Tagged: CfE

Excellence for All – raising attainment and mentoring

It’s a real pleasure to announce that I have been appointed as Coordinator – Excellence for All. Focussing on attainment and supporting children and young people, I will be working with a range of professionals and organisations to realise the potential of Scotland’s youth. Over the coming months, I will be writing new material and posting it here, archiving presentations and other material within my new blog page.

In the meantime, here is a snapshot which outlines the role:

Excellence for All will support and challenge those children and young people who are deemed to be the most educationally vulnerable and who may be at risk of underachieving. Data analysis and benchmarking standards are achieved at the outset and regularly monitored and tracked throughout the session, in order that an informed evaluation can be presented with clear evidence of impact.

The Strategy, which is still being drawn, will include:

  • Developing a sustainable mentoring scheme.
  • Building capacity to engage children and young people in their learning and assessment.
  • Embedding a culture of all children and young people taking responsibility for their own learning.
  • Further developing effective means to monitor and track the progress of those pupils at risk of underachieving/missing out, in order to maximise attainment and promote achievement.

Do you want to be a Principal Verifier for The SQA?

A successful recruitment programme for the role of Principal Verifier has just been concluded for the new National Qualifications. To complete our team of Principal Verifiers for the new National Qualifications applications are now invited for the following verification groups, which will cover all qualification levels relevant to each subject area.

Cantonese and Mandarin
Chemistry
Dance
Engineering Science
Health and Food Technology
Music
Science

SQA recognises the pivotal role that the Principal Verifiers will play in the successful Quality Assurance of the new National Qualifications. All subject details and application information can be found at www.sqa.org.uk/cfevacancies.

Please circulate to all colleagues who may be interested in these new roles by hitting the SHARE button within this post.

Tackling Youth Unemployment – identifying young people at risk

First things first this is the last time that Ill use the word NEET (Not in Education, Training or Employment). Imagine being a 17 year old, leaving school and being labelled in the negative. It doesnt really say much for your future does it? How depressing…

Upon leaving school (regardless of age) young people enter into either a positive destination or they require support; careers information advice and guidance (IAG) to assist them through their learning journey. I use that term a lot, as I firmly believe that throughout our lives we all experience learning, regardless of setting. And yes, that does include employment.

High quality, impartial IAG is important in helping young people (and others) to make informed decisions about their pathways and future career choices. Careers IAG is a universal entitlement in Scotland – supporting all young people at any stage of career development, whether they choose to learn at school or college, or to develop their career management skills in a work-based or non-formal setting. Indeed, this is reinforced in both the Curriculum for Excellence entitlements and within the 16+ Learning Choices Policy and Practice Framework.

There is a need to re-assert the Government’s commitment to the provision of universal careers services, placing an emphasis on self-help – through developing people’s ability to manage their own career and through a multi-channelled, blended service, with face-to-face and more intensive support for those who need it most.
Most young people will access universal support from Skills Development Scotland during their school career, though others will require a more targetted approach, with early identification required so that resources can be deployed effectively. This process must start at least 12-16 months in advance of the statutory leaving age (in Scotland this is 16 years old) or whenever required by legislation as outlined in the ASL Act and Code of Practice.
An example of such assessment can be found within a risk matrix. The Risk Matrix aims to address the issue of those children and young people at risk. It highlights those most at risk by using a simple assessment technique that assigns a risk value to a number of the pupils attributes. These are configurable by each authority and when added together the resulting number is a quantitative risk assessment for that child. The status of the pupil is identified using colour coding with those most at risk coloured red. This is managed through the school/authority management information system.

The system should assist pastoral staff with the early identification of those pupils slipping towards a high risk category. Hopefully this will allow intervention at an earlier stage. The data is also shared (through the application of robust data sharing agreements) with other parties e.g. colleges of further education. This has the additional benefit of streamlining the post-school transition and is a basic principle of the 16+ Learning Choices Data Hub.

Information is automatically updated to the risk matrix on a nightly basis but can be re-imported at any time if required. Some of the criteria includes attendance; exclusions; post code; attainment; social work and other professional agency engagement; additional support needs and so on.
Of course, this isnt an exact science were talking about young people and they are the most significant variable in the known universe. By that, I mean to say that a young person may be at risk at 10am in the morning and by 2pm the level of risk has diminished, and vice versa. Criteria must never be used alone and so this must be backed-up by professional opinion ideally from a named person from within the school e.g. youth worker or pupil support teacher.

Scottish Education – The Front End vs The Back End

Following from my previous article, here are some random ramblings on Curriculum for Excellence. I’ll produce another article later this week with my concluding thoughts.

Mixed messages and a lack of clarity around the broader implications that CfE brings to education has lead to some misinterpretation. Many teachers still believe that it is all about changing the national qualifications and the assessment criteria, albeit with a splash of contemporary learning and teaching thrown in. With many stresses on the daily routine, finding time to plan and deliver a cooperative lesson or plan interdisciplinary learning across the curriculum is challenging. Yes, where relevant, appropriate and timely – this is a great way of reinforcing a particular lesson; articulating aspects of the curriculum and connecting skills so that they young person’s learning is progressive, integrated and that the experience is not easily forgotten. Unfortunately, there are a few major barriers which are preventing progress within Scottish Education.

Educational leaders, as public managers are accountable to their local authority. The majority are not taking the managed risks that are needed to break the cycle of tradition which is halting progress. This is not their fault, but is a fundamental paradox within the system itself. We have done to CfE, exactly what we wanted to avoid. Tinkering around the edges and enhancing what I call the ‘front end’ of the learning and teaching process. We’ve done an exemplary job here – but it only goes so far. The ‘back end’ of the system, the inspections, the accountability and the qualifications process which is required for university entry is stagnant and rigid. There is little flexibility and as such this transfers to the classroom.

There is a misconception that everything needs an evidence base – it must be measured recorded and evaluated. I wonder what the purpose of that process is? Is it to monitor and track the young person or is it to appease the inspector when they knock on the door? An independent General Teaching Council for Scotland is raising the standard for full and continued registration; yet there remains an inherent lack of trust between the Government, it’s executive agencies, local authorities and teachers. This is then passed down between parents and carers, pupils and teachers and places schools between a rock and a hard place. The impact of recession has not helped either – changing teacher’s terms and conditions and messing about with pensions during such a sensitive time has enlarged the expanding gulf – reinforcing the ‘them and us’ mentaility which prevents creative, innovative approaches. Not many people are willing to stick their heads above the parapet these days and we have fallen to a culture of standardising standards and writing a policy for policy making. There are many teachers who, given the chance, would do things differently if they were not bound by red tape and mis targetted accountability.

I for one, don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have the guts to ask some questions. Why do we need an inspectorate of education? Schools go through the self-evaluation process and they are then held to account – based on evidence and statistics. I’d like to see an education system which measures the longer term outcomes of a young person, not when the leave school at the age of 16, 17 or 18 with a fistful of qualifications. To me, that means very little and it certainly does not reflect the improvements in life chances that we must focus upon. Unfortunately, it takes a brave Government to put aside the immediate story telling – required to win elections, and embed a system of education which realises the potential of a young person well after the term of office has completed. I do not like to drive statistics for the sake of telling a story. If we get it right for every child and young person, the numbers will improve as a result.

Whilst removing inspection and revitalising the statistical infrastructure which underpins Scotland Peforms and the national targets, I recognise that curriculum evaluation is important for many reasons. It provides an opportunity for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an education system so that it can be analysed against an agreed vision and quality criteria. It also informs policy makers and stakeholders with regard to the changes/reforms needed for enhancing the quality of education inputs, processes and outcomes. Moreover, curriculum evaluation points to the capacities to be developed for enhancing the quality of curriculum design, writing and implementation. We need the ability to test, analyse and measure the learning system : adaptability, responsiveness and effectiveness to meet the changing needs of children and young people. This must be embedded into learning and teaching whilst supporting individuals through a modern approach to integrated services, incorporating education, social work and health etc. An education performance framework requires robust monitoring of both the individual and collective progress of children and young people and their achievements: measuring progress throughout the learner’s journey and recognising their outcomes upon leaving school, an episode of learning and when reaching the end of the extended school curriculum.

To this end, I propose a two tier, national framework to measure the success of the education system. This should be based on Integrated Services Performance – the lead indicators which measure across the entire portfolio of services; building capacity and promoting accountability. These should be embedded in a culture of continuous improvement and measured through community partnership planning and local government agreements, and: Organisational Performance – the supplementary indicators which measure schools, colleges and individual services, in the more traditional sense; and promote the need to be more responsive in planning and delivering the curriculum, providing young people with better educational experiences. Such a framework must remove the focus of attainment results in S4, 5 and 6 and instead look across the holistic outcomes. This means removing the current Standard Tables and Charts system and replacing it with a new senior phase benchmarking tool.

When is a school not a school?

I am currently writing an article asking the question – when is a school not a school? I have a bit of a ‘bee in my bonnet’ at present about Curriculum for Excellence – and whether the marriage to Scottish education is actually working.

I believe that a 21st Century Education means that ‘schools’ must produce scientists, musicians, scholars, engineers, trades people and artists if they are to compete in a global, economic market. At present, and this and a tradition thing, we focus too much in churning out young people with as many qualifications as possible simply to drive statistics under the auspices of improving life chances.

How does that enrich the curriculum and produce successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens? The answer is – it doesn’t and that is why we are failing our children and young people.

There are some excellent examples which demonstrate that the CfE philosophy is absolutely the best thing to happen to Scottish education – but there are also some whopping big barriers to progress. Watch this space for my next post – and I apologise in advance it reads as a bit of a rant. I need to get some things off my chest before it is too late!

The Scottish Learning Festival – Dead or Alive?

This year’s Scottish Learning Festival (Twitter #SLF11) is likely to be one to remember – either for better or worse. To be held on 21st and 22nd September, the theme is Curriculum for Excellence: Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Making the Connections.

The conference will also see the highly anticipated ‘launch’ of Scotland’s new executive agency – Education Scotland; a marriage between Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) and Her Majestie’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe). The perpetual role and responsibilities of the ‘support’ and ‘challenge’ aspects of the agency are yet to be communicated in any great detail, though these traditional terms are likely to be ones that The Scottish Government would like to banish into the void; they do not convey the contemporary message which will realise the desired ties between Education Scotland and the learning and teaching profession.

Back in 2008, having attended and presented at a number of consecutive festivals, LTS asked me to produce a short paper which measured the impact of SLF. Given that the next event is almost upon us, I thought that I’d take the time to reflect on my previous thoughts, though I admit that I struggle to conclude whether the event is dead in the water or alive and kicking.

The Scottish Learning Festival is the largest education conference and exhibition of its kind in Scotland. Throughout its twelve year history, the event has been extensively evaluated by Learning and Teaching Scotland to ensure that delegates are benefiting from attendance. However, the real success of whether or not attendance is beneficial is in the long term impact that it has on the delegate and their classroom, school and professional practice. This ensures that the event is continuous throughout the year and not simply a two day event which promotes innovative ideas and an opportunity to network.

I believe that some teachers can have very narrow perspectives when their view is restricted to only one school or classroom and that SLF provides the ideal opportunity to have a fresh and unique overview of education. We have all seen significant change to the curriculum over the last few years and the future promises to bring ever more intensive and stringent reform to the qualification and assessment system. Improving the life chances of our young people and raising self-esteem, self-belief and self-determination, what I call responsible confidence, must be promoted amongst children and young people through a diverse range of creative and innovative pedagogy. By sharing ideas, resources and knowledge we can facilitate the growth and development of such practice to an extent where we provide infrastructure which will firmly support further implementation of Curriculum For Excellence.

I normally feel very excited following attendance at SLF. There aren’t many opportunities to meet with teachers from early years and secondary, colleges and other areas of education all in the same day and this type of perspective gives that broader picture. The conference programme arrives on my desk at exactly the right time. Based on current themes related to the curriculum and teaching practice, I always use it as a starting point to identify my own professional development for the year ahead, and it is an opportunity to see what other people are doing up and down the country. Increasingly, I have met with colleagues from other parts of the United Kingdom and from as far as the United States and Australia – indeed, if they make the effort to attend then so should we.

I do feel however, that in the current economic climate, some teachers may have difficulty achieving time away from the classroom – decreasing staff cover budgets and increasing workloads make attendance challenging – and I don’t know many teachers who attend both days.

I would really like to see the attendance figures from this year’s conference and compare them to those of the past. There could well be some serious questions to be asked. It may well be, despite all the advantages and good points to the event, that it has lived its course and a new approach is now needed. Perhaps, a controversial shift in time is needed, with an opportunity for teachers to attend at the weekend instead; are we given the chance to tune into a live seminar via video conferencing? This would be appealing to those who need to travel from afar and stay overnight – and of course it would provide a valuable record of the discussion. This is especially important, I feel. A record is needed if the conference is to continue impacting on learning and teaching throughout the year.

If you are attending this year, I may well see you there – please do give me a shout and say hello. I’d be interested in your after thoughts – either message me via Twitter (@leeandrewdunn) or send me an email. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions around the future of the event and its impact on your practice. At this moment in time, I’ll sit on the fence.

Setting up my learning and teaching space

With two weeks to go before the start of the new school year, I spent a few days preparing teaching materials and setting up my learning amd teaching space. I teach Design and Technology – Product Design, Engineering Science, Graphic Communication and Craft. I’m really looking forward to my return, and to see what opportunities there are for some policy and curriculum development. Here are some pictures of my classroom (and yes – I do realise how lucky I am to have such a great IT setup!).

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Reporting Curriculum for Excellence Outcomes

Now that Curriculum for Excellence is under implementation, our First Year pupils are being assessed based on their experiences and their outcomes gained from the broad general education. If the terminology – Developing, Consolidating and Secure is new to you, then this video will help. It was produced by my school, for the benefit of the young people and their parents and carers.

Vodpod videos no longer available.