Brains Trust 3: the Outsiders

We have been quiet on the blog for a while, but we are back in business and very excited about our next event which we are delighted to share with you here: Brains Trust 3: the Outsiders. bt3

In partnership with Polmont Young Offenders’ Institute and with the support of Braes High School, Falkirk we warmly invite you to our discussion forum on:

Wednesday 9th November

at Braes High School, Falkirk


This Brains Trust will build on our recent seam of work on social justice issues, and offers a platform for the voices of  ‘the Outsiders’: the children on the outside margins of our education system, who slip through our fingers often into downward spirals of offending, poverty and harm.

Speakers from Polmont Yong Offenders’ Institute, social work and schools for at-risk young people will offer a brief insight into the challenges they face and the work they do in supporting young people in their care. This will be the starting point for our discussion; contributions from audience are strongly encouraged!

Speakers include:

Charlie Kelly, psychologist at Polmont YOI

Eileen Cumming, Kibble Education and Care Centre

David Noble, Senior Teacher at Hillside School in Aberdour, Fife. Hillside is a residential school for boys with social, emotional and behavioural needs. David is co-founder and host of Radio Edutalk.

Gillian Maxwell, social work.

If you would like to attend this Brains Trust, please register for your FREE TICKET via this eventbrite link

Don’t delay – these events have proven extremely popular in the past. Coffee and Tea will be available on arrival.

Brains Trust – eh??!

What is Brains Trust? For those of you who’ve been before, you’ll remember that these events are quickly organised, pop-up style discussions which arise in response to interest, or as a result of collaborative work we have been doing, or possibly in getting to grips with recent events or policy announcements. This one could be said to represent all three of these stimuli!

Wikipedia has more information on the origins of the term: we like the allusion to a prized body of knowledge or expertise in a given field.This is our aim with Brains Trust – to give space for the discussion of a topic of interest, and hear from expert voices, who might be outside  mainstream channels of communication.

We very much look forward to seeing you on November 9th.

Two events for your diary

Two very important dates for your diary!
16th June  3.00 – 4.00 “A Conversation with Avis Glaze” at Glasgow University. This will be part of the Character Scotland Conference and spaces are very limited.
Book you place here 

9th September SELMAS/Postcards from Scotland Brains Trust
“The Challenges of Equity: What is the role of educational leaders in contributing to strategic, political and cultural change?”. Speakers will include Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Derek Brown, Head of Education at Fife Council and Danny Murphy, author of Schooling Scotland. 
The event will take place in the Malala Building , James Gillespies High School
57 Lauderdale Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH9 1DD

There will be no charge for this event. Places should be booked by emailing

Guest blogpost from Jase Bain, teacher participant at Brainstrust

Curriculum for Excellence is a major shift change in the way we think about education and learning. Initially, the four capacities were prominent, then experience and outcomes, now it’s nationals. I do agree with the SELMAS brains trust panel that the essence of the four capacities has been lost. Furthermore, it seems scandalous that schools are busying themselves developing materials for national qualifications when it is likely that Education Scotland, SQA and private publishing companies are likely to produce materials that can be used in classrooms. However, materials for the broad general education have been out on hold, despite the fact that every secondary school in Scotland could have a different BGE. Is our BGE broken?

Every new initiative in education is about leading change. Our leaders need to be empowered to maximise their resources fully, including buildings, materials and most importantly staff. Major changes in education and budget cuts are meaning that staff are continuing to be stretched and more is being demanded of them, thus meaning that there is less flexibility and creativity within the sector. I feel that being given time to be creative is absolutely critical in providing an education service.

Leadership at all levels is key. Pupils, parents, teachers, principal teachers, deputes, head teachers and education officers all have a part to play in ensuring that cfe is successful. One thing is for sure, cfe is the first of many challenges to face Scottish education in the next 10 years. Some attention and thought is needed on: how schools are accountable, local authority control, furthering professionalism, conditions of service including career structures, and development of the next phase of curriculum for excellence.

#brainstrust – Mark Priestley on input and output regulatory controls

Mark Priestley challenges the forum to think about whether asking questions about autonomy are the right questions to ask and introduces the concepts of input and output regulation, the former of which he suggest we need more of, the latter of which, he suggests erode autonomy, enforce conformity and inhibit change.

Mark Priestley talks about the performativity culture

#brainstrust – Rowena Arshad on interdisciplinarity and silo thinking

Here Rowena talks about the importance of the report for the School of Education at Moray House and highlights the need for more international collaboration and practice based research

Rowena Arshad at #brainstrust

#brainstrust – conformity and performativity : Peter Peacock and Mark Priestley

Mark and Peter respond to Iain White’s question on whether there was any general commitment among local authorities to school autonomy and offer their views on risk aversion and who drives the conformity agenda.

Peter Peacock and Mark Priestley discuss questions of risk aversion and conformity at #brainstrust

#brainstrust – Keir Bloomer on the role of inspection, the Building the Curriculum series, and exams

Keir Bloomer gives his take on how CfE has been interpreted and perceived constraints of the system

KB on inspection BTC etc

By Diverse Means #Brainstrust

The latest SELMAS event on Tuesday 23rd April provoked thoughtful discussion and some challenging questions. Based on the Commission for School Reform’s By Diverse Means report, both audience and panel shared frank and insightful views on curriculum change; constraints and conformity; inspection and governance, autonomy, performativity and regulation. Over the next few days we will update the blog with clips from the discussion. The conversations on these critical issues have really only got off the starting block – please add your own thoughts and contributions through the comments thread and keep them going.

By Diverse Means: discuss the Commission for School Reform’s report at SELMAS #brainstrust

Brainst trust

SELMAS Brains Trust

The Commission on School Reform: By Diverse Means

Drummond Community High School

41 Bellevue Place, Edinburgh EH7 4BS 

4.30 pm – 6.00 pm, Tuesday, 23 April 2013

In November 2011, the think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy set up the Commission on School Reform to consider whether the school system in Scotland is meeting the present and future needs of young people and to make specific recommendations as to how things might be improved or areas that require further enquiry.

The Commission has now reported and its recommendations have the potential to shape the strategic direction of Scottish schooling for decades ahead.

The Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society believes that these key ideas require rigorous discussion and debate. To start that process we are delighted to have secured a panel which includes two members of the Commission, two respected academics and a headteacher to discuss the proposals.

The event will take the form of a Brains Trust. Entry is free and you are invited to join SELMAS and the panel at 4.30 on Tuesday 23 April in Drummond Community High School, Bellevue Place, Edinburgh. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served prior to the commencement of the Brains Trust. Entry is free but to facilitate seating and catering, it is essential to inform Alex by email if you would like to be added to the guest list.

The panel will comprise:

Peter Peacock: Minister for Education and Young people, The Scottish Executive, 2003-2006; member of the Commission on School Reform
Keir Bloomer: former Director of Education; Chairperson of the Commission on School Reform
Professor Mark Priestley :Director of the Curriculum and Pedagogy research programme in the School of Education at Stirling
Dr Rowena Arshad, OBE: Head of the Institute for Education, Community & Society, Edinburgh University; recently appointed Head of Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh University
Donald MacDonald: Headteacher, James Gillespie’s High School, Edinburgh.
Chairperson: Margaret Alcorn, Chairperson, SELMAS

Download the report here