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.

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 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!



Social justice in schools: our three priorities exercise

A Capture of our three social justice priorities for schools

A Capture of our three social justice priorities for schools

And here is a summary of your priorities:

SELMAS Social justice conference October 2014

You three priorities for better social justice in schools:

Values and learning priorities

Establish Common values.
Discuss values and empowerment.
Ensure core values adopted across school community & challenge those who don’t.
Shared vision and values.
Develop “political literacy.”
Understanding of difference, respect, acceptance.
Staff development CLPL.
CPD for all school community.
Lead by example.
Remind staff of the power to change.
Discuss assumptions/intolerance.
Challenge assumptions.
Encourage diversity of staff to reflect society. 

Achievement for all priorities

Encouraging high expectations.

Growth mindsets

Greater opportunities for all.
Inclusion – achievement for all through in inclusive curriculum.
No exclusion.
Use GIRFEC in theory and practice.


Encouraging connections priorities

Partnerships across agencies.
Parental needs – involving parents.
Value Parental contribution.
Parental engagement.
Involving parents .

Democracy and power priorities

Challenge status quo.
Sharing decision making.
Involving young people in making decisions.
Devolve budgets.
Promote democracy.

Encourage disadvantaged voices in decision making.
Breaking down remaining social structural hierarchies –setting.
Challenge accepted hierarchies.

And a summary of your 3 priorities for better social justice in Scotland

Worlde SJ2

Professional responsibility priorities 

Take our professional responsibility to challenge structures which maintain and reproduce inequality seriously

Challenge the status quo & question political agendas

Working with partners

Develop positive aspirations and mindsets

Democracy and equality priorities 


More devolution of power

More power to communities

Reform Welfare system – funding to tackle deprivation

UNIRC (rights of the child) embedded in legislation

Ensure political commitment and agreed common plan for achieving greater equality

Establish “citizens’ income” or living wage

Introduce child poverty tax


Schooling  priorities 

More focus on EY

Improve quality of EY experience for all

Extend school starting age

GIRFEC is vital


Remove competitive statistical comparisons between schools

Eradicate discrimination of “less good” school

Reduce school segregation faith/private schools



Wider  priorities 

Use of social media to educate

Adverts on TV to promote social justice

Devlop neighbourhood vocational classes/ certificates/apprenticeships

Reinforce family values

Enforce a better work ethic

Encourage less fear around failure and small accidents

Challenge H&S dictats

SELMAS annual conference 2014: social justice – an impossible ideal?

A participant’s perspective…….Danny Murphy shares his thoughts.

The SELMAS Conference this year lived up to its usual high standard, addressing the issue of how schools and school leaders should respond to the issue which is at the centre of Scotlands future: social justice.

There were three excellent speakers. Lesley Riddoch led us off with a mixture of statistics, information and passion – she drew on her work with colleagues in Scandinavia to develop a vision of where we should be going but she also showed a nuanced understanding of the complex interplay of culture, expectations and school systems – change of this kind is a long term project, not a quick fix, but we need to make a start. Alan Williamson, Headteacher at Lasswade High, reminded us that Scottish schools are already doing quite a lot. The new policy environment of Curriculum for Excellence, GIRFEC and the management information tool ‘Insight’ creates a space in which secondary schools are more empowered than before to to bring all children into a meaningful educational experience leading to a positive destination. Sheila Laing, drawing on her work in West Pilton and Prestonpans, revisited Maslow – until children’s basic needs are met, we cannot expect to develop the four capacities of the new curriculum. Key values are ‘respect, nurture, learn.’ It is important for school leaders to be aware who has power and who is powerless in a school community and to share power across the school community. Although as school leaders we cannot do much at a the ‘macro’ level of Scottish policy, we can make a difference by what we do at the ‘meso’ level of the school and what we do makes a difference at the ‘micro’ level of the individual – that’s where we’ve got to start. In among Sheila’s many stories, we’ll all remember Billy – this year he is getting a poppy.

In between the presentations, we discussed the issues raised in smaller groups, sharing perspectives and experiences. One of the great advantages of the SELMAS event is that it brings people from all sectors and all parts of Scotland and there is always some useful discussion and sharing in those informal moments, over coffee and lunch. Each group had to prepare not two stars and a wish, but three wishes for a socially just Scotland and three wishes for socially just schools. These are being collated by the Selmas committee. We won’t have come up with all the answers, but those present will all go back to their various school communities with plenty of good ideas and a renewed sense that we are all part of a common project to make Scotland a better fairer place.

Danny Murphy was keen to share his thoughts about our annual conference on social justice. Danny’s new book ‘Schooling Scotland’, reviewed as a ‘must read for every adult in Scotland’, has just been published by Argyll Press at £7.99. Find out more on Danny’s own blog

Spring Forum Update – more about our speakers

Spring Forum Update - more about our speakers

The SELMAS Forum is totally sold out. That’s a result of the attractive line-up of speakers as well as of the popularity of SELMAS events. The evening starts at 5.30 pm with registration, drinks and chat, with the formal event starting at 6.15. We very much look forward to welcoming you to St George’s.

The speakers are Rosa Murray, General Teaching Council of Scotland; Anne-Marie McGovern, Headteacher, St Benedict’s RC Primary School, Glasgow; and Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Social Services.

Anne Marie McGovern has worked for over thirty years in primary education in some of the most deprived areas identified in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation in Glasgow City. For the last eighteen years she has been a headteacher in Easterhouse in two different schools. She has led each of these through very successful HMIe inspections. Her current school, St Benedict’s was evaluated as excellent across five quality indicators including leadership. In 2007-8 she was given the opportunity of a secondment to work at Directorate level within Education Services as an Area Education Manager for the South East of the city. In this role the Education Managers worked very closely with their Social Work colleagues to improve the outcomes of the young people of Glasgow. Since choosing to return to her school Anne Marie continues to embrace the changes in Scottish Education and the new curriculum, working with colleagues in other services and community groups to improve the life chances of the young citizens of Easterhouse.

Rosa Murray took up appointment with the General Teaching Council for Scotland in August 2004 where she is responsible for promoting and developing Professional Learning and Development Programmes for teachers in Scotland. Recently Rosa has been involved in the development of Learning for sustainability within the Professional Standards and in schools, Previous to this current post she was the Principal Teacher of Religious and Moral Education at St Augustine’s High School. During her time there she was seconded for two years as Development Officer for Religious and Moral Education at the Education Department of Edinburgh City Council. She has also undertaken secondments with SQA and the Scottish Government. She is also a regular contributor to Radio Scotland’s Religious Affairs Broadcasting Programme ‘Thought for Today’ where she provides reflections, from a spiritual perspective, on current events and issues around the world.

Anna Fowlie started with the SSSC on 2 November 2009. Before that Anna headed up the Scottish Government team improving outcomes for Looked After Children. In that role, she worked closely with local authorities and other services to raise awareness and aspiration for children and young people in public care. Anna came to that post from COSLA, where she was Team Leader for Children and Young People, lobbying on behalf of local government on all policy issues relating to education and children’s services with a lead role on the social services workforce. She worked within the Employers’ Organisation role in COSLA, across all local government negotiating bodies. Brought up in Inverness, Anna has an honours degree from Edinburgh University in the History of Art. She is a Chartered Member of the Charted Institute of Personnel and Development and before coming to COSLA worked for 18 years in HR in local authorities.

We very much look forward to welcoming them and all our guests to the forum.

SELMAS is grateful for the support and sponsorship of the Scottish Government.

Social justice links

Spring forum – social justice

Social Justice is our theme for 2014 – the focus of both the Spring Forum and annual conference. I also happen to have been foraging around a bit on this theme for a 1st year seminar I’m teaching next week. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the links I’ve come across, in anticipation of the forum, in case anyone wants to do a bit of advance reading.

Danny Dorling’s book “Injustice” seems to deal with this issue in a very coherent and accessible way – link above. dan

More links to clips of Danny’s talks

Injustice extras

For many educators, Freire is an obvious source in this debate (thanks to Mark Healy @cjane02 on twitter for this link)

Professor Diane Reay is another academic who has a strong interest in social justice and inequality. This thought piece is a good starting point in the social justice in schooling agenda.

Professor Stephen Ball has written extensively on education policy and social class and this thought piece – Education, justice and democracy: The struggle over ignorance and opportunity is well worth reading, in its own right AND as an introduction to the rest of his writing.

Both the above pieces were sourced from the CLASS website a think tank providing this very fertile foraging-ground for shared knowledge of all aspects of social justice.

A free issue of Research Papers in Education with a paper on Academies, Free Schools and Social Justice.

bell hooks talks about ‘the practice of freedom’ as a way of engaging with social justice in education

The annual conference 2014 also worked on the theme of social justice and Lesley Riddoch highlighted the work going on in Nordic Horizons as a useful source of information and discussion.

As part of Nordic Horizons, Pasi Sahlberg shared a presentation on equity he made to the Scottish Parliament scotland-parliament-2012

Lesley Riddoch’s book, Blossom on what it will take to make Scotland flourish addresses issues of power and poverty

If you can think of any further links that might be interesting or useful for the forum please leave a comment and we will add them to our list.
SELMAS is grateful for the support and sponsorship of the Scottish Government.

The ever-popular SELMAS spring forum and other events


Spring is in the air and that means that the SELMAS Forum is due.

Once again we are in the wonderful setting of St George’s School in Edinburgh. The very successful format of drinks, speaker, food, speaker, discussion and more food, speaker, again discussion and more food and panel will be maintained. It is a wonderful opportunity for educationalists across Scotland to meet colleagues, chat, discuss big issues and relax. There will, as ever, be a panel discussion at the end of the evening but we are also planning to encourage discussion at the tables and feedback from the tables after each of the main contributions. The evening starts with drinks from 5.30 pm, with the formal events of the evening starting at 6.15 pm and concluding at 9.00 pm.

This year’s theme is The Challenge of Socially Just Leadership. The speakers, some of the best-informed and challenging presenters in Scottish education, are Rosa Murray of the GTCS, and Anne-Marie McGovern, Headteacher of St Benedict’s Primary in Glasgow.

Social Justice is a key issue on Scotland’s educational agenda. As ever, SELMAS offers the opportunity to participate actively but constructively in the big debates. This will be a superb evening. We are also delighted that this year the quality of SELMAS’s work, including the Forum, has been recognised by a grant from the Scottish Government.

In recent years the Forum has always been a sell-out. Tickets for the evening are £25 per person. As we have done in recent years, we are again offering a discounted price for participants who bring a colleague who has not attended previous SELMAS events: £45 for two places if one of the two is new to SELMAS. Download the booking form below to secure your place.


Please also keep June 3rd free if you’re interested in participating in one of our “pop-up” mini forum events like the Brainstrust event of last May. We’re planning a similar discussion around the developments at SCEL, the Scottish College for Educational Leadership. Watch this space!