Heather Reid’s live video conference lessons from the Glasgow Science Centre


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, ICT, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, Science, video conferencing | Posted on February 5, 2013

We’re now into Heather Reid’s 4th day of science lessons to Dumfries & Galloway schools live via interactive video conference from the Glasgow Science Centre. Young people from 10 primary schools across the 100 mile+ wide region have enjoyed a fantastic opportunity to learn about climate change, renewable energies and weather related issues with Heather presenting direct into classrooms live from the Glasgow Science Centre. Today it was the turn of young people from Lincluden in Dumfries. With the support of their teacher Miss Agnew, the P5 class engaged in discussion with Heather and each other in groups as they considered the causes and consequences of carbon emissions.

Science Experiments in Dalry School via Video Conference


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, ICT, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, Science, video conferencing | Posted on February 4, 2013

Today, Heather Reid (in the Glasgow Science Centre) led 3 one hour video conference sessions to 3 schools in Dumfries & Galloway. The pupils in Dalry School enjoyed their second virtual lesson today, this time taking on the challenge of a practical experiment in class. The pupils made red cabbage indicator and used it to test a variety of liquids which they had earlier predicted to be either acid, alkaline or neutral. One of the purposes in today’s practical video conference session was for pupils to better understand the effects humans are having on the Earth by considering how acidic our oceans have become.

Science lessons via Video Conference


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, ICT, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, Science, video conferencing | Posted on January 29, 2013

After a few months of preparation, planning and CPD for staff, we’ve finally got our science lessons via video conference underway! Heather Reid, meteorologist and former BBC weather presenter, delivered 3 one hour sessions yesterday and then again today to 6 different primary schools across Dumfries & Galloway direct from the Glasgow Science Centre. The teachers and kids loved the interactive engagement with Heather over the video-link and are already looking forward to their next lesson. Dumfries & Galloway Education Services are delighted to be working in partnership with the Glasgow Science Centre in this innovative programme delivering Curriculum for Excellence at Level 2 Science through looking at topics of weather, climate change and renewable energies. 10 schools are involved in this across an area of over 100 miles from Drummore to Moffat. Pictured below are pupils in Dalry School yesterday in their lesson with Heather.

Heather Reid delivering CPD for primary teachers


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, ICT, Learning & Teaching, New Learning, Science, video conferencing | Posted on January 7, 2013

Staff from 10 of our Dumfries & Galloway primary schools returned from their Christmas and New Year break to attend an excellent CPD event presented by former BBC weather presenter, Heather Reid. Heather (The Weather) led staff in stimulating, practical morning and afternoon sessions looking at weather related CfE Level 2 experiences and outcomes in science, numeracy, social subjects and a host of other possibilities for learning and teaching.









The morning session looked at the impact of weather on our world, and considered, for example, the difference between weather and climate. Heather’s presentation included many dramatic images of weather related events. Staff were highly engaged in water based experiments prepared by Heather and were amazed to see the results of their alchemy! Today’s CPD event was planned in preparation of each school receiving 2 video conference presentations from Heather in the coming weeks live direct and interactive from the Glasgow Science Centre.

Proposals for ‘Dumfries Learning Town’


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Learning & Teaching, New Learning | Posted on June 25, 2011

This week’s Times Educational Supplement Scotland leads on innovative proposals for the ”Dumfries Learning Town”. Dumfries is the largest town in the council area of Dumfries & Galloway, in South-West Scotland.

The River Nith, Dumfries

The River Nith, Dumfries

Dumfries could be the first place in Scotland to create a new model of senior secondary school, serving all 1,100 S4-6 pupils in the town.

Colin Grant, director of education services at Dumfries and Galloway, will next week outline to parents and teachers the council’s vision of the “Dumfries Learning Town” which would see its particular concept of a senior secondary built alongside further and higher education institutions on Crichton campus.

TESS understands that at least three other authorities – Perth and Kinross, Aberdeen City and Fife – have explored similar concepts, but are not as far advanced as Dumfries and Galloway.

If the Dumfries model wins the backing of parents and teachers, pupils in S1-3 in Dumfries High, Dumfries Academy, Maxwelltown High and St Joseph’s College would remain in their current schools, but would work more closely with local primaries.

The proposal would allow for the creation of actual or virtual “middle schools”, offering more specialist teaching for upper-primary pupils and less fragmentation of the curriculum for lower secondary.

S4-6 pupils would have access to a wider range of subjects in a single senior secondary; they would also have more vocational options by being located next to Dumfries and Galloway College and local businesses.

With Glasgow University and the University of the West of Scotland also running courses on the campus, schools could collaborate more closely with higher education – HE lecturers could deliver Advanced Higher work – said Mr Grant.

He stressed the council wanted to “ask questions rather than give answers” in its consultations with locals.

“We have good schools, but many talented and committed staff are working in tired buildings and our young people are learning in limiting physical environments. We also have great challenges around continuity and transition,” he said.

Past reviews of the school estate, which had recommended closing one or two of the town’s secondaries, had run into difficulties, he explained.

When Mr Grant became education director three years ago, he wanted to ensure that communities did not lose their schools.

“With Curriculum for Excellence has come a unique opportunity. If we were starting again, we would not build primaries and secondaries separately. Here was an opportunity to look at the whole big picture,” Mr Grant told TESS.

Greater momentum has been added to the vision by the current financial backdrop. “We are past the day of replacing a school with a like school. And politically, how could you argue that any one of the four should be replaced and not the other three?” he added.

The proposal would have obvious implications for teachers: some might opt to teach S1-3 and some S4-6, while others might be timetabled across the two. If the “middle school” takes in P6-7 pupils, the General Teaching Council for Scotland would have to be consulted, as its regulations categorise teachers as either primary or secondary.

Educational consultant and former Clackmannanshire Council chief executive Keir Bloomer was involved in early planning stages of the proposal. “A senior school like this will be able to create a much wider curriculum, greater choice and will be able to do that simultaneously at lower cost,” he said.

The template could be applied to towns supporting three or four secondaries or cities, he said.



No delay for ‘Curriculum for Excellence’


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Curriculum for Excellence | Posted on April 22, 2010

IMG_4809Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell has confirmed today that, following management board advice this afternoon, there will be no delay to the roll out of Curriculum for Excellence in Secondary schools this August.

Mr Russell has also confirmed that planning for the new qualifications, which are not due for four years, will continue – based on the advice of the overwhelming majority of Management Board members. However, Mr Russell will also continue his discussions with the EIS – who are the one body on the board in favour of a one year delay.

Mr Russell said:

“I have immediately accepted the Management Board’s unanimous advice that there be no delay in present plans for the roll out in secondary schools this August. Curriculum for Excellence is making a real difference in our classrooms at primary level and it will be of great benefit in secondary schools. There should be no further doubt about what is going to happen.

“I also concur that we need to continue to build teachers’ confidence in the process of change. I think the evidence from the primary sector is that when teachers are involved in delivering the curriculum they very quickly gain expertise and I will continue to do everything I can to ensure secondary teachers get the same positive support and experience the same benefits.

“I have already seen examples of Curriculum for Excellence in action in schools across Scotland and of excellent planning and I am determined that it will continue on track. That is why I issued my ten point plan three weeks ago – all these actions will further secure the full implementation of the new curriculum .

“I am also minded to accept the advice from the Board with regard to plans for the new qualifications. But as they are some four years away there is time and opportunity to discuss with the EIS – who were alone in not agreeing with this advice from the Board. I will be asking the EIS to enter into constructive and detailed dialogue with me and my officials as soon as possible so that we can address their continuing concerns.

“I am grateful to the Board for its hard work today and up to today. Much remains to be done but this important moment will help to drive forward the new curriculum for the benefit of all Scotland’s young people and indeed for the benefit of the nation’s prospects.”

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’.

Keir Bloomer – Leadership for Learning


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Leadership for Learning | Posted on October 8, 2008

Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries       Tuesday 7 October, 2008

An excellent day in Dumfries as Keir Bloomer, former teacher, Education Director, Council Chief Executive and key player in developing Scottish Education’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ led a group of promoted teachers, heedies and central education staff in a day of discussion and reflection looking at Leadership for Learning.

He set education in the context of a rapidly changing world, giving examples of dramatically escalating football transfer fees over the years highlighting the fact that we are now seeing the effects of globalisation. He also raised the issue of an exponential increase in knowledge and that teachers are now teaching for a future we cannot see.

As a proud grandfather, Keir was able to use pictures of his lovely grand-daughter to illustrate that human beings are ‘the greatest learning machine on earth’. She isn’t taught to talk, but is of course learning to talk. She will succeed in learning to talk because she is well motivated, observes, experiments, performs and imitates  –  a sound learning process. Young people learn best through intrinsic, natural ways by constructing their own reality  –  all true learning is like that.

Keir stated that intellectual development is sometimes inhibited by giving students too much visual information, thus diminishing the capacity for imagination. He outlined the cognitive apprenticeship model of (1) the master modelling, showing by example how  (2) supporter, giving help where appropriate (3) fading, where the master withdraws and (4) coaching. Learning can be like an apprenticeship.  

He looked at the world of education over past centuries with references to seats of learning and their specialist/reductionist approaches, which has been deemed a success in the eyes of academics and many others. However, that was then and this is now. Another view is that learning can be lateral  –  just look at websites. This form of literacy demands you access information laterally, not sequentially.

Schools need to send young people out to the world of work or further education as lifelong learners keen to engage in learning and not having been put off learning because they’ve been stuffed with content/knowledge in a way that’s put them off for life.

Which brings us to the rationale for Curriculum for Excellence and the purposes namely; successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

In addition to the core areas of literacy and numeracy, Keir outlined the importance of recognising the key 21st century skill set of information handling, problem solving, synthesis and creativity. The curriculum is not an anthology of content, but a development of capability.

Most of us would probably not fare too well if we had to re-sit certain exam papers again; however the issue is not about recalling content, it is about the development of the capacity to think effectively. Education is what remains, when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.

The challenge for schools is to ensure young people are challenged and enjoy their learning. Enjoyment is not the same as fun with a teacher cracking jokes throughout the lesson – it is more that pupils are truly engaged with a sense of purpose, possibly even in a state of ‘flow’ where they are totally engrossed in the activity. Depth in learning is also very important where pupils can see real meaning in their work and are motivated to learn more. Relevance is also a new theme within Curriculum for Excellence. Keir stated that aspects of Personalisation & Choice are more challenging to develop as schools still echo the Victorian organisation of 100 years ago.

Children should have a stake in their own development and teachers should be led to adopt an increased professional self-confidence.

Keir also outlined how school leaders can make a difference. The key thing was to focus on things we can actually do something about. School leaders can make a significant difference in 3 key areas. These are; Pedagogy, Relationships and Innovation. The biggest potential difference for children is in the classroom with their teacher. If a teacher’s practice can improve, this will make a positive difference to learning outcomes for children. Keir’s winning formula in classrooms is for children to have challenging goals and effective feedback.

However, the single most important factor to being ‘a good school’ is the development and nurturing of good relationships.

We look forward to working with Keir during the current session as we seek to develop leadership capacity at all levels in our schools.

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