Relationship matters….relationships matter

This post was first published on on September 9th 2015.

I think that, strictly speaking, Pedagoo is  meant to be about sharing classroom practice and I therefore have to start with a confession; I am currently not classroom based. Those who know me well will know that I have mixed feelings about this. While I am loving my secondment to the local authority central team, I am missing the contact with pupils. But that for another post…

Last week I had the tremendous good fortune to attend three fantastic events within two days. On the surface, the events appeared to relate to three quite different themes. The first was our launch of our Authority Self-Harm and Suicide guidance. The second was a learning session for support assistants on behaviour, delivered by two representatives from Education Scotland. And the third was a day of Leadership training for Argyll and Bute Headteachers. Having had time to digest and reflect on the sessions, it has struck me that there were two key messages common to all three.

The first is about the absolute crucial importance of relationships in education. Ged Flynn from Papyrus, the suicide prevention charity talked about the need for us to make ourselves available to anyone who is struggling to cope. By really listening to the person’s story and helping him/her to find strategies to manage the difficult parts of life, we can literally save a life. Giving the person the time and space to connect with another can make all the difference. Sam March from Education Scotland talked about the vital concept of nurture in helping a young person who is struggling to achieve. He spoke of the ‘turnaround adult’ who can provide a consistent, reliable and predictable relationship in a child’s life. Nurture is about more than being kind to a child; it is about having high aspirations and a willingness and skill to challenge the negative self-image or internal working model that has developed in that child. And Andrew Cubie, on leadership, stressed the crucial importance of getting to know and understand those you are working with and leading. He explained that we need to invest time in getting to understand others, in understanding their DNA and ‘clicking’ with them. He said that the chemistry of a relationship is crucial and that if you are faced with someone whom you initially find difficult, you have to work at understanding them better if you are to succeed together. He advised taking time to “talk out the issues, strategic and other” and to make the difficult relationships better.

This idea of the need to work at our relationships resonated with me. If I have had success as an educationalist, it seems to me that it is often because I have taken time to work at the ‘difficult’ relationships, whether that be with pupils, parents or colleagues. Often another person may present as ‘difficult’ because they represent a different viewpoint and experience to our own; we need to dig deep and look at what that experience is. Thus the ‘difficult’ child who cannot behave may be communicating distress or needing a different type of attention to the others in the class. The ‘difficult’ parent who rages down a phone about the faults of the school may be struggling to cope with a child at home and need the chance to express and work on this. And the ‘difficult’ colleague who resists implementing change for the better because ‘the old ways are the best’ may be feeling hugely insecure about her own capacity to change and need the support of a colleague to take things forward.

I have to confess that Andrew’s talk made me realise that I have probably been more tolerant of ‘difficult’ pupil and parent characters in the past and quicker to criticise colleagues where I have felt them to be putting up barriers. My note to self is to invest more time in developing these relationships and listening more intently to these colleagues in future.

And so to the second key thread touched on by all the speakers I heard last week. This related to the idea that, in order to function successfully as leaders of others, or indeed of our own lives, we need tools and structures that assist us with self-regulation. This might seem obvious; if you do not feel in control of yourself and you aren’t the leader in your own life, then you risk that things won’t go the way you would have wanted. But it struck me that all three speakers mentioned the conscious need to put structures in place around this and not to take them for granted.

Ged Flynn spoke of the need to create plans with young people in distress so that they have strategies that they can draw on to keep them safe. Sam March talked about the need for restorative, solution focused work that clearly identifies interventions that will enable children to move forward. And, perhaps most interestingly for me, Andrew Cubie spoke about his belief in personal development planning. He said that he writes a personal development plan in relation to each project upon which he embarks and it is against this that he judges his personal success within the project. I was surprised to hear that someone with Andrew’s vast experience would feel a need to do this but it also re-iterated to me the importance of attending to our personal self-management. This is not the stuff of therapy or a reactive approach to crisis but the pro-active stuff of life and education.

All three speakers also talked of the need for us to take care of ourselves if we are to provide support and positive role modelling to the children and young people with whom we work. Creating regular opportunities to think about our priorities and values is part of this. So what has stayed with me above all after attending these events? That relationships matter and should be at the heart of education, not seen as secondary to learning but as fundamental to learning. Building positive relationships with others but also building a positive relationship with our own self are crucial to our professional and personal success.

It is not that I didn’t ‘know’ or believe this before;  as a former Dramatherapist I have read the books on Emotional Intelligence, Why Love Matters and the rest. But hearing these three inspiring speakers has reminded and re-enforced the message, giving me the confidence to put it back at the heart of what I do and what I invite others to do.

Ged Flynn is Chief Executive of Papyrus, the suicide prevention charity. Sir Andrew Cubie is an independent Consultant. He was variously Chairman and Senior Partner of a number of law firms, including Fyfe Ireland LLP, having specialised in Corporate law. He holds a number of non-executive Directorships. He has been engaged in education issues throughout his professional career.Sam March is a Development Officer at Education Scotland.

Tree of Knowledge

This is the second of two posts about a recent visit to our school by Tony from Tree of Knowledge. The first post is over on my other blogging platform:

I wrote the notes below for staff at my school in our weekly bulletin.

Friday thoughts
As you know, I was incredibly privileged to be able to sit in on the workshops with Tree of Knowledge last week.
As I said last week, I thought that it would be useful for you to know the key messages as I would like to see us re-inforcing them. Inputs from external providers only really have impact when they are integrated in the work of a school. I think that there is a real power in being able to make connections between the different learning experiences that pupils have.

In this session, Tony talked about Mindset and drew on the ideas of Carol Dweck.
More information can be found here:

He talked about our zones; our comfort zone where we are happy and relaxed. It is a great place to be but if we only stay there we will get bored. Our stretch zone lies outside of this which is where we still feel able to do things but are pushing ourselves to the limit of our ability.
Then we have the panic zone where we are unable to do the things we need to do because we have not got the time or capacity to do it.
He exemplified:
• We are in comfort zone when we have an essay due in 6 weeks
• We are in stretch zone when we are pushing ourselves do get an essay done for next week.
• We are in panic zone when the essay is due tomorrow and we have done nothing.

He explained that, if we start early and plan properly, our comfort and stretch zones increase so we can achieve more and we have less panic.
He used Arnold Schwarzenegger as an example.
Arnie was a weakling and bullied at school and decided to become a bodybuilder; he pushed himself to become world champion. He moved out of his comfort zone into his stretch zone but this then became comfort. He decided to go into acting. He was never a great actor but he specialised in certain roles and pushed himself to become one of the highest paid actors in the world. This then became comfort so he pushed himself to go into politics and become the governor of California. He is an excellent example of a self-motivated self-starter who pushed himself to keep achieving more.
Carol Dweck has done 30 years of research into Mindset and has identified 2 types of Minds – Fixed and Growth.
Tony asked three questions and asked pupils whether their instinctive answer would be ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
• Do you believe successful people are born that way?
• Do you believe that you can only ever improve slightly?
• Is it ok to cheat to get things?
He said that if your answer is “yes” to the questions then you have a FIXED Mindset. If the answer is “no”, you have a GROWTH Mindset.
Dweck’s research has shown that most successful people have a Growth Mindset.
We may often have a fixed mindset when faced with a new challenge
If we say “that is impossible” we have an excuse not to try. With growth mindset, we embrace the challenge. We find the best way possible to solve a problem.
If some people are asked to try, they will say “Why? It’s pointless”. We tend to want instant gratification. However, real success comes from embracing challenges, persisting, putting in effort over time and succeeding.
We need to be able to solve problems as humans or we are part of the problem.
Effort is the distance between where I am now and where I want to get to.
Some people don’t put in effort and blame others when they don’t get where they want to get to (school, parents, friends.) This is a blame culture.
Tony explained that it can be frustrating when people succeed around us. At school, he was the best (and only) guitar player. He went on a summer camp and met Matthew MacAllister who was AMAZING and so he just gave up. Matthew maybe had more natural talent BUT he also put in 5 hours of practice a day.
Tony set the pupils a challenge:
If you meet a new challenge, give it a genuine try. See it as a pathway.
We all have different ideas of success – money/house/job.
See effort as a pathway to success but do not get jealous of others.
Admit how you are right now but admit that you can change it. The minute you say “this is nonsense and not for me”, you are giving in to a fixed mindset.
Matthew Brailsford helped turn around British cycling and he did it one step at a time – small incremental changes, eg:
• All in the team started careful handwashing which reduce illness and time off.
• The inside of bike vans were painted white to show dirt – they could be kept cleaner and less bike repairs were needed.
• All the team members got new pillows so they slept better and performed better.
1% at a time will lead to 100% improvement.
What will your 1% be? Less screen time? 5 minutes of study.
Just decide to start.
Tony was so inspiring and the pupils were incredibly positive in their feedback.



Four countries.

I am in a hotel for a conference. I am going to be discussing the future of Britain’s education with some incredible minds.
I am scared and my chimps are going mad.
I am on the exercise bike in the gym trying to get focussed.

In order to focus, I am going to remind myself of what I believe about education.

You should only teach if you care that every child in your school is loveable and can succeed. If you only want to teach middle or upper class children, avoid comprehensive education.
Teachers have the power to impact on the lives of children and therefore on the future. This is a massive privilege and responsibility.
This should be made clear in initial teacher training.

Teachers are very, very, very important and needed to be treated as such.

Parents and carers are very, very, very important and need to be treated as such. All of them.

Teachers who are not doing a good enough job in helping every child to learn need to be supported to do a good enough job.

Parents who are not doing a good enough job in helping every child to learn need to be supported to do a good enough job. Schools can play a big part here.

School leaders need to be prepared to work very hard, talk the talk and walk the walk. The 35 hour week does not apply.

Every teacher needs to be highly informed about the purpose of education, child development, attachment, adverse childhood experiences, mindset and nurture.

The job of a school is to help a child learn about the world and to help them find their place in the world.

The purpose of secondary education is to help children become adults who make the most of life and make sensible choices. The teenage years are incredibly complex and exciting and we need to understand the related psychological and neuroscientific fields.

We all need to keep learning and reflecting. Self awareness in teachers is crucial.

Political decisions about education should never be made by people who have not been successful teachers or educators.

Decisions about education must be based on evidence based practice and never a knee-jerk.

A long-term view is crucial.

Inclusion is not one experience…or maybe not even one environment …fits all.

Assessment. Hmmmm. We must measure what we value and not value what we can measure. Some important things cannot be assessed easily.

The community should be at the heart of a school and the school should be at the heart of a community. Governance structures should be arranged accordingly.

Education should be at the heart of society and society should be at the heart of education.
Soundbites? Maybe. Nothing much new. But what I believe.
What do I know…?

Keeping going…

A year ago I wrote this.

I am copying it in full at the bottom of this post because it is quite heavily referenced below.

It is one of my most read pieces of writing and was reblogged by the Mighty. It got a huge number of shares and comments on various platforms. Almost all were positive and the post seemed to strike a chord with many. The one that touched the deepest nerve was “wow, you slept til 5.15! Lucky you!” That was, for me, what I think is referred to as a trigger and I had to fight hard not to rise to it.

Today, a year on and I am in a similar but very different place.
Some of the actual stuff in the list has shifted. I have changed job and I am back in school, now as Head of Secondary. I am not putting myself in for the music festival this year. But much of the “stuff” and pressures are the same. The workload at school is immense. We have huge staffing pressures, massive issues with pupil mental health and further cuts and changes ahead. The personal financial pressures have not eased and neither has my husband’s situation.
The words “what else can go wrong?” have been a mantra but so have the words “we’ve survived before!”.
But the significant change has come in my outlook.
I have worked really hard to keep the mind tricks at bay. I have used writing as a way to keep my feelings in check. I have written an awful lot!
I am much better at not catastrophizing, (although at 8am when Steve informed me that his back had gone, there was a momentary relapse).
Over the summer I read a number of key books and more recently I have read “Frazzled” by Ruby Wax.
In the autumn, I did an online mindfulness course through FutureLearn. I have learnt amazing stuff about the brain and the relationship between body and soul.
I have engaged with educators who have helped me to realise that authenticity and a focus on wellbeing are not separate from raising attainment and closing gaps. Things like this keep me going:

I have found a tribe of likeminded educational souls and I feel supported, even though many of the tribe members are not in close geographical proximity.

I still fight the chimps, the demons, the internal voices that try and win from time to time. But on the whole I am winning. And you can too. It takes a bit of work but it is worth it. For those around you. For those you teach who will know when you are being authentic and will trust and learn from you because of it. But above all, for you.


I usually sleep well but today I have woken at 5.15 and can’t sleep.
There is fierce raging activity in my head that consists of a series of worries.
1. Something happened at work last week and I am worried that, although I know that I did the right thing, others may not see it like that.
2. I have to run a working party today with a range of colleagues and I fear that they won’t like me and that they will realise I don’t know what I am talking about.
3. When the meeting is over I will have to write it up and produce notes and actions but I have not put any time in my diary to do this.
4. I have training to deliver on Monday and Thursday next week and feel as per 2 but also haven’t planned the training yet.
5. I have entered a singing competition in 3 weeks and do not know any of the songs yet.
6. My daughter is still unwell after flu and has stopped eating properly.
7. My husband may have to stop working which may leave me with sole financial responsibility. And my cleaner has left.
8. I have woken up too early and will be exhausted today but have arranged to take my kids to see a live stream Shakespeare for three hours tonight but am now worried that I will go beyond exhaustion because of it.
I could actually continue with more but 8 is probably enough.
What to do? Give up? Ring the doctor? On paper, these things may seem trivial, over dramatic, irrational. But they feel very real.
But I can manage them. Because I have before. A useful exercise that I discovered before Christmas is to write them down, name them as feelings/ worries and then force myself to counteract them with what I KNOW.
1. I have lots of evidence of what really happened and I need to hold to that.
2. It is not about them liking me. I have done huge research, I have a plan, agenda and a clear vision which is to work with the team to improve outcomes for children.
3. I will write detailed notes in the meeting.
4. I have PowerPoints I can adapt and experience and ideas. It is not about me but about what my audience needs.
5. I can record the songs and listen to them as I drive.
6. I can’t control her or her eating.
7. We only a have to get through 2 years and things will improve. I do need a new cleaner, though.
8.  University days. Frequent nights of 4 hours sleep. Baby days- ditto. Did I die? Nope.
Our minds can be devious and feelings and worries play tricks. But by getting them out, ordering them and challenging them, we can get through them.
Solution focus; we have within us the skills and experience to solve problems and face challenges.
Happy Thursday.

On things that don’t change.

Today I did not march.
I took my beautiful, clever, inspiring girl and her equally fabulous friend to see ‘The Woman in Black’ in Glasgow. The play is based on the novel by Susan Hill and was adapted by the hugely talented and much missed Stephen Mallatratt.
This production starred two highly accomplished and mesmerising actors: as David Acton as Kipps and Matthew Spencer as The Actor.
And as I watched,  I realised that things are going to be ok.

I first saw the play in London in 1999 as part of a school drama trip from Huntingdon. As a drama teacher, it was a surprise to others that I had not seen it before. It was the absolute bread and butter of the GCSE live performance review paper and as soon as I saw it, I knew why. It exemplifies a huge range of dramatic conventions and techniques as well as a cornucopia of technical devices that one rarely experiences within one performance. It reminds us so powerfully of what drama and imagination can do: to create a horse and trap from a basket; to produce Spider the dog out of thin air and to tell a complex story through the incredible skill of just two performers and the collective imagination of the audience members; to force us to feel intensely and to venture into the lives of others. And teenagers love it.

I saw it again a few years later in Newcastle and so today was my third time. It was a joy to watch again and this time to share it with my girl.


Today I took some new messages from this classic: messages that I had not picked up previously about attachment and separation, looked after children and trauma, mental health and the need to tell our stories. And about the fact that there are some things beyond our comprehension and control.

But above all I was reassured by the fact that it is still the same, still so powerful, still such a timeless testimony to the power of drama and culture to transport us to another place where we can reflect on human nature and experience.
Politicians will come and go. Political decisions will impact on us for a while and then things will move on. But universal, archetypal, cultural experiences will continue to unite and enlighten us.
On the way home she asked whether we can see a Shakespeare.
Certainly, my lovely. Because 400 years on and we will still have more in common with that master of language and imagination than we do with the temporary rhetoricians and charlatans of today.



Today I got in  my car at 7.15 and began to drive.

I felt tired, emotional, hopeless and not in the mood.

As if it knew, radio 1 sent me three songs:


And as I listened, my mood changed.

When I got to the Inter-authority session for Middle Leaders with Argyll and Bute and East Dunbartonshire (organised by the amazing Sandra Clarke and George Cooper) things only got better.

What a day! Inspiration, connection, validation and the chance to listen to some of the greatest speakers in Scottish Education.

My notes are below. As always in my blogs, I may have mis-understood or misquoted, so please check out the speakers online / via their writing. But I thought that the notes may be useful to those who could not make it (Aileen).

But the three main things for me:

David Cameron – Consonance is key. You only do something well if you believe in it.

Mark Priestley – CfE is a good idea badly managed. We need to consider not what subjects we teach but what knowledge we open up.

Pete Clarke – We need to trust our inner voice – in all the trials and tribulations of life, the one person who has been there is you.

Thanks, all for restoring my faith. I will keep on keeping on.



Middle leaders Inter authority development day

Sandra Clarke intro:

Purpose of education

What are we trying to do?

Are we spending time on right things?


Leading change

Taking step back to breathe and think

The David Cameron – focus on middle leadership as a driver for school improvement and reflections on Scottish Education currently.

Spoke about Chris Kilkenny. Was looked after.

Still makes mistakes

Was mod apprentice

Disappeared for 5 months then he turned up in Dundee and said he was going to do what D does – talk shite for a living!

Reality – teaching is rubbish!

As a depute, David never got more than four things done in his to do list.

Teachers are torn  between pedagoo (progressive innovators) and taliban (no changers)

Some progressives, some traditionalists in schools….

Blizzard of priorities:





Teenage pregnancy


Etc etc

No staffing, no supply, budget cuts

If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority

Reality… Like being pecked to death by hens. Everyone can have a go at teachers. Parents. Pupils. Politicians.

AND there is contradiction and confusion in the current initiatives

Tyranny of the immediate dominates …you do not plan on a Sunday pm for a playground head injury, staff absence….

How do we close gap with norm referenced assessment. (Hattie)

Some pupils MUST fail

Language  is wrong… Not about closing gap

Will only close gap if we use different assessment

CfE was about giving pupils skills for the workplace YET we still obsess over exams, literacy, numeracy scores!!!

Governance review…..very muddled

We talk about clarity

Bill Maxwell statement is full of platitudes. Basically says chill and don’t worry…THEN they put out new benchmarks!!

Cult of perfection….. “We can all do better…”

Need to stop pratting on about good practice or best practice.

Need sustainable practice, not best or good practice

We need to bring clarity, coherence and confidence 

Who has raised attainment on a windy day??

Who is outstanding on first day of term??

Need to be realistic!

Work smarter!! Really?!?!

When someone tells you this, or “do more with less”, it is condescending and patronising

Need reality, not patronising:

Reasons to be cheerful part 3:

We do have real basis for progress

We do have reduced version of BTC docs except 4(skills) and that could easily be summarised

David a DSM (governance) review 4 yrs ago!! D chaired it!! Why did SG not use it?!?

Governance should be based on appropriateness.

Had excellence groups- eg in skills

Near clear learning pathways and criteria that have been internalised.

Standards must be exemplified and clear. Not about 100s of benchmarks.

Teachers need to sit down together. Look at work. Agree the standard.

Whatever happened to new community schools? 

LJC is one!

Community centre

You cannot solve the problems but you can work with the community. Integrated approach

NCSs – aim was to work with parents, SW, partners in an integrated way.

GIRFEC – we have stopped talking about it 

But we need it

Chris Kilkenny- mum was  addict and he never gave a damn about jolly phonics…could not be assessed by benchmarks….

He just wanted someone to look out for him and ask him on a daily basis how he was.


Us here on Saturday

Teachmeet pedagoo tapestry visible learning


The response?



Work harder

Worry more

Neglect other things/people



Need to agree what matters in terms of making a difference for ch and YP and their outcomes

Need to agree what the breakable plates are.. What we can do less of and what stops

Very good thing to do with staff…get big bit of paper and do a graph 


Time and effort


Write on post its and put them on the graph…eg tasks around marking

Good cpd… Gives pic of workload and shows where breakable plates are…

3 key points that leaders need to consider when implementing change:

Manageability…. Think through to point of delivery in classroom.

Worst when…. We did CfE for 7 to 8 yrs and only then thought about reality and terror of new exams.

Til rubber hit road, we did not see workload crisis

Keir Bloomer talked the talk but never had to do it in the classroom.

Talk to staff in language  of manageability.

Coherence is key- 

We are always painting on wet paint

Cooperative learning coat not dry then Visible learning coat… Before the first coat had dried


You only do something well if you believe in it.

Otherwise you just do it for show/ when inspected

5 to 14 doc – diagram on assessment very useful. Why did we let it go?

Decide what to teach


See what has been learnt

Review and reflect 

From Hattie – what makes a difference?

What people working in the school do. Classroom management – balancing the needs, attributes and abilities of learners with what needs to be learnt

2 areas where we can raise attainment:

Engage those who are not engaged;

Try making yp better at last or unexpected questions in tests…. Build their resilience to tackle the challenging/unexpected question.

Culture and consistency are key… Same key messages across  school

Forth Valley college is good at this

Battle for school improvement is not about excellence. It is a battle for better typicality and consistent practice 

Raise level of teachers to level of most successful teachers in your school

Not “what works” but “what works here”

And where is the love….Will I Am?

Unit of improvement is not the school it is the  individual teacher

Chris K- what would have made difference is someone asking every day how I am

Working at Kibble with 30 kids one day. David said to them… “when kids don’t understand the teacher, they disrupt. They are not out of control, they are controlling the situation.”

One kid said “how did you know?”

Look at Education Endowment Fund toolkit to see what really makes a difference.

David has got an electronic doc based on this.

If we don’t have time, we don’t have time to waste.

David’s ladder for self eval:

Do self eval then ask:

  1. What will you do to improve practice?
  2. What help or support do you need….we is key to transformation?
  3. What outcomes will you expect your young people to achieve as a result of the improvement? Need realistic and ambitious targets….
  4. What evidence will you look at to determine if the improvement has been made.

Time is key- think really carefully about lesson obs and learning walks.

Coach, teach rather than observing 

Don’t start with the data as it is based on the last cohort!! Partic crucial in a small school! 

Have an improvement plan for every member of staff in every place.

We need to make a change in hard times…..

Can email presentation 

Jay Helbert (SCEL Development Leadership) – Pedagogical and transformational leadership

Transformational leaderships

How do middle leaders achieve change without holding ultimate power?

Transactional leadership. About a resource you give or take away. Was a business model popular in 80s but does not really work in ed….. (Or in business either)Can’t give bonuses, sack teachers.

Transformational leadership… You sell a vision or create one with people and then you invest in the people with you.

Power vs influence

Raven 2008

6 bases of power

Legitimate – vested in you by job or title

Reward- ability to offer a reward to compel someone

Expert- if you are a successful teacher you are more likely to have power over others

Referent – how likeable or charismatic you are or how much you have something in common

Coercive- wield a threat over someone 


What bases of power are most useful to middle leaders?


Know the people and still teach

Johanna – referent is key…. The model and approach that you want from your staff must be modelled by you as HT and modelled by your middle leaders…..

Transformational leadership never comes from reward or coercion.

Jay knows there are cynics in education but there is always some element of commonality

Viviane Robinson from NZ ranked leadership actions in the same way that Hattie ranked T and L actions

Sees pedagogical leadership as key.

At the heart there must be something better for the children.

Robinson et al

Pedagogic leadership is about:

Establishing an academic mission

Providing feedback on t and l

Promoting prof leadership.

It is not about transformational OR ped leadership but about both.

If you have blockers….

Find the people who are like you 

Peter Clarke (Lecturer in Social Sciences, Open University) – Using an Emotional Learning Model to Support Leadership

Talking about the work of Prof Colin Beard on experiential learning.

Teachers, leaders and facilitators are architects of experiences for learning.

Learning from experience is life


Kenyan safari

Looking for a giraffe…..

Can see one at west midland safari park

Must be ready to lead, experience and learn wherever we can

Opps and abilities of others are varied and different.

Pete worked in prison therapeutic environment.


Had been contract killer for Liverpool gangs. Had come to prison and learnt to read and write….was now doing sociology degree.

Pete was teaching about crime but became the learner.

Made most of the experience as it was. This was experiential learning.

Experiential learning is where 2 worlds collide – our inner private world and the outer world.

About using all senses

Experiential learning 

Learning to belong, act, observe, feel, think and be in outer world

Purpose of education

Leaders of learning need to help reframe  fearful experiences into pleasure

Eg exams, giving presentations, going to Alton towers


Achieving gives a sense of success, getting, knowing, doing

Affiliation gives us a sense of belonging

Communication skills when giving feedback as a leader are key

The compassionate mind – Paul Gilbert

In life we give feedback in a compassionate way….

In education we need to give critical feedback, evaluate, make judgement 

We do not need to leave compassion behind.

OFSTED/HMIE often will…..

When giving or receiving feedback, we may adopt one of three who states:




Need to trust inner voice – in all trials and tribulations of life, the one person who has been there is you.

You are the architect of experience for learning. 

If you use this material, reference Colin.

Prof Mark Priestley (Stirling University) – Developing an Effective Curriculum – a Scottish Perspective

CfE wanted teachers at centre of curriculum development

“There is no curriculum development without teacher development”

Laurence Stenhouse

“Curriculum development is a lost art.”

Michael Apple

Need policy that allows teachers to develop curriculum and not be in a system that disables them.

We have a curriculum that does not fit.

CfE is a good idea badly managed. 

Change is not necessary a good thing. Need fit for practice ideas.

Good practice – good for society, philosophical concept. 

Curriculum dev is a process not a product.

Ongoing, by local experts and building on what works.

Mark’s bugbear is delivery- education is about development and growth.

Need to think about big picture, not  minutiae 

Curriculum policy is a framework that includes:

Content, assessment, provision (eg timetabling), pedagogy

Only 1 sec school in Scotland  really changed timetable for CfE  to 20 1.5 hour periods to allow field trips etc

There are curricular strata

Supra transnational

Macro national

Meso LEA, policy

Micro school level

Classroom level 

There should be movement and interaction across levels.

Classroom and teachers should influence upwards.

Wales has pioneer schools that help influence policy.

Implementation gap

The rhetoric of policy in Scotland has not filtered down to schools in practice.

Ed Scot has tried again and again to re-interpret docs!

Need to go back to basics of CfE

3 poss starting points for curriculum development

Content led?

Outcomes led?

Process led?

Content driven can be about transmission rather than understanding.

Content of CfE is not very different to content of English curriculum in 1984….

Outcomes driven is about assessing pupil progress and making schools and teachers accountable.

5-14 was assessment driven. New benchmarks seem to be moving back to that.

Becomes about auditing outcomes  and tick-boxes – incremental change, not meaningful change 

Increase in assessments in senior phase… surprise there is an increase in mental health issues.


Process curriculum – about concern with nature of child and their place in society.

Attributes and capabilities of an educated person are defined.

Pros- teachers can select content and methods, start with where pupils are, be flexible and make links

Encourages children to reflect on the learning from their early experiences and challenge/build on this.


Requires high level of teacher skill

Can CfE allow process driven curric?


At macro level

Have purposes and principles and policy

At meso level

Need clearer specification of processes and support

At micro level

Need further teacher dev

Purpose of schools?

Intellectual dev?

Instrumental goals?

Learning for sake of learning?

What are the big ideas of CfE?


The sabre tooth curriculum- developed in relation to Latin eduction in  1930s USA

3 subjects in curriculum:

Grabbing fish from shallow ponds

Clubbing woolly horses who came to drink

Scaring away sabre tooth tigers

Things changed

Waters got muddy

Horses replaced by antelope

Tigers replaced by bears

Progressive Stone Age educators said new skills were needed.

What is knowledge?

Select content that is:



Promotes higher order thinking

Powerful knowledge (Young 2007)

Need it to be fit for purpose and embraced big ideas of curriculum.

It is a false dichotomy to say that CfE is about skills and not knowledge.

Is knowledge:

Something out there to be acquired?

Something to be constructed by individuals through transactions with world?

Has implications for how we teach.

Transmission teaching? Experiential learning? or a combination of both?

Need to differentiate between info, knowledge, subjects….


Need to look at transitions between  primary and secondary….maybe have more integrated science, soc subjects…

See John Dewey ‘Experience in Education’ – very powerful on why we do what we do in schools…and why maybe we should not.

Eisner 1992 also asks about the why of schools. Very important. 

Need a range of methods. Those who created cooperative learning say they would not want to see JUST that in school.

barriers to transformational change:




Cannot do everything in school. Authority and govt need to be involved.

Start with question of purpose

Then think about the how

Then address the operational issues.


Julienne Pierre MacKenzie (PT Tobermory High School) and Ryan Lowe (Tobermory High School) Changing Mindset – a secondary approach.

Trio observation model

Developed in south of England Jurassic coast

Consulted with staff first

Trio obs should improve teaching and learning 

Needed a protocol

Narrative is more important than events observed

Produced trio obs protocol and aide memoire

First focus was on ways of giving feedback- from Hattie

Evidence based research papers are made available to staff to back this project up.

Asked pupils what makes a good teacher. 

Trio obs focus now is developing authentic learner voice….

need to aim high and have high expectations 

Elli at Tobermory. Effective lifelong learning inventory – uni of Bristol. Some cost implication.

Each pupil does a 70 qu questionnaire.

Gives a learning profile. 

Can be redone to show change over time.

Can measure the learning over time.

Have been using this for three years in primary.

Now doing it is timetabled interdisciplinary learning periods in secondary.

Profiles are incorporated into support plans.

Pupil is responsible for own profile – pupil autonomy is being developed.

In primary the pupils have animal symbols that they can use to show where they need help

Eg unicorn = creativity

Tortoise = resilience

Older pupils have developed their own metaphors

Plan to use this for reporting and profiling (instead if skills book)

Other feeder primaries are using symbols and initial bear and elephant story, though not the whole surveys

Useful to get staff and parents to do the questionnaire

See school website for a video on this

Jay Helbert  Strategic leadership within middle leadership

Nelson’s Trafalgar:

Sometimes we mistake mission statements for strategy

Based on work of Richard Rumel on business strategy

Strategy should not include fluff or targets or just doing more of the same.

Diagnose the issue:

Seek disconfirming information

Be forensic

Avoid emotional attachment

Provide evidence for conclusions

Be aware of and compensate for biases

Cognitive biases:

Ambiguity avoidance

Backfire effect

Bandwagon effect

Bias blind spot

Choice consolidation

Confirmation Bias

Dunning Kruger effect – when people think they are great but they are not because they do not know what great is



Reciprocation bias

Similarity bias

Concise and guiding policy is needed:

Not a vision or mission statement (should not take 6 months to nail a vision!!)

Does not state where you want to go (that is your goals)

Does give guiding principals

Does leverage strengths

Does calculate risk tolerance

Has ‘Waterline’ flexibility 

When Jay introduced process for teacher leadership in Ardrishaig he used already existing processes and built on them…

Look at Ebsco research papers via GTCS. 

Plenary from George Cooper

David- Provocative

Workshops -Quality 

Mark – Perspective

Jay – Strategy

Entertaining and Enjoyable



Final #Wellbeing Reflection

A final wellbeing reflection.

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. 
At the end of it I made three vows. I have written reflections regularly since such as this one from October:
At the end of the year, it is time for a final reflection.

Vow 1. To myself. It is time I sorted this out once and for all. 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.

Update, a year on:
Honestly? As I said in October, I still work hard and sometimes find it hard to switch off. I am still driven and infuriating to those who love me.
I still hear my children say they don’t see enough of me.
But I do manage it all better. I did a course in mindfulness back in October and I also read Emma Woolf’s fabulous book Positively Primal, both of which have been a huge help to me. The world is never going to stop being busy and hectic but our approach to it is key: focusing on the vision, prioritising the important and taking time to savour the individual moments.

Vow 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.
Update, a year on:
I have finished all aspects of the course and await verification as to whether I have passed. The course was an amazing opportunity to learn about leadership and about the vision of leadership that Scotland aspires to for its future school leaders.
Are Scottish schools ready for that type of leader? I’m not sure.
I have been promoted to Acting Head of Teaching and Learning (Secondary) in my school recently and this has presented me with a amazing opportunity to take forward my ideas on developing ethos, promoting staff and pupil wellbeing and influencing the culture of our school.
On a practical level, I have a school timetable to write in the new term which will be a huge challenge for me and possibly the end of a short-lived career!

Vow 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….

Update, a year on:
I have come to both love and hate Twitter. I love it for its power to connect me to like-minded people and their ideas and writing. I hate it for drawing me in and making me spend more time on it than I should. I also wonder about the quality of interaction that can ever really be achieved on Twitter and the fact that what seem like genuine interest and compassion aren’t. If that sounds harsh, it is not meant to. It is just that when I went through a really hard time back in late October, Twitter barely noticed.
And why would it have?

On the other hand, I have found huge support and what has felt like more genuine connection through platforms like @staffrm and WomenEd and Pedagoo.

This will be my last #teacher5aday #wellbeing update. I will continue to #connect, #notice, #exercise, #learn and #volunteer, blog, reflect and be well. I will continue to encourage others to do so to. And I will revert to a paper sketchbook/journal as my tool of reflection, as suggested here:

Thanks so much again to
Martyn Reah and the tribe for getting me hooked.

Bye for now.

Advent. What is coming?

Advent. A time to reflect, anticipate, prepare.

The complexity of my life just now, both personal and professional, is extreme.
I feel as though I am on the edge of something either very good or completely overwhelming.

I need courage. I need resilience. I need focus and I need to be able to ignore the dramas and prioritise what really matters.

As a leader of the life of my school and as a leader of my own life and the life of my family, I need to remember the following:

  • To plant the soles of my feet firmly on the ground and breathe from the pit of my stomach.
  • That this is my life and that it is not waiting for me somewhere in a distant future when I am ‘grown up enough’ or ‘good enough’.
  • That people are complicated and that part of the challenge of life is trying to understand them and work alongside them.
  • That you can’t make everyone like you. But if they don’t, you should reflect on why this is.
  • That life is good and bad. That we have to work together to celebrate and embrace the good and to challenge and minimise the impact of the bad.
  • That education has the power to transform lives.
  • That we must never stop learning and that mistakes teach us as much as successes.
  • That we are both infinitely important and infinitely unimportant.

And this, from a previous blog:

If ever I run a school or the world, these will be my non-negotiables:

Everyone must be willing to self-reflect and learn.

We don’t shout at others.

We all get things wrong and need to be able to apologise when we do.

We are all human and being in a position of authority does not mean you are better than anyone else.

Everyone needs to take time to see the reality of a situation and not fall into making judgements based on half-truths, prejudice or stereotypes.

Everyone is worthy of love.