By Janie McManus, Assistant Director in charge of the Scottish Attainment Challenge
Welcome back after the holidays! It’s always an exciting time of year, and one when we’re looking ahead to the difference we will make to the lives of children across Scotland. When I was in the classroom I always remember the first day with a new class of children and both the excitement and anxiety about getting to know them quickly and thinking about the difference that I could make to their learning over the coming year. One of the strengths of the school was working alongside my colleagues to share ideas, resources and talk about ways I could make my teaching and learning better. Learning from each other about effective practice to raise attainment and close the poverty related attainment gap is a key feature of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
On the Scottish Attainment Challenge, we’re heading into our second year. This time last year we had just appointed our first Attainment Advisors. As they have become established, they are working collaboratively across groupings of local authorities as well as working with individual schools and local authorities.
With a well-established full team, we are learning about what is working. That includes the impact on the vocabulary gap in Dundee of speech and language therapists working alongside teachers, and the value of CLPL on literacy for practitioners in Inverclyde.
Both are featured in the August edition of GTCS’s Teaching Scotland magazine, as the publication follows the progress of the Attainment Advisors in these two authorities.
In both examples, collaboration has been key, and one factor that keeps being highlighted by the Attainment Advisors is the value of sharing practice with colleagues, whether informally or formally through professional learning networks. I have been impressed by the approaches being used to develop professional learning and enquiry and the use of collaborative action research.
The anecdotal experience is backed up by research. A recently published paper by Professor Chris Chapman, Senior Academic Advisor to the Scottish Attainment Challenge, has demonstrated that collaborative working has a positive impact on personnel, facilitating improvements in many aspects of practice, which in turn has a positive impact on learner attainment.
If you are looking for ideas, both publications are a good place to start; or you could simply catch up with colleagues in and beyond your classroom and school and start the invaluable process of sharing your questions and experiences; and collaborating.