Joanna with the Scottish Cup


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Featured, Health & Well Being | Posted on December 14, 2011

Well, what can I say?!  My daughter Jo has got her hands on the Scottish Cup! Clearly one of the benefits of working with the Scottish Football Association. Joanna, you’re a true Champion! Keep teaching those kids how to play football! 

Visit from teachers and students from Gifhorn


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, International Education | Posted on December 31, 2010

Following a very successful visit in 2009 by Dumfries & Galloway Schools’ Regional Youth Choir to Dumfries’s twin town of Gifhorn (near Hannover and Braunschweig), students and staff from the Humboldt Gymnasium, Gifhorn visited Dumfries in December 2010. The weather for the visit was very wintry and unfortunately a planned visit to Edinburgh for the group had to be cancelled due to snow. However, the Gifhorn group’s visit was very successful, one highlight being the young German students rehearsing and performing with students from Dumfries & Galloway in the annual Christmas Carol Concert at the Crichton Church in Dumfries.



Escola Internacional do Algarve


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, International Education, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, video conferencing | Posted on October 24, 2010

Headmaster John Butterworth in the school library

Headmaster John Butterworth in the school library

I very much enjoyed my visit last Tuesday to the International School of the Algarve, the largest private school in the south of Portugal. The school offers teaching at all levels (3-18) through a National Section (following the Portuguese Ministry of Education programme) and an International Section (following a modified English National Curriculum).

Headmaster John Butterworth gave me a very warm welcome and took me on a tour around the school. Pupils and staff I met were very friendly and it was really interesting to see the young people engaged in their lessons across the school.

I had a chat with John about a range of education topics from staff development to ICT issues. I shared with him our work in Dumfries & Galloway through the application of video conferencing for pupil lessons and staff development. We had an interesting chat around the possibilities of establishing a link with his school to some of our schools back in the UK. I hope to keep in touch with John and possibly establish a collaborative project with teachers and/or pupils in the school, which helpfully, is on the same timeline as the UK for much of the year.

Minus temperatures back in the UK this week; but the weather here in Portugal has been beautiful!


CPD filming with Keir Bloomer and Gary Kildare


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, HMIE, International Education, Learning & Teaching, New Learning | Posted on October 7, 2010

Gary Kildare and Kate Raeside in Gary's office

Gary Kildare and Kate Raeside in Gary's office

Keir prepares to ask Gary a few questions

Keir prepares to ask Gary a few questions

It’s a wet and windy October day for driving up from Dumfries to Edinburgh to meet Keir Bloomer for lunch and a chat before our appointment later in the afternoon with Gary Kildare. In the past few weeks we’ve made a start to the production of some short films to assist Dumfries & Galloway school staff in implementing ‘Curriculum for Excellence’.

Keir arranged for us to meet Gary Kildare (IBM Vice President, Human Resources, Europe, Americas, Asia Pacific) to capture on film Gary’s thoughts on the skills and attributes young people need to live, work and be successful in the 21st Century. Gary’s contribution to this CPD video for teachers is much appreciated and very significant, given his role as a leading figure in the global business world. We’ve already filmed Keir’s introduction to this ‘Skills’ video and will also include excerpts featuring school pupils demonstrating ‘higher order’ skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking.
It’s been a busy day, and this evening I fly to Birmingham for the ABRSM Course Leader and Mentor training weekend. Fortunately I managed to get a good sleep on the short flight down south!

Louhikone (Finland)


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Featured | Posted on August 10, 2010

My favourite concert presentation of the week at ISME, Beijing was, without a doubt, Louhikone. Formed by 2 twin sisters, Sini Lokivouri and Muti Ikonen with their husbands Jukka and Hannu, the ensemble consists of their families of 5 children and 2 grand children. Finland’s answer to ‘The Corrs’  –  absolutely brilliant!


Live from China


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, ICT, International Education, Learning & Teaching, video conferencing | Posted on August 4, 2010

The enthusiastic team of volunteers greatly enhanced the conference

The enthusiastic helpful team of volunteers

Well, here I am at the ISME (International Society for Music Education) conference at the China National Convention Centre in Beijing, China. It’s been a really interesting week, meeting colleagues from across the world. Funny to come to China and make plans with fellow educators in the UK for collaborative work! Hoping to develop some distance learning opportunities for Dumfries & Galloway students with Helena Gaunt (and her students) at the Guildhall School of Music in London. Went out with fellow distance learning practitioners Fred Rees (USA), Matti Riuppo and other Finnish friends last night for a very interesting meal. The fish put in a brief live appearance before heading for the kitchen. His very last gig.

I think I'll be a xylophonist when I grow up

I think I'll be a xylophonist when I grow up

China National Convention Centre

China National Convention Centre

Our work teaching kids instrumental music lessons via Video Conference in Dumfries & Galloway Council has met with great interest, particularly from Australian, Canadian, Scandinavian and USA colleagues.

Matti Ruippo and Fred Rees discussing Distance Learning

Matti Ruippo and Fred Rees discussing Distance Learning

Seminar panel via video link with Ottawa University


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, International Education, Learning & Teaching, video conferencing | Posted on May 25, 2010

I’m looking forward to taking part on Friday 28th May as a seminar panel member over video-link at the 2010 International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research in Music Pedagogy at Ottawa University. I’ll be participating in the symposium entitledTechnology: Electronic Technology and its Transformative Role in Music Teaching and Learning’.

The attached you tube link features a chat I had with Stephen Heppell following a lesson we observed with young people receiving instrumental brass lessons via video link.


The links below may be of interest to delegates at the Ottawa Conference. The first link below provides an executive summary of Warwick University’s evaluation of our video teaching programme.   (page 12)

Visit to Dumfries & Galloway by New Jersey students


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Featured | Posted on April 22, 2010

IMG_6641Last week, students in Dumfries & Galloway schools welcomed 23 students and 4 staff from Northern Valley, New Jersey, USA. Families in Castle Douglas & Lockerbie really enjoyed hosting young people from New Jersey over the past 10 days. A reciprocal visit to the USA will take place next year. We can’t wait!

The visit started at Glasgow airport on Sunday 11th April. Bumped into (not literally!) Michael Russell (Scottish Secretary for Education) at the airport and shared with him our itinerary for the week. He’d been on the flight from New York with our American guests! So here goes with a whistle-stop guide to the week’s events.


From Glasgow Airport we headed down the Ayrshire coast in the sunshine to Culzean Country Park and a tour of the Castle, followed by lunch. Then on to Turnberry where last year’s British Open Golf Championship took place. All the party were warmly welcomed into the Turnberry Clubhouse. Depart for a short visit to Robert Burns’ birthplace and Brig o’ Doon.



Mull of Galloway lighthouseAmerican students attend Castle Douglas High School and Lockerbie Academy. Chaperones have a tour of Dumfries & Galloway. We visit Cream o’ Galloway (ice cream tasting!), Mull of Galloway lighthouse and Logan Gardens. In the evening, parents, staff and students all meet up at a civic reception in the Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries.

New Jersey staff at Logan GardensCivic Reception at the Easterbrook Hall


Outdoor Education staff in Castle Douglas provided opportunities for our visiting American students to take part in kayaking on Carlingwark Loch and mountain biking at Dalbeattie Forest.

Mountain biking in Dalbeattie Forest

Mountain biking in Dalbeattie Forest

Kayaking on Carlingwark Loch

Kayaking on Carlingwark Loch


Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

An early start for New Jersey and Lockerbie students as we head for Edinburgh. A tour of the Castle is followed by an opportunity for shopping on the Royal Mile. In the afternoon we visit the Playhouse Theatre for the show ‘Laughter in the Rain’, the story of Neil Sedaka, complete with references to New Jersey to make our guests feel at home! After the show we enjoy a meal in an Italian restaurant.


Another early start (7.15am!) with Castle Douglas and USA students as we head north for Loch Lomond. A visit to Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond is followed by a drive via the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ behind a very slow heavy load vehicle with police escort. Plenty time to enjoy the view and hear about the old military road built in 1753(!).

Enjoying the sunshine in Inverary

Enjoying the sunshine in Inverary

On to Inverary for lunch outside at picnic tables in the sunshine. A tour of the Castle (another one!) is followed by a fun visit to Inverary Jail.

The Court at Inverary Jail

The Court at Inverary Jail

Back to Glasgow for a Chinese meal and a game of 10 pin bowling.


American students in Lockerbie this morning with Graham Herbert (Head Teacher) and then in Dumfries in the afternoon to learn more about Robert Burns. An opportunity for shopping in Dumfries ahead of this evening’s farewell dinner for all.

Saturday – Tuesday

The flight home planned for Saturday morning is cancelled due to volcanic ash cloud concerns. Dumfries & Galloway families in and around Castle Douglas and Lockerbie come to the rescue with further hosting offers and all students continue to enjoy an extended stay. All students at school on Monday and Tuesday. New Jersey group depart from Dumfries at 11.00pm on Tuesday evening and head for Heathrow.

Curriculum for Excellence 10 Point Plan


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence, Featured, Learning & Teaching | Posted on April 6, 2010

Scottish teachers (those currently in Tenerife and Majorca) may have noticed on Spanish TV today the British PM’s visit to the Palace requesting the dissolution of Parliament. Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell will be hoping all in Scottish Education (currently at home or abroad) take note of his recently unveiled ten point plan to drive forward the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.  Mr Russell confirmed that the Scottish Government will put a package of support in place – including an additional £3 million – to help make sure every school is ready to implement the new curriculum in the autumn term.  The package will put in place:

  • Tailored support for any secondary school which needs additional help to be ready for the autumn term. Heads have been invited to tell local authorities and the Scottish Government what help they need. This could include help with CPD, additional materials, expert advice or drawing on the experience of teachers from neighbouring schools who have already fully prepared for the new curriculum
  • Additional practical materials for teachers to support implementation and ensure clarity on what is expected
  • £3 million funding for councils to help support quality assurance and moderation of assessment. This will see a system of checks to ensure that the assessment of pupils is being applied consistently and in line with national standards
  • A proposal for literacy and numeracy units to be built into English and maths qualifications to simplify the system for formally recognising these skills which will be developed across the curriculum
  • ‘Excellence Groups’ bringing subject teachers and experts in individual fields – such as the sciences – together to support excellence in education in their subject area and across the curriculum
  • HMIE work with education authorities and schools to support their implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with effective innovation promoted through inspections
  • A series of events to allow headteachers to share experience and best practice
  • A greater role for parents in managing the new curriculum with the National Parent Forum Scotland invited to nominate a member to sit on the management board
  • Additional materials for pupils and parents explaining the new curriculum. Mr Russell will also invite the National Parent Forum Scotland and pupil councils to play a leading role in improving communication
  • A group, convened by Mr Russell, made up of stakeholders and those with an interest in education to advise on future development of Curriculum for Excellence

Keir Bloomer – Leading Learning Masterclass


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence, Featured | Posted on November 20, 2008

Newington Primary School, Annan, Wednesday 19 November, 4.00pm

Arrived hotfoot from HMIE ‘new’ inspection procedures training in Castle Douglas, some 30 miles east of where I was an hour ago, on a now darkening November evening. Brain cells quickly revitalised at the prospect of Keir’s input to the group of around 20 teachers. Annan Athletic jokes, (what’s so funny?) and the dimming(?) of the lights for Keir’s presentation (leaving him and everyone else in total darkness!) set the scene for a twilight session that all those gathered were really looking forward to.

Keir’s presentation was entitled ‘Developing a Curriculum for Excellence  –  Managing Change in the Short and Long Term’.  He proposed that ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is Scotland’s educational response to global change and increased understanding of the learning process and that ‘Building the Curriculum 3’ (BC3) is a first attempt to realise its vision. However, he contended that the diagram on page 13 of BC3 doesn’t convey any sense of structure.

He presented his own overview for curriculum planning, where schools can use the experiences/outcomes to apply (1) the 7 curriculum principles, (2) effective learning and teaching, (3) provision of personal support for pupils and (4) clearly model and demonstrate values. This then leads to development of the 4 curriculum contexts of curricular areas, life and ethos of the school, interdisciplinary studies and personal achievement. The development of a coherent curriculum which promotes the 4 capacities can follow if this approach is adopted by schools. Keir stated that most of ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is about ‘Successful Learners’.

How do we take things forward in the next 2/3 years? Where are the priorities? Keir presented several priorities but proposed that key priorities may lie in the following areas:

  • Redesigning the S1-3 curriculum
  • Improving primary/secondary transition

Keir contended that development priorities may include:

  • Continuity 3-18 including transitions
  • Rebuilding the curriculum P5-S3
  • Pedagogy including active learning
  • Opportunities for personal achievement

Currently, the Scottish Government’s timetable has moved back a year, and the first new set of examinations will take place in 2013/14. However, it seems possible that this timetable may move yet again.

If the timetable is to be maintained, it will be important now to determine priorities and start making preparations this session. In 2009/11 it will be important to address priorities with particular reference to P5-S3. In 2011/12 preparation for the new exams begin. In 2012/13 examination courses will be prepared in detail.

In the future, schools will become brokers of learning by providing gateways for young people through partnership working with a range of providers. Schools will need to work closely with colleges, businesses and the wider community. Keir is of the clear opinion that the task of realising a young person’s full potential in the 4 capacities (Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Effective Contributors and Responsible Citizens) is too big a task just for schools. A collaborative approach will be necessary working in partnership with a range of stakeholders. A variety of forms of delivery may develop through GLOW, video conferencing and self-study programmes. Increased opportunities for promoting personal achievement will be available to young people from a wide range of sources. Involvement in activities at residential outdoor centres and running a mini-enterprise are examples of possible entitlements pupils could access, which in turn can raise self esteem, enhance social skills and promote a shared sense of achievement.

Guidance in BC3 on interdisciplinary learning encourages a flexible approach in planning learning. However, planning should be around clear purposes ensuring progression in skills, knowledge and understanding. Studies can be across disciplines and could also include opportunities for interest-based mixed-stage learning. Keir acknowledged that secondary schools may find interdisciplinary learning very challenging to deliver, but made it clear that they must try. A mix of continuous and short courses in S1-3 through a flexible timetabling approach with teams of staff could help to avoid curriculum fragmentation. S4-6 could be treated as either separate year groups or as a single cohort.

Keir shared ideas for a P5-S3 planning template insisting that coherence in learning across the primary/secondary transition must be given high priority. There must be curricular continuity and coherence in a young person’s experience. It seems ridiculous that young people in P7 have a range of responsibilities in primary school that are all taken from them when they arrive in S1 at secondary. Also, primary pupils’ experience of being taught by a very small number of teachers in the primary school is suddenly altered as they meet many staff for lessons at secondary. Aspects of continuity in bureaucracy (transfer of information), curriculum, specialisation of knowledge, ownership of learning, pastoral, social, relationships (learner/teacher) and pupil responsibility could and should be looked at much more closely in improving coherence in learning experiences across the primary/secondary transition stages. Keir then challenged teachers to discuss in cross-sectoral groups how to ensure continuity in all key aspects across the full P5-S3 period.

He highlighted the importance of emotional security for young people in schools and offered a quote from the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland, 1947. “Education thus presents itself as at once preparation for life and an irreplaceable part of life itself: hence the good school is to be assessed not by any tale of examination successes, however impressive, but by the extent to which it has filled the years of youth with security, graciousness and ordered freedom, and has thus been a seed-bed for the flowering in due season of all that is of good report.”  Although this report was written over 60 years ago, Keir feels that this encapsulates better than any subsequent national education rationale what the educational experience should ideally be for young people.

Keir referred to one of the 4 capacities ‘Responsible Citizens’ as having been somewhat politicised and perhaps not fully promoting the notion of caring for others in the community. ‘Responsible Citizens’ in some ways mirrors one of the types of learning outlined by UNESCO. The term “learning to live together”, central to UNESCO’s mission, is adopted from the Report of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, known as the Delors Report. Like ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ this report identifies four fundamental types of learning essential to full personal and social development in the 21st century. The other 3 are: learning to know (Successful Learners), learning to do (Effective Contributors) and learning to be (Confident Individuals). Each dimension of learning is closely interconnected with the others, ideally coming together to form a whole lifelong experience. However, as far as Keir is concerned, most of ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is about ‘Successful Learners’.

In concluding today’s seminar, Keir outlined how BC3 requires us to develop our thinking on personalised learning. Personalisation is not the same as choice. First steps may include mentoring, emphasis on personal achievement and developing alternative methods of delivery. Personalised education is not fundamentally about subject choice and not the same as individualised learning. It is learner centred and encompasses variety in content, pedagogy and pace. Personalised education emphasises the social dimension of learning and sees real learning as co-produced. Keir stated that learning is mostly a social activity. Obstacles to personalisation include the class as the unit of organisation, rigidity regarding age/stage and educational establishments’ limited fixed opening times. We are still showing our mid-Victorian origins of the school institution. Today’s session concluded with group discussion on how we might make practical progress over the next 5 years beyond the initial ideas on personalisation in ‘Building the Curriculum 3’.

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