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

TheReal 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…..no 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