Annual Conference: “Changing Futures: Believing in our young people.”

BOOKING NOW OPEN

Following last year’s highly successful conference in the Caves, on the theme of “Equity and Aspiration in Education”, booking is now open for this year’s event.

The theme will be “Changing Futures: Believing in our young people” chosen by the SELMAS Committee to continue the focus on issues related to the educational experiences of those young people whose needs are not being met by our current system. As always we have signed up a number of spirited and challenging speakers to stimulate discussion and reflection.

These will include:
John Swinney MSP, our Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills who will outline current Government strategies designed to “Close the Gap.”
Mairi Breen, headteacher of Braehead Primary School who will describe how her teachers are making a real and lasting difference to children in their school who are living in poverty.
John Carnochan who as a senior police officer worked for many years in some of the most deprived communities in Scotland where the levels of poverty and deprivation were usually matched by a sense of hopelessness and disconnection from society.
Cathy McCulloch, Co-Director of the Children’s Parliament which works with children in the context of family, school and community. The Parliament connects children with each other, with adults, with their communities and allows them to influence the development of better services for children.
Sarah-Jane Linton and some of the young people from Who Cares? Scotland which is a national voluntary organisation, working with care experienced young people and care leavers across Scotland.
As always the Conference aims to offer stimulating and creative thinking around this key issue for all educators, and an opportunity to engage with others in thought-provoking discussion.

The venue is the Radisson Blu Hotel, 80 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH and the date is February 2nd 2017

Book via eventbrite: http://bit.ly/SELMAS020217
This conference is supported by and in partnership with SCEL, the Scottish College for educational Leadership
SCEL

An account of the SELMAS annual conference from Jayne Horsburgh –

Equity and Aspiration in Education; The Caves, Edinburgh

Reflecting on the conference I was struck by one particular issue raised by Carol Craig, Chief Executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being and author of ‘The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence’. After the last few months of witnessing the unfolding of the refugee crisis in Europe, 13 November saw two opposite and equally momentous events unfolding. At almost the same time as Scotland welcomed the first group of refugees from Syria and offered a hand of friendship and opportunity, the people of Paris were subjected to a horrific attack on their liberty. I considered how the values of equity and aspiration are reflected in completely opposite ways in these events and Carol Craig raised this very issue in her keynote address.

Carol spoke of the way in which the balance of equality and equity in society equate to citizens’ general sense of self-esteem. She explained to the conference how research indicates that, as these values decline, low self-esteem becomes a breeding ground for the outworking of actions such as bullying and race related violence by those who feel they are at the bottom off the social pecking order as they seek out others whom they see as even lower than they are to blame and lash out at. I contemplated whether or not this might be part of what we are witnessing in the sink estates of Paris?

On a lighter note ….

This year’s conference was organised to take place in a unique venue and at the outset Neil Craik-Collins provided us with an insight into its historical significance. During the 18th Century the Caves were one of the venues used by the Oyster Club whose members included James Hutton (father of modern geology) David Hume (philosopher), Joseph Black (chemist) and Adam Smith (economist). Members engaged in deep thinking and debate about the issues of the day, this we intended to emulate while stopping short of eating oysters, drinking claret, and indulging in communal orgy!!

Neil reminded us that, although Adam Smith is remembered as an economist and is often misquoted in the context of capitalist thinking, his intent was to ensure that an economic system would provide an equitable society where every worker would have the means to “wear a linen shirt”.

Our own Oyster Club namesake, Professor Walter Hume provided the first keynote address .Walter, by his own admission, is well known for disturbing the status quo and did not disappoint!

His amusing and yet incisive comments challenged current political policies aimed at ‘Closing the Gap’ and raising attainment as inadequate since school equality on its own will not achieve social equality while reminding us of the notoriety of politics as a short term game where politicians often use “policy a spectacle” [e.g. standardised testing?] and only add to the problem.

Considering leadership he questioned the current emphasis on school leadership, pushing responsibility (and blame?) onto head teachers while their hands are tied by the policy makers. How would you assess the quality of leadership at the upper levels of the educational establishment?

So…..what impact is all of the policy making, discussion and debate really having on young people? Care leaver, ex young carer and now poverty campaigner, Chris Kilkenny’s (twitter: @KilkennyChris) experience, in a society which prides itself on providing free education for all, provided a real wake up call. As a young boy Chris’s story was used as part of the ‘Wrong Trainers’ series and he explained how his choices at school were limited because there was no money in the family to pay for things like Home Economics, school trips etc.  Without blame or self-pity Chris articulated how it really is and what really can make a difference to a young person in poverty. His solutions were not sweeping policy changes or grandiose schemes but a considered plea to simply care. Care about the young people in your class, school and community. Ask if they are OK? Keep asking even if they reject you, don’t let anyone be invisible, make sure education really is free. Chris challenged us to consider: What one thing could you do to make a difference to one young person today?

Jim McColl has certainly taken that challenge personally and is currently making a real difference to the lives of the young people who now attend Newlands Junior College, Glasgow. Seeking to close the ‘opportunity gap’ for ‘young people who are trapped’ in the poverty cycle, Jim echoed Chris’s plea for relationship building with the young people and their families, challenging the lack of parity between vocational and academic education. While I admire this initiative and am grateful that someone is indeed doing his bit to make a difference, it seems to me unfortunate that Jim has had to develop an independent school in order to achieve this. Perhaps GIRFEC really means that there is a need to provide more appropriate provision to meet the needs of our young people in more diverse ways and not maintain what we have been guilty of in recent years i.e. an interpretation of inclusion which forces the impossible on comprehensive schools, expecting them to be ‘all things to all men’ and recognising that one size will not fit all!

Meanwhile, within the state system, Gerry Lyons was able to provide a positive and encouraging account of his very successful comprehensive school where 67% of the young people live in homes on the lowest 15% income brackets. Using what he says staff affectionately call a ‘Stalinist’ approach his mantra is “never settle for second best”. By applying this to every aspect of schooling from employing the best teachers to assertively encouraging and supporting young people, he described obstacles as things which you can jump over or get around but commented that sometimes you just have to have the courage to barge through them. Schools need to have ‘extra mile’ people who are committed to doing everything they can to help  young people achieve to the best of their ability. For me another reminder that whatever the policy makers decide it’s relationships with the young people and their families that will make the difference. Everybody needs to be doing the right thing Gerry challenged us to consider……….. What is your right thing?

While the Cabinet Secretary for Education reminded us that the government is committed to equity and excellence I came away encouraged that there is a recognition and a will amongst professionals who recognise that equity is not just about school education, it is about the whole system surrounding families and communities and not ignoring the resources the people themselves bring.

Schools can however be the places which make a real difference for young people. Lead by head teachers who have the courage and the conviction to make decisions about budgets, about people, about curriculum structures and about partnership working that will sustain a culture where not only young people, but professionals themselves, are encouraged, supported and given permission to do the right thing.

Jayne Horsburgh, SELMAS committee member

SELMAS’ response to National Improvement Framework Consultation

A sub-group Committee gathered under the auspices of the Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (SELMAS), on October 6th 2015 to consider the National Improvement Framework. The comments contained in this paper reflect the discussion that took place.  In the time available it has not been possible to consult more widely with colleagues who attend SELMAS events, so this should not be assumed to represent the views of SELMAS, but only those of the sub-group. The resulting response is shared in the link below.

NationalFrameworkresponse1

Meeting with Angela Constance MSP 2nd April 2015

Dr Judith McClure

Margaret Alcorn

Simon Macaulay

We three arrived early on a beautiful Spring afternoon for our meeting with AngelaConstance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. The meeting had been set up by Dr Judith McClure who has a CV rich in leadership experiences. Currently she is the Chair of the Advisory Board of SCSSA, and is the architect and convenor of SCEN (The Scotland China Education Network). Each of us had given notice of an area of leadership that we hoped to discuss with Ms Constance. Judith’s centred on the role of headteachers in relation to the local authorities, and how they can be empowered to be innovative and freed up from central control and bureaucracy. Our conversation strayed into a wider discussion of the difficulties that local authorities are currently facing, as budget cuts begin to really bite and the capacity for officers to support schools decreases. Judith argued that change was needed urgently and referred to the recommendations made in the By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education report. I was next up and had very cleverly (well I thought so) combined two related issues. I wanted to talk about our continuing failure to close the attainment gap, an issue which Sir John Jones suggested should be causing us “righteous indignation”. A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation “Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Scotland 2015” acknowledged that progress had been made, but that on current projections it will take a further 30 years before the gap is closed. This is a clear concern of the Scottish Government and we welcomed the setting up of “The Attainment Challenge” and the allocation of a £100 million fund to improve educational outcomes. I argued that innovative and committed leadership of this initiative was needed in order to ensure success from this investment. I suggested that we should seek a charismatic and inspirational leader to create a clear vision, and ensure coherence and consistency. There were some interesting international comparisons which could inform the project, and the leaders of these, such as Avis Glaze who led the transformation of the Ontario education system, or Sir Tim Brighouse who did so much to bring success to the schools involved in the London Challenge could act as consultants for us. I further suggested that the usual model of a central group of experts deciding what needed to be done, the production of “support materials” and a website, launched by a national event, with the implementation then monitored by the experts, was no longer viable and did not reflect research evidence of what makes for effective change management. We needed locally‐driven, bottom‐up, flexible developments which acknowledged local teachers, parents, community members and pupils as the experts.

My second (related) issue was the need to address support for schools in implementing Scotland’s Young Workforce. Again the theme of locally‐owned change seemed relevant. The third member of our group was Simon Macaulay who led the Scottish Government’s Working Group on Languages 2012, and is an honorary teaching fellow at the university of Aberdeen. Simon has become particularly concerned with the development of the teaching of Mandarin in our schools. He asked that the Scottish Government gave a message to secondary headteachers that Curriculum for Excellence does not aim to a narrowing of the curriculum in S4 and that languages, especially Chinese, should be an entitlement for all young people in the Senior Phase. Simon reflected on the good progress that was being made in the 1 + 2 Languages Plan, particularly in the primary sector, but argued he was concerned that the learning of languages in our high schools seemed to be in decline.

The Cabinet Secretary engaged positively with the points that we made, but said she believed that many of our suggestions were concerns for the local authorities rather than for Scottish Government. She was unwilling to become too engaged in pointing fingers or making judgements on local issues. She reiterated the absolute commitment of the Government to the 1+2 Plan, and acknowledged the importance of learning languages to the development of young people. However the balance between empowering headteachers to be more innovative, and offering central direction was a difficult one to maintain. She had been very impressed with the ambition, methodology and scope of the “Raising Attainment for All Programme”which had been launched in June of last year. Twelve local authorities and over 100 schools across Scotland have committed to becoming part of this learning community which will support the implementation of improvement methodology and enable shared learning across the country. The focus in this programme is very much on collaboration in the service of improvements for children.

Finally the Cabinet Secretary also reminded us that there were many positive developments, such as the launch of SCEL (the Scottish College for Education Leadership), the new and developing partnerships between local authorities and universities, and the allocation of significant funds through the Attainment Challenge. The progress made since the publication of Teaching Scotland’s Future in 2010 would be reviewed in a series of legacy events over the next few months.