Risk and Change Conference – presentations

We don’t like you to miss out so, in case you missed it,  here is the full programme from our recent conference with presentations embedded, where possible in the presenter’s name. Here are some SELMAS members and speakers working hard on the day!

SELMAS Conference: 6th February 2018

Risk and Change: The Challenge of Leadership

Jay Helbert Head teacher Glassary Primary School and Tayvallich Pre-school                and Primary School

 Lesley Riddoch Commentator, broadcaster and author

 Practitioner session: Gillian Hunt:  Independent Educational Consultant

Janice Macinnes Senior Education Manager (Early Years), Schools and Lifelong             Learning, City of Edinburgh Counci

Fiona MacDonald  Head teacher, Cross Arthurlie Primary

Kate_ROBINSON_ Head of Strategic Operations, HundrED

Anthony Dunn  Working with schools to transform internal and extended communities


Louis Moore – Louis’ Eggs. Student entrepreneur

Practitioner session 2: Gillian Hunt,  Stephen Ross Head teacher Craigroyston High School, John Davis    Professor of Childhood Inclusion, University of Edinburgh

John Swinney  Deputy First Minister

Conversation – DFM and Keir Bloomer

Reflections : Keir Bloomer Independent Educational Consultant


SELMAS Brains Trust: A free seminar open to all

Worlde SJ2

22 March 2018, 4.00-6.00pm:

Inverkeithing Primary School, Hillend Road, Inverkeithing, KY11 1PL

Leading in  time of significant change

Come and discuss  with Peter McNaughton, Head of Service, Fife Council.

Book your place on eventbrite now – don’t delay!


The biggest challenge we face as educators in 2018 is to deliver on the promise of Curriculum for Excellence. It can be argued that we are too far into what is inaccurately known as the ‘new’ curriculum, to cite its ‘newness’ as the reason the anticipated improvement in achievement and attainment for children across the board has yet to materialise, or to explain why international comparisons fail to show that Scottish education is once again moving towards its rightful status as a world leader.

Peter is Head of Service in the Education and Children’s Services Directorate in Fife Council. As a former HMI and with a wealth of experience in school improvement, Peter will give his honest and unequivocal assessment of the successes and failures along the way, as teachers have worked to implement Curriculum for Excellence. He will suggest where we go from here in addressing the issues and realising the ambitions we have for all our young people.

Come along and hear what Peter has to say, then engage with him and with colleagues in discussing how we can Make Scottish Education Great for every single child and young person.

We are grateful to Inverkeithing Primary School for hosting this SELMAS Brains Trust, which is a FREE event, open to ALL with an interest in this important issue. Inverkeithing is readily accessible from the Queensferry Crossing and by train. Support us as we try to move more SELMAS events outwith Edinburgh


 SAVE THE DATEpptxSELMAS Forum: Coming soon

17 May 2018, 6.00 – 9.00pm

St Georges School, Edinburgh

More details soon on https://welcometoselmas.wordpress.com/

The Child Outside the System: SELMAS Forum 2017 by Jay Helbert


This is a guest post from Jay Helbert of SCEL. Jay chaired this year’s forum and also wrote this interesting reflection about his impressions of it – thanks on two counts, Jay, from your friends at SELMAS.

This year’s forum took place at St George’s School, Edinburgh with a focus on the child outside the system.  This was my first time at a SELMAS forum and as chair, I took this as an opportunity to challenge those in attendance to be provocative, think creatively and be brave in their conversations and beyond.  This is not to say I think teachers and education leaders are fearty or faint of heart.  In fact to do the very jobs we do requires great doses of fortitude, courage and resilience.  Rather the challenge was to use the forum as a space to imagine and think beyond the system.

We were joined at the forum by a number of innovative thinkers who, more importantly are also innovative doers.  First of all, Paul Blackwell, of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service told us of how a chance conversation with a colleague in Police Scotland led to him tackling the issue of gang violence and anti-social behaviour.  This is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when people think beyond the traditional and prescribed parameters of one’s role or agency to create sustained change.  Paul’s message was clear and reflected what was to become a theme of the forum:

“Be the person who brings change about, often it starts with you.”  His philosophy of developing solutions with gang members rather than delivering solutions to them, or worse doing things to them is an example of genuine engagement.

The second speaker of the night was Fiona McKenzie, a former music teacher who now runs Centre Stage Communities Ltd, an organisation that uses the arts (and food) to engage people of all ages – current members range from 3 weeks to 106 years old.  Fiona’s talk achieved that rarest of things by having people laughing one moment and choked up the next.  This wasn’t mere ‘edutainment’ though.  Fiona discussed her team meetings where, when new ideas are discussed, staff are encouraged to ask, “What’s the best that can happen?”.  This take on an old question shifts the emphasis to encourage people to imagine a preferred future and then set about making it happen.

He drew a circle that shut me out –

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

–          Outwitted by Edward Markham


Fiona was followed by Ian MacMillan, an experienced leader from the financial industry and third sector.  Ian is a non-executive director and chair of Cyrenians, a charity that re-engages those who are excluded, from education, employment or society. Ian was very honest about the fact that teachers and school leaders face a wide range of challenges, from bureaucratic demands, through to the changing nature of curricula and assessment arrangements.  He did, however encourage us all to remember the passion we have for education and continue to kindle the spark that glows within.

“You can’t light the spark in others of it’s not burning brightly within – the greatest thing a teacher does is light a spark, create a trigger moment which creates passion, confidence and allows learners to be free.”

Ian shared his learning from David Marquet’s experiences as a submarine commander when he turned USS Santa Fe from the worst rated ship in the US Navy, into the best.  The key messages can be found in this inspirational and short video clip.

Our final speaker of the night was Gillian Hunt, who reminded us of some stark statistics about the number of young people who leave school without a ‘positive destination’ or more worryingly without a sustained positive destination that enable independent living and positive life experiences.  Many children leave school at 16, but moany of these have disengaged by time they are in second year.  Again Gillian was clear that the majority of young people are engaged in school and are served well by schools, however she is seeking a solution for those to whom school is perhaps not the most conducive environment for learning.  Inspired by Newlands Junior College, Gillian is working with a range of partners from the public, private and third sectors to establish a junior college in Edinburgh.

The forum finished with a very lively panel session where we explored the question – should we have to leave the system to bring about real change?  This led to some deep discussion about the definition of ‘the system’ (are we not all the system?), the power of Mavericks (should we subvert the rules if we know it is the right thing to do?  If so what risks do we take?) and how any individual can change such a vast system (one lone actor can seem like a nut, but when followers join, you have a movement).

“We but mirror the world.  All of the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we change ourselves then the tendencies in the world will change.”  Mohandas Gandhi.

Throughout the night, I was reminded of an analogy my first head teacher, used to use; some people are like thermometers – they are good at telling you it’s too cold.  Others are like thermostats – they figure out that it’s too cold and then do something about it.

It’s up to you folks.  Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?


Personal Note: This blog is a personal reflection of the night as experienced through my eyes and ears.  The beauty of SELMAS forum is that because of the structure and wonderful people present, every single person will have had a unique experience – it would be great to hear yours.



Our BIG Ideas from Changing Futures 2017

Flickr Photo: Big Idea by moore.owen38 – CC BY

Participants at our annual conference were treated to a range of talks, discussions and challenges around equity and education of young people on the margins of our system. Over the course of the day, everyone was invited to share a ‘Big Idea’ describing a reflection, action, or intention that was generated at the conference, and here they all are!

Our Big Ideas

o Every child in school needs a mentor with whom they feel connected

o Would changing the school holiday system help to support the most vulnerable, with emphasis on the development of a more holistic approach to education?

o Key components of success:

– notice and be noticed

– hope

– kindness

– breaking the cycle

– resilience

– empathy

– compassion

– local action

o How do we upskill teachers to practically and effectively support behaviour management?

o Recruitment drive to place well qualified , motivated staff in schools

o End the private school system

o John Swinney didn’t mention the responsibilities and contribution that parents/carers must assume at the earliest stages of a child’s life to get success. Is it conceivable that in years to come these vital people will be equipped to make that vital contribution?

o Regardless of SIMD or free school meal entitlement, there are more emotionally vulnerable pupils in our schools. We need counsellors to support these individuals and the budget to do it

o A one year “Working with Families” element of every undergraduate course where police, Social Workers, Education, Health, the Voluntary sector, Leisure, etc all learn together!! We train professionas separately then expect them to be holistic

o Relationships make a difference – small acts of kindness like smiling, welcoming families at school gate, asking, “How are you?”

o Restructuring of education – a move away from age and stage towards what young people need/want to be taught at a time that suits them.

o Upskilling parents to support their child

o Resilience

o Building trust

o Holistic support from birth

o Mental health practitioner in schools

o Has anyone closed the gap? How did they do it?

o How can we be creative and strategic in Edinburgh with attainment funds?

We need more family support workers in our schools and be as focused on how children/young people experience school and not just what they learn. Are they included, cared for and believed in?

o More training on mental health awareness and the impact it has on children and young people

o Does the Government see/feel that increased pressure on schools in terms of publishing standardised test results could conflict with the opportunities to be creative and courageous with pupil equity funding?

o If no more money, then adults spending time, building relationships. Fewer leading lessons – class sizes?

o Most adults who have had adverse childhood experiences say that they need 1:1 support from a trusted adult in school. As a teacher it frustrates me that specialised supports are not readily available and are usually services that are first to be cut when saving budgets,

o Too much/too little time testing? S4-s6 spend one third of their time doing exams, but literacy/numeracy declining?

o Scottish pilots – Pilrig or others? Starting school aged 7, more nursery instead?

Annual Conference 2017: Jamie’s reflections


The first in a series of reflections from some participants at our annual conference, Changing Futures, on Thursday 2nd February 2017. More to come! Jamie is a youth and community worker with the Spartans Community Football Academy – a new type of school that’s about a whole lot more than football! Find out more on this link, or contact Spartans directly – details below.



The day kicked off with a review of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study, which looked at the impact of ACE experiences on the child and how this impacts in later life. Some examples of this are:

–       Children who suffer ACE’s but have someone to talk to are

less likely to suffer substance abuse and/or crime issues.

–       Children who suffer ACE’S are likely to suffer the consequences of these later in life.

–       Children with 4 or more ACE’s are 32 times more likely to have difficulties with learning.


We heard the stories of two volunteers, who have both had ACE’s, who have now turned their lives around – one who spent significant time in a mental health institute and the other who is a recovered heroin addict. These young people are now volunteers from the Turn Your Life Around.


The woman who had previously been in a mental institute (amongst several other issues) has now set up her own social enterprise called Real Talk: Storytelling for Mental Wellbeing.

The second volunteer is also now working with a charity called Aid and Abet.

It was particularly interesting to hear the story of Tracy Berry from Forthview Primary School, who is the Family Support Teacher. Her sole job is to engage and build rp1040336elationships with the parents of pupils at the school. Eileen Littlewood, headteacher at Forthview, says Tracy’s success has “literally saved lives”. She spoke a lot about the importance of helping the parents and the evidence that points towards this directly helping young people in education.


I particularly enjoyed about hearing from two Care Experienced Campaigners from Who Cares? They described their experiences of living in the care system and how they believe it  can be improved.


John Carnochan – an “interested bystander” spoke at length about how he believes the education system can be improved – in particular proposed that children shouldn’t start school until they are 7.



Jamie Tomkinson

Youth and Community Worker


The Spartans Community Football Academy

94 Pilton Drive, Edinburgh EH5 2HF

0131 552 7854




Unlocking Leadership and Management Potential in Different Contexts

An account of the BELMAS Conference (8th – 10th July 2016) by SELMAS convenor, Margaret Alcorn


For several years SELMAS has maintained a relationship with our sister organization BELMAS. This year, as in past years the BELMAS Committee invited a member of SELMAS to attend the annual Conference. After discussion at our committee it was agreed that I should attend on behalf of our organization


The conference was very different in scale, audience and atmosphere to our own annual event.  A total of 180+ delegates, almost exclusively drawn from academic circles, gathered for two intense days with 3 keynotes and a total of around 50 different sessions to choose from. The mood was very positive as many delegates connected with familiar faces, or indeed with those previously known only through social media. A significant proportion of the attendees (around 25%) were from overseas. This offered lots of new insights and different perceptions to emerge in discussions.


Day one started with a description of the work of the “RIGS”, the research interest groups which offer Belmas members an opportunity to share research, inquiry and knowledge in particular areas. Also on day one, two sessions were offered and I attended a roundtable discussion on “Unlocking leadership and management potential through a joint secondary/HEI partnership”. My second choice was “A key to inspired post-graduate leadership learning in regional Australia”


Day 2 started with Professor Stephan Huber of the Institute for the Management and Economics of Education at the University of Teacher Education in Zug, Switzerland who spoke about, “School Leadership Practices and Health”.  The second keynote of the day was from Philip Hallinger, an internationally recognised Asia based scholar, who addressed the issue of “Accelerating the Development of a Global Knowledge Base in Educational Leadership and Management”.  A further 3 sessions left us ready for the Banquet Dinner that evening.


The keynote on Day 3 was much more familiar to SELMAS people. Our very own Sheila Laing from East Lothian talked about “School Justice Leadership in Different Scottish School Contexts”. She took as her theme the Lao Tze quote, “Go to the people, live with them, start with what they have, build with them, and when the deed is done, the mission accomplished, they will say, “We have done it for ourselves”.


So – a very busy and intense learning experience, offering me lots of new learning. The atmosphere was friendly and informal, however although there were a few sessions which described joint HEI/practitioner projects, the focus was overwhelmingly on academic research. Lots more information about the conference can be found here.

SELMAS annual forum tickets now on sale

 “Closing the Achievement Gap: An Impossible Challenge?”


We  cordially invite you to register for our much anticipated annual forum

 “Closing the Achievement Gap: An Impossible Challenge?”

May 12th 6.00pm (Drinks from 5.30pm)

St George’s School Conference Centre

Garscube Terrace
EH12 6BG


Register online with eventbrite

£32 per person or £35 per person with invoice payment


  Food for thought will be provided by our speakers:

sb Sue Brooks Governor of Polmont Young Offenders Institute

Sue Brookes joined SPS in 1987 as a Prison Governor and has worked in 8 establishments in Scotland with all types of offenders ( of all sentence lengths), as well as spending two periods in SPS Headquarters  engaged in organisational policy and planning and a short time on project development at the Scottish Prison Service College .

Sues’ current operational posting is as Governor of HMYOI Polmont working with young men aged 16-21. Most of her career has been spent working with high risk, long term male offenders, often in small unit settings, though she was also Governor of Cornton Vale (Scotlands prison for women) between 2002-2006 , and Governor of Edinburgh Prison before transfer to Polmont.

Sues’ most recent previous role in HQ as Head of Offender Strategy and Partnership Development included close liaison with the Community Justice Authorities and the Scottish Governments’ Reducing Reoffending Programme. Sue has contributed to the development of SPS strategy for both  Women and Young People in custody and in 1997  wrote the ‘ACT’ strategy which continues to form the basis of the SPS approach to the care of vulnerable prisoners. Sue was also responsible for a national review of SPS incident management policy and practice in recent years.

Sue was previously a Board member of Families Outside , APEX Scotland and  a member of the Sentencing Commission for Scotland. She has participated in or given evidence to  a range of Scottish Government policy development groups and scrutiny bodies and worked closely with Local Authority partners whilst in HQ and establishment roles.

Sue holds an LLB in Law from Oxford, an MSC in criminology from Edinburgh and an MBA from the Open University and is married with three children.

Paul Reynolds

Paul Reynolds

Paul Reynolds Headteacher  Ross High School

Raised in Lanarkshire and finishing his schooling in the States, Paul went on to study Physics at St. Andrews University.  He started his teaching career in Zambia through Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) before returning to teach in St Modan’s, Stirling.  Paul then moved to the Highlands where he taught Maths and Physics in Mallaig HS, eventually becoming PT Guidance.  In 2006 he started as the Curriculum DHT in Lochaber HS, Fort William.  After 5 years he moved remit to Pupil Support.  In 2013 he became the Head Teacher of Ross High School in Tranent.  He has a strong belief in the importance of Education for all and this rests firmly in the Aims and Values of the school.  When not in school, Paul enjoys spending time with his wife, Emma, and two young children, Ruby and Nina; with the occasional trip to Gullane Golf Course.  As part of the Senior Management Education Board in East Lothian he is part of the strategic group in the Council looking at how best to raise attainment for all children.

Craig Munro Executive Director, Education and Children’s Services, Fife Council.

Craig Munro December 2015 #2


Craig was appointed as Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services in Fife Council in December 2013, overseeing Education and Learning, Children and Families Social Work and Criminal Justice. Craig was previously Strategic Director at Education Scotland with responsibility for school inspections, implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), performance improvement and corporate strategy. He started his career as a physics teacher in Perth and has held various school leadership roles in Perth and Fife before being appointed as Head of Education in Fife in 2007.


Craig speaks regularly at national conferences and has been involved in a range of boards advising on many aspects of national policy development. He is the Chair of the ADES Director’s Forum and is currently a member of the strategic board developing the National Improvement Framework as well as the CfE Implementation Board.


Joe Wilson Youthlink Scotland, Scottish Learning Partnership127df83

Joe  is the former Chief Executive of the College Development Network and  currently an Independent Educational Consultant working on a number of assignments for Awarding bodies, Universities and public agencies across UK and internationally.

He is currently one of the UK Ambassadors for the Association of Learning Technology, A Microsoft Innovative Educator, Board Member of Youth Link Scotland and a Trustee of the Clyde Foundation.

He has also been a non-executive director and board member of the SCQF Partnership, The Scottish Adult Learning Partnership and served on a number of College Boards of Management.

Previously he has been – Head of New Ventures and Business Manager at the Scottish Qualifications Authority, senior Project Manager at the Scottish Further Education Unit, and held a number of management posts in Colleges.

Joe began his career in education as a teacher of English and History

His interests lie in bridging the academic/vocational divide; the skill sets and cultural changes needed to embrace digital change in learning; quality and standards in vocational education.

An active blogger and tweeter you can follow Joe on his blog www.joewilsons.net or @joecar on twitter

He holds an MA (hons) , MBA, DipEd and PGCSE but increasingly develops his skills through massive open on-line programmes from a range of global providers and is building up a collection of open badges and new forms of credential.

Joe lives in Glasgow with wife , two children , two cats and an 80 year old  tortoise.


 Between courses of excellent food accompanied by a glass of wine, you will have the opportunity to discuss your thoughts and ideas, and join in the debate with colleagues from different educational settings. You can then put your questions and comments to the panel at the end of the evening.


The evening will be hosted by Margaret Alcorn, Convenor of SELMAS and chaired by Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive Officer, Edinburgh Cyrenians. We look forward to seeing you there!