Do we really need teachers? #swsl

Here are some thoughts on the necessity of teachers from the young people who attended our recent student leadership event.

Govan High School students on what are teachers for

and here is a blogpost from The Govan High Heidie’s Blog on exactly the same thing!
As a member of the SELMAS committee, I was extremely proud to hear that a team of Govan High School pupils were part of the Student Leadership Conference, hosted by Larbert High School on October 31st. Philip Graham (DHT) has been working with the pupils and accompanied them to the conference. He provided me with this report below, which I have posted as today’s guest blog:

On 31st October, I accompanied three pupils to the SELMAS (SCOTTISH EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SOCIETY) Student Leadership Event, hosted in Larbert High School. This event is the result of several month’s planning by the SELMAS committee who had felt that their organisation needed to hear the student voice. SELMAS has always been keen to involve students in their “adult” conferences, but Alex Wood and Margaret Alcorn of SELMAS had wanted to go to the next level – a conference OF the students, not just one that involves them. And so it was that Govan High was invited to contribute.

The heading that the students had to bear in mind was “The Scary World of Student Leadership: what will education and schools look like in 2023 and how will you play a role in leading that?” and Kristofer Shaw, Jennifer Baird and Katie Hughes set to work preparing their presentations. Jennifer concentrated on “What teachers are for” and made reference to recent examples of ideal teachers, as she saw them, from the media. These were adults who focused on the relationship with their students. Personally, I find a lot in what Jennifer says accords with my own belief that education is primarily about relationships. After all, if the relationship between learners and teachers is sound, the learning is much more likely to flow. Jennifer demonstrated this by using the example of a teacher working with a boy to overcome a stammer – requiring trust, perseverance and inner strength, unconditionally supported by an adult with a sense of belief in the pupil that he could do it.

Kristofer’s presentation was an interactive activity, based on “What teachers will be for” and reinforced Jennifer’s ideas about working together. Asking the audience to work on their own to compile a list of the seven dwarves in the Snow White story, Kristofer asked how many of the audience got seven out of seven (not many!) He then encouraged people to pair up and collaborate (as we do in all workplaces) and observe how the number of top scores improved. Kristofer’s presentation caused me to reflect on how currently, schools still insist on a working model which is entirely irrelevant and completely unrelated to the world of work which we all face after school at some point. Schools often insist that pupils work alone, without collaboration and sometimes do not even focus of Teamwork skills to allow pupils to differentiate copying from collaborating. And yet, never in my working life has any one of the bosses I have had said “And you must do this on your own, without any help from anyone else. Oh and also – close any books that might help you achieve the solution”. Even so, employers still manage to evaluate employee performance without getting them to sit a test in an assembly hall……often the critical factor is how well the employee works with others…

Katie’s presentation was a warm and personal story about her own journey in education. She told the audience of how she had wanted to be a hairdresser and had never really considered any other course of action. Katie’s involvement in the Graduate Programme in school – and the high expectations of her teachers – had opened her eyes to the fact that she had more options than she thought. Katie became aware that if she was prepared to put in the work, University (an option she had never considered) was a realistic aspiration. Katie has a wonderful approach to her aspirations: “I might be a hairdresser one day. But it’ll be because I choose to be a hairdresser; not because I couldn’t think of anything else”.

And so, for me, that concluded a very satisfying conference. Relationships, working together, personalisation and choice. I think if you’re getting those things right, your education system is pretty sound. Just so happens it reminded me of something……

Thank you Philip. And he’s right – it only works…


Student Leadership in action by Ross High School

The Scary World of Student Leadership: what will education and schools look like in 2023 and how will you play a role in leading that?

We all now recognise the importance of listening to the young people in our schools and of developing their capacity to engage directly with us on the big educational issues.
For some time SELMAS has been encouraging the attendance of senior students at our events.  Their contributions and their observations have frequently been sharp and perceptive.
We therefore decided to organise a conference geared to developing schools’ capacities both to listen to the student voice and to encourage it.
Appropriately therefore, on Hallowe’en this year, 31 October, The Scary World of Student Leadership: what will education and schools look like in 2023 and how will you play a role in leading that?  will take place in Larbert High School.
The headline speaker will be Jason White, former Scotland rugby captain, who will bring experience of leadership, of skills development and of working together.  A large part of the day however will be led by young people themselves with contributions from Paradykes Primary School in Midlothian, Roseburn Primary School in Edinburgh, Ross High School (Tranent), St Andrew’s High School (Coatbridge), and Govan High School.  There will also be a session, led by Mark Cunningham, DHT at Castlebrae High School, and Alan McLean, educational psychologist, examining future schools in the contexts of technology and of interpersonal relations and a session led by Neil Craik-Collins and Michelle McAndrew on Ownership of Learning.
We are designing this event particularly for school pupils from P6 to S3 (although several of the presenting students will be S5 and S6), the day will be active and inter-active and we are charging £40 for adults and £10 for school students.  (We are suggesting that there should be at least one member of staff for every five pupils although, of course, we realise that many schools will send smaller delegations than that.)
The day will start with registration from 9.00 to 9.45 am.  There will be a buffet lunch between 12.15 and 1.15 and the event will close at 3.30 pm.
We believe this will be an excellent opportunity for your budding young leaders to meet their peers, to hear of good practice and to reflect on what they want and need from schools.  For school leaders and school staff generally this will offer the opportunity to look to the future and to consider how best to encourage and to hear the voice of our prime service users.
If you wish to book places at the conference, please contact Alex Wood  by email or letter with the number of places you wish to book and he will reserve your places and invoice you.  Finally, please accept our apologies for the relatively short notice for this event.