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Cross Schools In-Service Day

Two in-service days to break up the October to Christmas term! A welcome relief from the busyness and non stop work with all secondary pupils. For many of us – one of the most useful and helpful in-service days of the year! Every year Scottish Borders Council allocates one in-service day to be used as a cross schools subject day when all teachers from each discrete subject get together.

It is always a really helpful day for all teachers. In the past few years the Art and Design days activities have ranged from visiting artists and designers to visits from representatives from the SQA. This year, with a non existent budget and a prescribed focus on “verification and moderation” I decided to tap into the existing skills of the teachers we have within the region and use the time for a variety of cross marking and information sharing activities.

The day started with information from the SQA on standards for National 3 to Higher for both the course assessment and unit passes. I shared some of my National 5 written paper marking experience which we used to practice mark some papers using the Understanding Standards website. The afternoon consisted of both National 5 and Higher design and expressive folio marking. Each school brought a number of examples from last year, with the marks. They were pinned up and the marks put next to them, hidden underneath a sheet of paper. We used the SQA marking scheme to mark the units and then discussed the marks the units got drawing on the experience of a number of our teachers who mark both National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

It was a really beneficial day and great for cross marking, standardization, moderation and confidence that what we are all doing is going along the right lines! Long may it continue!

New Professional Reading Group venture

Last September I started out on a course called Developing as a Leader (DAAL). It is a pilot course being run by Scottish Borders Council, West Lothian Council and Moray House. It is exploring Teacher Leadership within schools and how we can begin to enact change within our own department and schools. The course has involved reading, discussion time at Moray House, reflecting writing and assessment.

As we are nearing the end of the course we are in the final stages of writing our learning plans and one of the priorities I gave myself was to establish a professional reading group within school. In the past 9 months I have had to read a wide variety of material – of varying shades of “accessibility”!! Some excellent and some as dry as the Sahara desert!

I took the plunge and sent out the invitational email to all staff to judge the level of interest. Within just a few minutes I already had 4 replies! Imagine my surprise!! By the time I sent the second email, with details of the first meeting date and time and the article we were going to look at I had 22 responses!! I was totally overwhelmed by the positive response and humbled by the fact that so many staff wanted to come and participate in the group with me. (we have a staff of around 56 in total)

We had our first meeting on Thursday lunchtime. Although not all the teachers who had initially replied were able to come (other commitments) about 17 came along. We read and discussed the first half of chapter 7 “Enacting Change” in Fullan and Hargreaves book “Professional Capital – Transforming Teaching in Every School, 2012”. This was a piece I had to read earlier in the year and many of the 10 steps really spoke to me. We had around 40 mins of (largely!!) focused discussion and left with some points for future action. I stressed that the group wasn’t mine – it was everyone’s and all were welcome to bring along literature or topics to look into.

I have already set the date for the second meeting and really hope that this can be the start of some small, but positive changes within the school!

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