Monthly Archives: January 2016

Let’s get on with it, shall we.⤴


3139102249_3a4f90bc5c_oMy name is Athole McLauchlan and this blog is my new professional portfolio.

I had a short lived one previously here

and a slightly better loved travel blog here


I live and work as a primary teacher in Glasgow with my partner Kathy and our two amazing young children, Jamie and Rosalyn.



Why is it called ‘through the windae’? (Through the window)

25851277.jpg-pwrt3One of my favourite Scottish films is Gregory’s Girl, a beautifully observed and hilarious film about teenage awkwardness and football, set in the near-future vision of Cumbernauld in 1980. In one of the scenes, Billy, a school leaver who has returned to the school as a window cleaner, shouts out to his former teacher,

‘If I dinnae see you through the week, I’ll see you through the windae!’


The logo for the site is borrowed from a classic BBC TV programme of my early years called Play School, where each day you had to choose a window to enter and were treated to a short documentary style clip of a biscuit factory, children playing or watching fish in a fish tank.

As a teacher I love the sense of shared adventure and enquiry that teaching and learning can bring. Inspired by Calvin and Hobbes, ‘It’s a wonderful world, let’s go exploring…’


I am also fascinated by memory. What we remember and why we remember it. What are we doing when learning sticks and what are we doing when it doesn’t?

I also think that play is paramount in learning. Taking risks, getting messy, problem solving, taking your time, experimenting, inventing, creating, collaborating, sharing, day dreaming, thinking, discovering; all the good stuff.

So ‘through the windae’ could mean lots of things: a window to another world; a portal to the internet; different ways to connect; different ways to learn; different ideas to discuss; memories and experiences to share and future visions to dream up.

IMG_0631I have two big brothers. One of them, Neil, died of cancer at the age of 46 in 2010. He also used the catchphrase, ‘If I dinnae see you through the week, I’ll see you through the windae.’ I see him all the time in my thoughts. And miss him still. The last film we watched together was Withnail and I. To quote Withnail,

‘You’re not leaving me in here alone. Those are the kind of windows faces look in at.’


He’s never far away.

Two Christmases before he died, Neil edited and gifted a slowed down version of the colour 16mm footage of my Christening. You can see it here

The last slide reads:

To Athole

Long life and happiness. Be aye true tae yourself.

As a loving partner, a devoted dad and a dedicated teacher I rejoice in success and learn from mistakes every single day. But I also know that there is work to be done. Another education system, another Scotland and another society for my kids to grow up in is still possible. Let’s get on with it, shall we. Because we’re not there. Yet.

The post Let’s get on with it, shall we. appeared first on Through The Windae.

Wellbeing 15-16 update⤴


How has your first month gone?

Back at the end of last year I came across the #teacher5aday wellbeing movement.

Reading what had been happening over the previous 12 months amongst teachers with a commitment to wellbeing inspired me and I wrote a blog. The whole piece can be found here:

At the end of it I made three vows….and a timely tweet from @MartynReah has motivated me to reflect on how I am progressing a month on.

1. To myself. It is time I sorted this out once and for all. I have been exhausted from pushing myself too hard. I love the Facebook ‘memories’ function where you can see where you were and what you were doing on this day in previous years. But I am concerned that I have been saying the same things about needing to slow down and look after better myself for 10 years. Now is the time. My family needs more of me and I need to accept that excuses won’t do any more. Only I can do this but but I am hoping for a bit of help from @Doctob’s book ‘Inner Story’ which fortuitously came into my possession recently….
I think that the very act of writing down these vows and sharing them publicly has had a transformational effect. The concept of wellbeing has been in my head in a way that it was not before and I have been forced to take it seriously in the knowledge that my writing has made me accountable.
Have I made changes? Yes.
I have been home at an earlier time in the evening on some days because my commitment to my family has been prioritised over a vague sense of loyalty to colleagues who probably wouldn’t notice whether I am working til late anyway.
On the occasion when my daughter asked ME to take her to dancing instead of her dad, I started to say ‘but I’ve got three million things to do for work…’. Then stopped. And took her.
I have not been running. I have been doing other exercise because if I don’t, I go a little bit mad….. But the punishing running has stopped for now because it hurts my hip when I run and I need to look after myself.
I feel calmer and I have been more focused because it matters.

I have to confess to a lost couple of days this weekend as I committed every minute to finishing an assignment for my headship course…. But without that I wouldn’t have managed the next one…..and I still managed to sit down for three meals each day with the guys so it hasn’t been THAT bad!

2. To education. I am doing the Scottish ‘Into Headship’ course this year and intend to learn all I can about how to be a Wellbeing-motivated educational leader.
It has been a real slog to do my first formal assignment but, having just submitted it, I think it is ‘good enough’. The reading I have done on leadership has been inspiring and motivating and I am more determined than ever to give Headship a go…I have been wrestling with the question of whether it is possible for a head teacher to remain true to a vision for improvement when that vision threatens to be eroded and undermined by demands and priorities that have been generated externally, whether at authority or national level. But I believe that it can and I am committed to a style of leadership that is moral and values led: ‘In reading about the School Leadership models described by Bush and Glover, I was drawn to the model of ‘Moral and authentic leadership’ which is “underpinned strongly by leaders’ values” ‘.
And as if on cue, the ever inspiring George Gilchrist provided a blogpost that helped to affirm my belief that there are head teachers out there who remain true to their moral compass and vision:

I even used George’s blog as a source in my assignment and have joined him in a call to:


3. To Twitter. I will use this forum to engage in the debate about wellbeing and teacher ‘agency’ and to support and nurture like-minded souls. I will not beat myself up if I don’t manage to tweet or blog as often as other brilliant twitterati friends…..(as I have in the past) but I will use Twitter for all its potential….

Well, the fall-out from writing my post on wellbeing and my subsequent use of Twitter and blogs have been quite remarkable. The positive responses I got to my writing (and in particular a lovely comment from @Ezzy_Moon) have made me start blogging more frequently and passionately and confirmed a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, I have some things to say about some things.
So I now have a WordPress site and occasionally muse and ramble about life, wellbeing and education:

Whether others believe I have something to say or not, I have discovered that writing is therapeutic and helps me to get some of my sometimes chaotic and anxiety-inducing thoughts into a more structured format.
I know now that I don’t have to compete in the tweet/blog world, that I will never write for a living and that when Olivia from the company which monitors my tweets asks if I want to raise my online profile, the answer is no….

But writing has certainly helped my wellbeing and I intend to continue. The 29 day challenge is next…. Starting tomorrow. #29daysofwriting

To finish, one last huge thank you to Martyn and the #teacher5aday community. You guys are saving the teaching community, one tweet at a time…..

Newsletter: Gaelic Medium Education⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Comann nam Pàrant, the national organisation that advises and supports parents/carers of those in Gaelic Medium Education (GME), has recently published a newsletter

The newsletter includes information on

  • Education (Scotland) Bill
  • Children and young people’s achievements in Gaelic Medium Education
  • Useful information to help parents/carers support their child’s learning.

Please continue to read


Great Writing Challenge 2⤴

from @ Bodies in the Library

For the second Great Writing Challenge, Mrs Macfadyen explained that pupils would have to put their characters into some sort of danger. Their task was to investigate dangerous locations around the world to help them decide where and how their characters … Continue reading

Windfarm research⤴

from @ Bodies in the Library

Pupils in S1 Social Subjects are investigating wind farms and deciding for themselves whether this is a useful and beneficial form of renewable energy. Once the class have made their minds up, each pupil creates a banner, a leaflet or … Continue reading

Fighting Linkrot⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

I quite often read above my understanding age, which is why Hapgood is in my RSS feeds. The other day I read: Connected Copies where I read this:

the future of the web involves moving away from the idea of centralized, authoritative locations and into something I call “connected copies”.

This lead me to AMBER where it says:

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society wants to keep linked content accessible.

Whether links fail because of DDoS attacks, censorship, or just plain old link rot, reliably accessing linked content is a problem for Internet users everywhere.

Having blogged for a while I am very aware of this problem, links I’ve made have fallen away. My bookmarks are full of holes.

Just the other day I linked to a couple of posts here that were made this month. They have already gone.1

Preserve Links Now. The plugin added this to my post editor.

Preserve Links Now. The plugin added this to my post editor.

I’ve installed the Amber WordPress Plugin here and set it to use the Internet Archive to ‘save links’ when I make them. I could have chosen to save them here, but I wonder if that could get messy?

The other thing that crosses my mind is what if people want to rub out something they have published. When a post is taken down deliberately, should I be archiving it?  The posts I mentioned above were deleted by the author (I presume). Should I then make public copies available?  That is what would have happened if I’d had the amber plugin working at the time.

I don’t know the answer to these questions or how the plugin works, but I’ll keep it running here for a while and look out for broken links.

After hitting the button

After hitting the button I get a list of links preserved. Presumably on the Internet Archive.


Featured image Flickr photo Public Domain: Image from page 28 of “The effect of black rot on turnips, a series of photomicrographs, accompanied by an explanatory text” (1903) | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

1. These links were to posts Dean Groom made about Microsoft acquiring Minecraft EDU. Strangely they have persisted in my RSS reader. I’d recommend a more recent one that is still there: Media Literacy: 5 key concepts to teach this year | Playable

School leadership, why should it be different to system leadership?⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Having been a school leader for many years now, I have developed my practice and understanding of what really works in school leadership. I have engaged in lots of leadership professional development opportunities, have read plenty of research, have engaged in dialogue with colleagues and have developed a host of tacit skills and understandings that all helped shape my practice. In short, I think I have got a pretty good handle on what works in effective school leadership. 

My main role, as I see it, is to create the conditions and culture that allows each and everyone of the teachers in the schools I lead to thrive and develop their own understandings and practice, in order to produce better outcomes for each and every one of our learners. To achieve this, school leaders need to create a culture and ethos built on trust and driven by values. They have to support all staff to innovate, and for them to know that they will be there, still in a supportive role, when staff make mistakes to help them move on again. They understand the importance of relationships to organisational development in schools, and are highly emotionally intelligent and aware. They need to embrace the concept of career long professional development and see this as part of a continuous  process for all, including themselves. They also understand how important it is to be active participants in the continuous professional development process that underpins all the development work of their schools. They are the leaders of learning in their schools. They recognise how the innovation that they seek to promote has to be based on firm foundations of research and evidence about what works, but also understand the crucial importance of context, and how practice from elsewhere should not just be simply lifted and copied. They understand how such successful practice still needs to be shaped for the schools they lead and the individuals in it. Every school and every individual in it, is in a different place, and on a different journey, to every other school or individual. However, they also understand how to use successful principles from other settings and how to apply these in a different context. They critically engage with data, and understand how data not only helps determine next steps in the development  journey, but how successful they are being in improving outcomes for learners. They are informed by data, but not driven by it. They understand how such data is a tool that they need to employ, but also understand its flaws. As Andy Hargreaves said this last week 'Data cannot tell you what you need to do.' They are able to utilise data to identify what actions are needed to improve what they do. They keep the main thing the main thing, and for them the main thing is always learning and teaching. They understand their role as system leaders and their responsibility for learners outside of their immediate locus of work. They work to better the system of education and support colleagues at local, district and national levels to help develop the self-improving system. 

My question in this post, is if the above characteristics of successful school leadership have been shown to work by researchers all over the world, and in many different systems, why then do so many outside of schools try to manage or 'lead' schools using almost the complete opposites of these principles? Do you feel at the moment that there is a culture and ethos within the system that supports all in schools, including their leaders, to give of their best and to thrive? There is challenge and accountability in schools but this is not the main driver for getting the best out of people, so why does it often feel that these are the main drivers from those outside of school? Do we feel trusted in schools and as a profession? Pasi Sahlberg often speaks of the high level of trust in the teaching profession found in Finland. Sometimes it feels like we can only dream of achieving such a consensus in our own societies, where we are distrusted by politicians and much of the media. It is interesting to note that in a recent poll about who you trust most to tell the truth in society, doctors and teachers came at the top and the media and politicians were near the bottom. Mind you, this was a poll of the public, and what do they know? I am not sure that many who try to remotely manage schools would score very highly on emotional intelligence and awareness either. I am not convinced they understand, or think about, the impact of many of their decisions on the individuals who lead and work in schools, and I am sure many lack empathy for individuals and their personal circumstances. They are concerned with strategies, systems and structures and by doing so can quickly lose sight of people and learners. Is innovation encouraged by national and local policy makers? They might say it is, but will quickly pounce on those who make mistakes as a result of trying something different, or those who don't fit a particular model. In such a culture, people are more inclined to play safe and keep their heads down. I would like to think that national policy is informed by research, but there is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that there is a lot of cherry-picking going on to support particular ideology or individual agendas. A lot of people accrue a lot of air-miles visiting countries that appear to be doing well, as indicated by PISA or through self-promotion, look at what's going on, what resources are being used, then return to their own systems and promote the same practice whilst taking no account of cultural and historical contexts and influences. Such practices are then imposed on schools and systems through policy, statute and inspection, with no notice taken of particular contexts. People outside of schools seem in love with data. What is it they say about statistics? Too much policy and strategy is driven by data which has not been critically interrogated or even validated for the purpose for which it is being used. Then they want schools to produce more spurious data so that they can be ranked, or put into league tables so everyone would know which ones were the best and which are the worst performing. No matter, that the data used might be questionable, objections and concerns are dismissed as moaning from 'the blob.' The data doesn't lie, we have graphs, spreadsheets, percentages, percentiles, numbers, levels, and all the rest to prove what we are saying! All data, it would seem, is valid and some only value that which can be measured. Do any of them ask, what is the impact of such decisions for all learners? Often it feels that this is an after-thought, if a thought at all. No piece of data will close any gap that exists in education, people will. I would be wary of any data that shows year on year improvements, or year on year closing of a gap. This is more likely to people feeling forced to play the game and game the system, because of the high stakes involved.

I would like to argue that the type of leadership that has been shown to work within schools, should also be applied more vigorously by those with oversight of schools. Systems, structures, strategies are important, but it is people that have to deliver in classrooms every day that really make a difference. The systems, structures and strategies from outside can support in this process or they can hinder what we should all be trying to achieve. That is, the very best, holistic, learning experiences for all our learners, that will equip them to be happy successful individuals who can contribute to our cultural, economic and social development and the sustainability of the planet.

Scottish Attainment Challenge – The Role Of Attainment Advisors – Glow Meet⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog


Join us for the Glow Meet on 5th February

Time 1.00 pm

Duration 30 mins

Janie McManus (Assistant Director, Education Scotland), will introduce the Scottish Attainment Challenge and the role of Attainment Advisors.  Attainment Advisors from Inverclyde and City of Edinburgh Councils will discuss literacy and numeracy projects planned for their authorities.

Why not join us, follow this link to subscribe

Find out more about the Scottish Attainment Challenge


Skills Development Scotland supports the implementation of the Career Education Standard – by Ken Edwards⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

The Career Education Standard is going to make it easier for you to Career Education Standardweave career education progressively through the curriculum from 3 to 18.

Published in September 2015, the Standard addresses the ambition to reduce youth unemployment by better preparing young people for the world of work and is a direct response to one of the recommendations in Education Working for All! The standard reflects existing Curriculum for Excellence guidance; most obviously, in relation to Building the Curriculum 4: Skills for learning, life and work but also in delivering some of the health and wellbeing outcomes that are, of course, the responsibility of all.

At the heart of the new Standard lies a set of entitlements for all learners and a corresponding set of expectations for each of the four key influencers in young peoples’ learning and career choices: you as teachers or education practitioners; parents and carers; employers and, of course, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) the national skills agency.

I know from previous experience that the landscape of Scottish education can sometimes appear cluttered with seemingly unconnected new initiatives that compete for limited development time. Therefore, it’s heartening to know that as schools begin to deliver the entitlements and expectations described in this new Standard it will also help them address some of the other current priorities in Scottish education.

A significant body of research shows more systematic and progressive delivery of quality career education works on two fronts. Firstly it helps young people to develop the essential career management skills needed to successfully navigate the increasingly complex and extended transition from school into further learning, training or employment. Secondly, it has more immediate positive impacts by helping to set learning in a relevant real-life context so raising learners’ engagement and motivation. In turn, this leads to measurable improvements in achievement and attainment and makes a valuable contribution to closing the attainment gap. All of which are priorities in Scottish Government’s new National Improvement Framework.

Support for you

The Career Education Standard acknowledges and builds on the existing good practice seen in classrooms across Scotland and aspires to make this common practice in future.

Fortunately, with such an ambition, you are not alone in implementing the Standard. SDS and other partners are working hard to provide additional guidance and support to help you develop young people’s skills for life and work and so ensure that DYW sustainably improves learning experiences and outcomes for all.

SDS’s team of expert Careers Advisers have started working with pupils from an earlier stage; beginning at the point of transition from P7 to S1 and continuing to be involved at all stages until the end of school. They offer a combination of group and one-to-one activities geared to developing the essential career management skills that help young people make informed learning and career choices providing a valuable complement to school career education programmes. We have been working in close collaboration with Education Scotland and a number of primary, secondary and additional support needs schools across Scotland to develop, test and refine this support.

We know young people are going online for information and help. Only last week Childwise figures showed 7-16 year olds are spending 3 hours a day on line, that’s up to 4.8 hours for 15 to 16 year olds. This growing trend coincides with the news that SDS’s digital resource is already being significantly enhanced, with more on the way (to come??). This includes the updated and more intuitive version of My World of Work, our award-winning careers information and advice web service, which launched on 25 January.

There will also be a new dedicated digital offer aimed at CfE second level (P5-7) and an exploration of how P7 pupils can best use My World of Work. These digital resources are accompanied by a range of support materials that can help teachers and pupils to better connect learning in and beyond the classroom to the world of work.

SDS is also working to enhance practitioners’ confidence and skills in the area of career education. We are working with Education Scotland to develop a suite of learning resources that will support career-long professional learning. These will be gradually rolled out over the coming months and will focus on getting to know the Standard, how to make effective use of My World of Work, career management skills and also an insight into career and labour market intelligence and how to access current information.

SDS will also be able to further support schools in engaging and working with employers, and along with the National Parent Forum of Scotland have already developed a guide for parents to career education in schools.

Coming up

Over the coming months you’ll hear more from my colleagues in SDS on each of these areas and the progress that’s being made.

In March we’ll update you on the launch of the re-developed My World of Work and the new and improved tools and content as well as plans for the future.’

Useful Links

Read the Career Education Standard

Find out more about Skills Development Scotland

Get the help you need for the career you want at My World of Work

See the National Parent Forum of Scotland nutshell guide Career Education: A World of Possibilities

Building the Curriculum 4

Education Working for All!


Equalities Funding available to employers⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

A fund to help employers recruit more Modern PWP_1937Apprentices from diverse backgrounds has been launched by Skills Development Scotland.

The Employers’ Equality Action Fund offers grants of between £3000 and £10,000 to private, public and voluntary sector employers to run pilot projects aimed at improving access to Modern Apprenticeships amongst under-represented groups.

The aim of the fund is to encourage innovative and pro-active approaches to increasing uptake of Modern Apprenticeships amongst young people who are either from a black or minority ethnic community,  have a disability or have a care background.

The fund is also aimed at encouraging more young men and women to consider a Modern Apprenticeship in an occupation traditionally considered as being dominated by the opposite sex.

More information available here.