Author Archives: GeorgeGilchrist

A Professional Development: #Pedagooprimary

Yesterday I travelled some eighty or so miles to Edinburgh to take part in a professional development event for teachers, organised by teachers. Yesterday was Saturday and almost forty teachers had signed up and travelled from as far as Shetland off the north Coast of Scotland to take part. It’s worth noting that there were other similar events happening elsewhere in Scotland yesterday but perhaps the uniqueness of this one was that it was organised and attended by teachers working in schools and because it’s what they wanted to do. No-one had told us we needed to attend, we weren’t being directed by others. We were there because, we wanted to learn, we wanted to collaborate and we wanted to contribute to the learning ‘conversations’. We weren’t sponsored, there were no keynotes and nobody was trying to sell us anything. The agenda was loose and various people had volunteered to lead conversations and to share experiences and practices. No-one was being paid to be there and there were no travelling expenses being met. In short, we were there because we wanted to be.

As we arrived at the venue, the buzz and excitement built as we met up with people we either knew already, virtual friends from Twitter, or met new ones for the first time. Our master of ceremonies was Aileen Kelly who had helped put the whole event together under the Pedgoo umbrella. Pedagoo have organised many such Teachmeets in the past, but it was felt these were heavily Secondary focused and attended, so it was decided to try and promote and develop a more Primary focused event to encourage more primary teachers to get involved.

The event had been loosely organised around a series of learning ‘conversations’. Each of these lasted half an hour and was led by someone who was willing to share and discuss some element of their successful practice in school. The first series of conversations featured outdoor learning, using superheroes to develop mindsets in early years, connecting learning through technology, 1+2 primary language teaching and making sense of practitioner enquiry. The biggest frustration was not being able to sit in on all of these. I was leading the discussion on practitioner enquiry and was able to share my own thoughts and experiences, whilst hopefully helping others to make sense of, and understand this better themselves, as an approach to professional and school development. I would have so liked to have been part of the other conversations as well, especially after hearing the positive reactions of other participants who had took part in these, but will have to content myself to hearing some parts of these as they become available on the website soon.

The second round of conversations featured our superheroes to develop mindsets again, developing partnerships to support ITE students and NQTs, a look at the new-look GLOW digital network for schools, and one which looked at how we could encourage children to talk more to develop their learning in the early years. Again, a rich range of learning conversations and I took part in the one looking at the development of talk with Aileen Kelly, @aileendunbar. This work had arisen out of Aileen’s work in her school and her successful study for a Masters degree at Stirling University. She was able to explain how her work was underpinned by the work of Vygotsky and Barnes, as well as others, who recognised the importance of dialogue to learning, but also how often schools can stifle this in the learners. I have been looking at the work of Rupert Wegeriff and others to promote more dialogical approaches in classrooms, and Aileen’s work linked closely to this. Aileen said perhaps we should move away from asking so many questions and instead use carefully thought about comments to stimulate talk in our learners.

The final round of conversations looked at how we could better support pupils with English as an additional language in our schools and classrooms, developing creative thinking in learners, inspiring literacy at early level, using Blogs and social media in the classroom and how we might use Twitter in the classroom and as a professional development tool. I took part in the discussion on developing creativity with Ciara Gibson @ciaracreative who teaches a P1 to P7 class. We were all blown away with the level of creativity Ciara had been able to develop in all her children and the simple techniques she had used to facilitate this. Key was often the ability to step back and observe the learning develop and not wanting to control too much by the teacher. If only we could develop this confidence in all our teachers, and headteachers? She demonstrated some wonderful creative work produced by her pupils from the use of a simple macro-lense on an iPad, bought for £5 off Amazon, to take photos and stimulate writing.

Like any well structured learning experience, we had started the whole day with an introduction to the learning ahead and shared some recent successes with everyone. We finished with an opportunity to consider one thing we would take away from the day, and to identify what our next steps might be in attending further Pedagoo events and Teachmeets, and how we might share our thoughts and experiences. For myself, I am determined to attend more events like this and to contribute whenever I can, I may even try to organise one in the Borders where I work. I took so much from the day, and hopefully contributed as well. But perhaps the most important thing was the buzz, the excitement and the positivity generated by committed and professional educationalists when they came together for a common purpose, and an agenda they were in control of. I feel we all left invigorated by the experience, with lots to think about and with practical ideas to consider for how we might develop and improve our own practice. What a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon?

So,thank you to the Pedagoo team for coming up with the concept and the idea, and a big thank you to the main organisers, Lynne Jones @MissJ0nes, Aileen Kelly @aileendunbar, David Gilmour @dgilmour, and Robert Drummond @robertd1981.

As Arnie might say, ‘I’ll be back!’

Cross-posted from School Leadership – A Scottish Perspective

The Best Development Comes From Within

Practitioner Enquiry as a way forward

For the last few years staff at both schools I lead have been involved in developing themselves and their practice through a ‘Practitioner Enquiry’ approach. This involves teaching staff in improving their understanding and practice through in-depth examination of what they are doing, why they are doing it, the impact on learners, and their ability to improve what they do to develop better outcomes for all learners. Big issues and big challenges to an already very good, experienced and committed staff.

What I do know, and can demonstrate, is that this approach has produced the most marked improvements in learner performance and understanding, in professional pedagogical practice, and in whole school development that I have seen in 13 years as a school leader.

The journey begins

Three years ago our self-evaluation processes, and our engagement with Curriculum for Excellence, identified that we needed look at aspects of our Literacy and Language programmes and activities. We felt collectively as a staff that we needed to change some of the things we were doing but were perhaps a little unsure of what we needed to retain and what we needed to stop or change. We decided to seek support for what we wanted to do, and so I approached Dr Gillian Robinson of Edinburgh University.

Myself and my DHT explained to Gillian what we wanted to do and between us we came up with a way forward based on enquiry, professional reading, professional dialogue and developing collective understanding and agreements. I took this to all staff and they were enthusiastic to engage with Gillian and the journey we had mapped out.

Initially we focused on aspects of the teaching of reading and writing. We looked at how we taught and exposed children to different genre of writing. What were the characteristics of the different genre and how best should we teach these and develop understanding in our pupils? We considered the ways in which we actually taught reading and how to identify, and plug, gaps in children’s understanding or learning. We did this through looking at research and professional reading, then discussing collectively what were the implications for what we were doing, and what we needed to change or begin to start doing.

All staff read about and learned how to carry out miscue analysis in order to diagnose difficulties pupils were having with their reading. They began carrying out baseline assessments of pupils before a block of teaching and more exposure to a new genre, this not only told them where the children were in their learning but also helped identify the teaching needed. Then they were immersed in that genre by looking closely looking at and identifying the genre’s particular characteristics from lots of different examples. They then practised some of these with their teachers, using them in writing activities which we quickly recognised had to be linked to the reading work we were doing. A block of teaching would be completed with pupils completing an activity that gave them opportunities to demonstrate new learning and understanding. Comparison between these and the initial baseline assessments clearly demonstrated the learning that had taken place.

Alongside this, teachers began to explore and discuss changes they would need to make to pedagogical practices in order to ensure all pupils had planned quality teacher time and intervention over the course of each week. Some tried a ‘stations’ approach, so that all pupils were engaged in a mix of activities related to the lesson focus, and one of the ‘stations’ would be direct high quality intervention and mediation by the class teacher. This was very successful. Lots of peer sharing took place and soon this type of organisation was appearing in all classrooms, across both schools. The standard of pupil writing and understanding of different genre was demonstrably improved, and was commented on by visitors to both schools, including HMIe to one of them.

In our very first year we were seeing improvements in teacher understanding, and their ability to back up what they were doing with professional reading and referencing. The standards of pupil writing, which had been good before this work, began to improve quite dramatically, as did their ability to identify different genre and some of their unique characteristics. The quality of pupil/pupil and pupil/teacher interactions were improved. For some time I had been encouraging staff to use more dialogical approaches in teaching and learning, and this work began to develop this approach in all classrooms. Improvements were made to pedagogy but not just in reading and writing activities. Once teachers could see the improvements made in aspects of language and their impacts, they couldn’t help but start transferring these across to other areas of the curriculum and their teaching.

We had to consider changes to how we planned the learning, and this linked really well to work we were undertaking in our learning community. We were focused on literacy, numeracy and cross-curricular work. We identified amongst ourselves, and in collaboration with colleagues in other schools and sectors, the key elements we needed to include in our planning, including opportunities for summative and formative assessment activities. All of this we underpinned with more reading and research by individuals and whole staff.

What also started to really develop was a consistent increase in professional dialogue, and an understanding of the power of this. Planned time was given to consider and discuss reading and research we had undertaken. This allowed teachers to develop their thinking and understanding, and also begin to challenge some of the things we discovered. Just as importantly, teacher began to question some of the practices we employed for quite a long time. What also happened was that conversations about learning and teaching were heard all over the school, and at all levels. This was often commented upon by visitors to the school.

All of this in only our first year of engagement!

We continued with all of the above in our second year, but we also added a new element. This was that all teachers agreed to carry out a focused enquiry into a particular aspect of their langauge teaching. Most chose reading. Again, supported by Gillian and through access to reading on different strategies that could be used to carry this out, all teachers completed this task last session.

There were lots of what I called ‘light-bulb’ moments, where teachers began to see how their own perceptions of what was happening whilst they were teaching often did not match those of many of their pupils! This really made some teachers stop and think about what they had been doing for so long, and how they needed to consider some changes, or even to stop some all together! Very powerful and only achievable through such self-realisation and recognition. Such insights can only be achieved from within and cannot be imposed from outside. If we don’t see or believe the need to change what we have always done, as soon as the opportunity arises, we revert to former behaviours.

This year our engagement with Gillian is reducing as we seek to embed this way of working into all that we do. All teachers have agreed that to carry out a further focused enquiry, but now looking at aspects of Maths teaching. The principles and practices are the same and I am looking forward to more of those ‘light-bulb’ moments as teachers recognise the changes they can make to help all pupils in another key area of their learning.

What have we gained from all this work?
1. Improved attainment for the majority of pupils
2. Pupils able to see connections between different aspects of their learning
3. Deeper professional understanding for all teachers
4. More professional dialogue and sharing across schools and sectors
5. Pedagogical improvements and development
6. Better planning and better use of assessment to support learning
7. Connections to Curriculum for Excellence and help with implementation
8. Connections to all aspects of the school development plan
9. Staff fully involved and consulted and, therefore see that change is being managed and done in a connected way
10. All staff more reflective and open to new ways of working
11. Innovation and risk taking encouraged and facilitated
12. Such approaches are recognised as a way forward for meaningful CPD by Donaldson Report and GTCS

Health warnings:
1. There really is no going back. Once you have gone down this route it means you think differently all the time, and about everything
2. The culture in the school needs to be open, supportive, responsive and trusting
3. Pace needs to be monitored closely. Sometimes you may need to slow down, stop, or even go back, to give people the chance to assimilate lots of new information
4. A supportive ‘critical friend’ is essential at the outset of such work
5. All this needs the backing and commitment of the HT and SMT to prioritise and make sure you are meeting the needs of the school

I strongly believe that to give meaningful change the opportunity to become embedded in practice, the need for it has to be recognised by practitioners. Then such change is more likely to be permanent and not just emphemeral. Using strategies as described above is the best approach I have discovered so far that is likely to permit this to happen.

George Gilchrist

Headteachers, Now Is A Good Time To Consider Personal Values, Vision and Priniples

As we return to schools in Scotland, and colleagues in other areas of the UK will be doing so in a few weeks, I think this is an ideal time to consider and reflect on what we stand for. What are our values, vision and principles, and do these underpin our aims for the year ahead?
It seems obvious that headteachers and leaders need to have a clear understanding of their values vision and principles. This equally applies to all in schools. However, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of these as we become embroiled in the day to day events in school, and the conflicting pulls and pressures we all face on a daily basis.
It is important that the people we work with and alongside have an understanding of what it is that drives, motivates and underpins our actions as a leader. We will have articulated these in various ways and to various audiences, and our actions should demonstrate them on a day to day basis. A vital aspect of leadership is our ability to lead by example. By our actions we are giving life to our vision, values and principles. Problems occur when there is a mismatch between what we say and what we do. Its no good talking the talk if we are not going to walk the walk. Then you face a credibility gap and lack of trust.

All headteachers and leaders start in post with their vision, values and principles fresh in their minds. They will have no doubt been required to articulate these to various audiences before taking up their post. but, how often do these then become submerged or forgotten under the deluge of activities we have to deal with on a daily basis? It is my contention that we cannot, and should not, allow this to happen. We need to create time in very busy working lives to keep revisiting these and measuring everything we do against them.
They should not be set in stone but should be revisited, considered and reviewed in the light of experience, new knowledge and improved understanding.
Ask yourself, what are the values that underpin you as a headteacher and leader? When was the last time you considered them? Are you still being true to them? Does your role and performance reflect your values? Are these reflected in the school or organisation in which you work? Is there a mismatch? If there is, what are you going to do about it? These are big questions but ones which I would expect us all to be asking of ourselves and others constantly.

If we espouse values of equality, fairness, honesty and non-discrimination, is that what it feels like to others in our schoosl or establishment? Equality of opportunity for all? Fairness for all? Equality in how all are treated and valued? Is this what it feels like for staff, pupils, parents? How do you know? Where’s the evidence? Your perceptions and the reality might be something rather different.
You need to find this out and take action when necessary. To do this you need strong relationships that have engendered mutual trust within your school or organisation. Be aware that staff can be reluctant to give honest views and opinions, especially to a headteacher or leader who they think might be upset by what they have to say.
You need to take time to tell staff what they are doing well and praise them accordingly. Take a sincere interest in each of them and help them to develop as individuals and leaders. Don’t get sucked into the deficit model of school and personal development, where we constantly focus on things we are not doing or not doing well, instead of recognising all the things that we do really well, and building on these.

Our values are reflected in how we are with our pupils and what we are trying to achieve for all of them. We would never start work with children by telling them all the things they can’t do and don’t know. Instead we focus on their abilities,aptitudes and successes in previous learning and personal development. We need to use the same approach with all staff. School and organisational improvement and development can only start from where we are. Seems obvious, but often overlooked or ignored in the rush and push for change.
Values define you as a person and as an institution.

What of vision? You need a vision for the organisation you wish to lead and be associated with. You will have a personal vision for you as a leader and your professional development. The two are closely connected.
You will have a vision for your school and obviously you will play a major role in the development of this. You do not develop this in isolation, but involve all partners in its development. Some schools and organisations spend a lot of time in developing a vision statement and then move on to the next job to be done.
For this shared vision to to remain useful and meaningful we need to revisit it on a regular basis. At my own schools we engage with our vision and values at the start of every school year. This reminds us all of what we are trying to do and helps inform new staff about the ethos and culture of the schools and how important we feel this is.

Out of values and vision emerges our aims for the school. These should map out the steps everyone has agreed to take to enable delivery of the values and vision. They can be short or long term but they should reflect the journey of personal and establishment development.

After identifying you values, vision and aims these should then become the first audit tool you use in the school or organisation’s self evaluation. They can be used to evaluate practice and the culture. Is what you are doing matching up to what has been agreed? How do we know? What has improved for all our pupils as a result of these? This becomes part of the school’s on-going self-evaluation process and will be reflected throughout the school development plans and activities.
If you have developed values, vision and aims meaningfully, they help you to identify which changes and developments are appropriate, and which are not, for you and your school or organisation.
I would suggest that this then puts you in a stronger position to resist those things that need to be resisted in education. It is my belief that we have not been strong enough professionally and morally to stand up for what we believe in and know to be right. Basing what you do in your schools on sound values, vision, priciples and aims gives us a stronger position to fight the fights we need to fight, and make the cases we need to make.

‘When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.’ Roy E Disney

Pick of #PedagooFriday Tweets 23/03/12

#pedagoofriday ‘Moray Great Escapes’ iTunes app. Download Mon My S2 girls and boys did us proud as they did audio clips/info piece


David Terron

Highlight of week: GCSE classes made brightly coloured paper Prague Spring flowers, writing on key features. All v excited! #pedagooFriday


Heidi F

#PedagooFriday fab discussion about importance of time this week: p4 wondered if the Internet would exist if there was no such thing as time

#pedagoofriday taking my learning from @‘s #edutechcc & applying it in my S2 Digital Media course – kids loving it ūüôā


Gareth Surgey

Purposefully Creating Friction Between Year 9s via #pedagoofriday


Lisa Jane Ashes

S3 pupils are consolidating trench structure KU by building Lego models of trench systems #historyteacher #pedagoofriday


Stu Brown

A couple of my pupils became unbelievably engaged in our Growing Plants Apprentice project this week ūüôā #pedagoofriday


Fearghal Kelly

I’ve been using for Year 8 Irish pupils. Used for evaluating what they have learned During that week #pedagoofriday


D Tennyson

Creative writing and righting in Geog. ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ with correct science. 3 periods of perseverance #pedagoofriday



#pedagoofriday my class are loving using to answer questions for our sports relief quiz, much easier with 1:2



Relationships Make the School!

“Our most important resource is our staff.” How often have you heard this? It is so true, but too often those¬†who say¬†it are betrayed by their actions, not their words. It is no use “talking the talk” if you are not going to “walk the walk”, as some might say.

Schools are complex organisations, because they are centred on people. People are complicated! I believe schools will succeed or fail based on the strength of the myriad of relationships that shape them and give them their identity.

 Headteachers, and teachers, need to cultivate and develop a whole raft of different relationships,  and at different levels, to ensure schools are providing the best opportunities for learning and development of pupils, and staff.

Quite a challenge!

We are all individuals. We have had different experiences,and even when the experiences may have been similar, we will often react and respond in different ways. This further complicates the interactions between us all. We understand that we are responding, positively or negatively, to new people as soon as we meet them. Body language, body shape, dress, smell, voice, attractiveness are overloading our senses and brains and getting us to make almost instantaneous decisions about people and whether we are going to get on with them. We should also realise that a lot of this stuff can also be shown to be rubbish when we really do take time to get to know someone properly. No wonder relationships are difficult.

When we are developing working relationships over time, we need take the above into consideration, as well as how people act and respond to us, for they are carrying out all the same mental and social gymnastics that we are!

Headteachers may have some say over the appointment of staff they work with, and with whom they need to develop positive relationships, and such relationships and trust can only develop over time. In truth most Heads inherit a staffing compliment already in place, and the onus is very much on the Head to develop professional and personal relationships in order to bring out the best in all staff, and thus improve outcomes for all pupils.

Headteachers and teachers have no say over the pupils and parents they will have to work with, or the host of other partners they have to engage with, to meet the needs of all the pupils in their schools.  Time has to be given to develop these relationships. We recognise that it is the people who make the school, not the buildings, policies or paperwork, important though these are. Wonderful educational experiences can be provided in the grottiest of environments and, equally some less than satisfactory ones happen in the most up to date buildings, and with all the latest resources. Its all down to the people!

I was lucky enough to visit Malawi a few years ago. We visited various schools, many had classesof over¬†200 and pitiful few resources. The teachers were not paid much, if at all. When we were there, staff in some of the schools we visited had not been paid for over three months! But, children wanted to learn and teachers wanted to teach. The children in primary school were learning in two languages, English¬†and the local¬†dialect. They were experiencing a varied curriculum, with an emphasis¬†on literacy and numeracy. (sound familiar?) The main element that was making this work was the commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers, who were not prepared to let a few little ‘challenges’ stop them from delivering the best learning experiences they could in the circumstances. They have a saying in Malawi and Africa about how it takes a community to educate a child, and I saw this demonstrated every day by the determination of the staff in the schools and the local communities to work together to give the children the best opportunities they could.¬†

We in our own schools should take time to develop all the relationships we need in order to shape and improve them to better meet the needs of all learners. All partners should be respected and valued as contributors to school improvement and development.

We need to demonstrate emotional intelligence¬†and understand the factors that can impinge on our own, and other’s, performance from day to day. We need balance in our lives. Too much lip-service is paid to work-life balance and it is crucial to all that we have a measure of equilibrium in our professional and private lives. Headteachers need to demonstrate this themselves and demand it of staff.¬†When there is a lack of balance, and¬†where the job becomes all consuming, we end up with narrower individuals who are setting themselves up for difficulty. Teaching and leadership is very demanding and it is my belief that you can only function at your best when there is a balance between you life¬†outside of school and your professional life. Your career and job are obviously important aspects of your life and personal identity, but they are not the only important aspects. You neglect one area at the expense of others.

I spent almost 20 years of my working life outside of Education. In that time¬†I witnessed and experienced a wide spectrum of working practices and managerial styles. These ranged from the excellent to some¬†‘you’re not going to believe this..’ experiences. One thing I did recognise early on in my working career was that organisations that are based on hierarchical power structures don’t work very effectively. They are characterised by high levels of unhappiness, absenteeism, low output and high¬†staff turnover. This is the same in schools. I have seen that success achieved by building on the good work of others, working co-operatively and collaboratively,¬†and in organisations where creativity and innovation¬†are encouraged. Organisations are successful and thrive where they keep reinventing themselves and where participants are not afraid to try new things, or make mistakes. Organisations that think they are marking time are, in fact, going backwards or being left behind. I would contend that schools are no different.¬†

I think we really need to get better at embracing a more open culture of internal and external sharing and co-operation in our schools. This is as much about the sharing of expertise and experience in our schools as much as anything else. We need to stop working from a deficit model of school development, where the focus is on what we are not doing well and putting this right. Rather we should use what we are doing well as a vehicle for bringing about improvements elsewhere.

Staff in schools are overwhelmingly committed to their jobs and constantly trying to do the best for their pupils, so they are a very good place to start from. To get the very best from all staff we need to develop a culture of mutual trust and respect, where all are valued and included in decisions about how to move forward and improve. Where good ideas and sound research are the currency for school and individual development. where no one person is seen as having a monopoly on these and where all are concerned for their own health and well-being and that of others with whom they work. Where mistakes are seen as acceptable and expected because how else will we ever improve or move forward?

We have to see the importance and currency of relationships within our organisations. Headteachers need to see these as crucial in the development of the school and the individuals within it. Heads don’t have all the answers,¬†and we are more likely to reach the right answers, and ask the right questions, in a spirit of collegiality and collective responsibility.

Staff in schools are well educated and committed. We need to reognise  and to tap into the collective knowledge and understanding to help improve what we do together. We need to know staff well and be aware of the things that may be going on in their lives outside of school and how this may have an impact, as it does with each of us.

One word of caution, we need to genuinely walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Tokenism is soon detected for what it is and nothing destroys relationships and morale quicker than insincerity.

As Chris Barez Brown in his book ‘Shine’ notes, spending genuine time listening to other peoples dreams and concerns¬†will mean they are much¬†more likely to¬†take notice of¬† yours!

George Gilchrist

Books that helped with this:

‘Outliers’¬†by Malcolm Gladwell

‘Shine-How to Succeed and Thrive at Work-Upping Your Elvis Factor!’ By Chris Barez Brown

CfE – A path worth treading?

Just before Christmas¬†I tweeted that ‘Sometimes the most difficult and challenging paths are the right ones. They can lead to positive outcomes for all pupils and schools.’ My tweet was partly born out of frustration at more negative comments in TES and elsewhere about CfE, but also to remind myself and others that the CfE journey we all face is a difficult one fraught with individual and systemic challenges.

One critic in TES described CfE as ‘change for change’s sake’. He’s right that CfE is a change, but I think wrong in seeing it as just change for the sake of it. We need to change what we do in schools and education to better¬†meet the needs of all our pupils in a constantly changing world. It was ever so! The 21st century is going to be marked by rapid technological, economic and political change. We would be failing in our responsibilities as educators if we didn’t take account of this and prepare our pupils¬†so that they are¬†able to cope, adapt, thrive and find their place¬†in such a world. A 20th century curriculum and system of delivery is not going to cut it any more!

Ken Robinson and others have argued the case eloquently¬†for why we need to change what we do in schools and how we organise and deliver this. I¬†have always believed that small changes can make big differences¬†our development¬†in schools, but I am coming round to Robinson’s view that what¬†may now be¬†needed in our education systems is ‘revolution not evolution’ We are not there yet but I do believe that the case for why we need to change has been made and what we now need to do is start to make those changes for the benefit of all our pupils.¬†If we keep doing the same, we’ll keep producing the same.

Every developed country in the world has been looking at their education systems to see if they are fit for purpose for the learners of the 21st Century. Where they are seen to be lacking or behind where they need to be, changes are being planned, or are already happening. Scotland could be said to be ahead of many countries through the implementation of change and CfE.

So we are underway with necessary change in Scotland and CfE is the vehicle on which we travel on a journey of systemic and individual development. Change can be difficult and¬†what may be asked¬†of us as individuals and in our schools¬†can be¬†very challenging. Don’t anyone be under the illusion that these challenges are all in the Secondary sector. They aren’t! Primary colleagues face many of the same challenges as Secondary, as well as¬†others that are perhaps particular to the different sectors.¬†In¬†no way do I fail to understand and¬†appreciate¬†the difficulty and complexity of the¬†difficulties faced by teachers headteachers and schools¬†across Scotland, but I am constantly reassured by the professionalism and willingness of¬†colleagues to share, meet and solve¬†these together.

Not least of the challenges that we face is the perceived lack of detailed guidance (or instruction?) from the centre. I remember when 5-14 was  being introduced and lots of teachers complained about it being proscriptive, moaning that it was just passed down from on high and we were left to get on and deliver it! I think it is fantastic that we have been given the professional responsibility to shape and develop the learning opportunities for our pupils ourselves. We have the Es and Os as the starting point for our planning, and yes I know they can be rather vague and general. But, this means we as professionals in our schools, sectors, learning communities, authorities and across Scotland have the opportunity to develop something that is meaningful, which starts from where our pupils are at in their learning, which progresses their learning and understanding, builds on, and deepens, previous learning and experiences, and which facilitates cross-sector working, collaboration and understanding. We are also being given more professional responsibility for developing and incorporating assessment activities and moderation into our planning and learning and teaching practices.  If we achieved all that consistently, what a better experience our pupils would have and we could be confident that they were developing skills, attributes, knowledge and attitudes to succeed in life, and as life-long learners.

So is CfE a path worth treading? It is for me, and I know many colleagues feel the same. That is not to say its a bed of roses, we know its not. But, if we want to really put children, and meeting their needs, at the centre of all that we do, its a very good starting point. It will stand or fall on our commitment as professionals to embrace the opportunities and not just see the difficulties. As I have indicated before, this is a journey not a destination.

George Gilchrist