creativity and risk-taking with safe boundaries is essential.
4. Becoming more sensitive to what your peers think and less concerned about what adults think is an essential part of attaching to the people who you will make your future with. To tell a teenager to ignore peer pressure is to underestimate the importance of peer to peer connection.
5. We adults need to remember that when teenagers rebel, it is never personal. You can hate me for now but my continued love for you is what will help you. You can push against my boundaries but I will continue to hold them so that you better understand the world.

My thinking has been influenced primarily by the research undertaken by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and I have blogged about her work here:

For the last two years, I have taught a module on the teenage brain to fourth year pupils at school.
This year I am also running a workshop for parents and carers.

The work starts with discussion of words and thoughts that spring to mind when pupils hear the word “teenager”.

When I say “discussion”, I handle this very carefully. Asking teenagers to talk about personal issues in front of their peers when sensitivity to peers is so heightened can be unwise and so I elicit responses in ways that make it easier to elicit honest responses: for example ideas written anonymously on small bits of paper which I read and then destroy.

I ask pupils to suggest teenagers as they are presented in books, films, songs and the news and we reflect on the types or role models that these teenagers are.

I use Kevin from Harry Enfield

and Lauren from Catherine Tate
and begin to suggest that perhaps teenage rebellion against adults is not just about “a phase”.

I then talk to them about Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s ground-breaking work and show this fantastic talk:

The drama “Brainstorm” from Company Three is a fantastic resource and script can be purchased from Nick Hern, along with a guide to making your own Brainstorm:

I also use Nicola Morgan’s excellent video:

If anyone wants a PowerPoint with links to all these resources, I can email one.


There is so much out there and so much to be excited about.

We must #CelebrateTeenSept and I will finish with Yaamin’s words from “Brainstorm”:

You say to me
Your brain is broken.
It’s like an adult’s brain but it doesn’t work properly.
It’s like you’re in a city you’ve never been to and you don’t have a map and you don’t know what you’re doing.
And you keep taking the wrong turns.
You say
Listen to me.
Don’t worry
One day you’ll be okay.
Your brain will start working properly.
One day your brain will be just like mine and then you’ll be okay.
But until then:
You’ve got to try and be more…like me.
I say to you
My brain isn’t broken.
It’s beautiful.
I’m in a city I’ve never been to and I see bright lights and new ideas and fear and opportunity and a thousand million roads all lit up and flashing.
I say there are so many places to explore but you’ve forgotten that they exist because every day you walk the same way with your hands in your pockets and your eyes on the floor.
I say
When I’m wild and out of control it’s because I’m finding out who I am.
And if I was a real wild animal
Then I’d of left by now.

I say
My brain isn’t broken
It’s like this for a reason
I’m like this for a reason
I’m becoming who I am

And I’m scared
And you’re scared
Because who I am might not be who you want me to be.
Or who you are.
And I don’t know why but I don’t say
It’s all going to be okay.

There are so many things I stopped saying to you.
I want to say them.
But I can’t.

Brainstorm Copyright @2016 Ned Glasier, Emily Lim and Company Three. Shared with the kind permission of Ned Glasier, who I had the great privilege to know when he was a teenager.