My day at The Scottish Learning Festival #SLF12


The sun was shining and the sky was blue. As I travelled from my house to the local train station, I noticed the morning dew seated upon the grass and the crisp, cold air hung to my breath. The day was fresh and full of promise. At the station, I met a former colleague from Education Scotland and we chatted whilst sharing the journey into Glasgow. From there, my day went like this:

9.30am I went to the Seminar Desk and picked up some tickets which I had not yet booked. My next stop was coffee at Costa Del SECC – networking with friends and colleagues and planning my method of attack (on the exhibition not my colleagues!).

10am I found a quiet corner to review a paper on student centred learning by Geraldine O’Neill and Tom McMahon.

10.15am After finishing my second coffee of the morning (and now getting a little ‘twitchy’) I ventured into the growing mass that was the exhibition hall. My first impression was ‘wow!’ there was a real buzz around the place and lots to see. I was told by an official that there were around 5,700 delegates, which is about the same number as last year. I did think however, that this year’s exhibition was smaller and more compact. I had managed to get around all the stands in about half an hour. Amongst my wonderings, I had a conversation with a chap selling a laser cutter and then I spoke to an SQA colleague about e-assessment (another story!).

10.45am Into the Lomond Auditorium to listen to The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell MSP. Before I get to his speech, I note that the venue was far smaller than in previous years and delegates were packed in like sardines. It was rather uncomfortable – note to Education Scotland – get a bigger venue next year! I’m not going to paraphrase the entire speech made by Mike, but here are some choice quotes (and I will ignore his comment about enlightended politicians!):

“Education must be freely available to all”   “Equality is the link between education and poverty”   “Scotland has a high calibre teaching profession”   “We need an ICT infrastructure that supports the aims and ambitions of Curriculum for Excellence” 

There were lots of messages around the next generation GLOW platform, new STEM groups and a re-design of Engage for Education. Some choice words around budget issues within the central/local government issue (which did not amount to anything). There is no doubt however, that Mike puts on a good show and indeed, I have contacted him a few times to comment on CfE policy and implementation and he has always replied and entered into a conversation with me. Not many Ministers would do the same.

12noon From there, I met another colleague for lunch on the main concourse (which cost an arm and a leg). Note to self – take my own lunch next time!

12.30pm Onto another seminar – Designing Creative Learning Journeys. This was a really interesting one and I picked up a number of useful concepts from the good people at Stirling and Clackmannanshire Councils.

1.15pm A quick break, another coffee and back into the main hall.

1.45pm Next seminar – Skills for Learning, Life and Work – a Highland Council perspective. This was also interesting but as my background sits in 16+ Learning Choices and More Choices More Chances, I didn’t learn anything new.

3pm My final seminar of the day – Teaching Scotland’s Future – Practitioner Enquiry. This was delived by a colleague from The University of Glasgow and a Primary HT from Edinburgh. The seminar was well structured and I did actually pick up one or two nuggets to use in my own professional development.

4pm Into town to catch my train home.

To conclude, I did enjoy my day and it was worthwhile attending. I somehow feel however, that the whole festival was smaller and more dynamic than in previous years. There were many organisations selling / promoting products and services and I overheard some colleagues intimating that some seminars had fell a little flat. By far, the best opportunity is for networking and chatting with like minded people who share a passion for education, learning and teaching. SLF has been on the go now for a number of years and perhaps it is time for a change of format… though at this stage I am not quite sure what that change should be. Overall impression – a good event but something was lacking and I can’t quite put my finger on what it was… these of course, are my own opinions and you are welcome to either agree or not.

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