Character Scotland and SELMAS discussion 27th January 2015

On Wednesday 27th January a group of educators from various sectors gathered in the rather splendid surroundings of the court room, University of Strathclyde for a discussion of the manifestations of character in educational practice. Margaret Alcorn of SELMAS chaired the evening and introduced speakers from higher education (Dr Joan Mowat), the Improvement Service (Colin Mair) and Kilmarnock Academy (Ben Davis) . Gary Walsh of Character Scotland introduced the evening and gave a summary of his recent survey. The speakers kindly let us record their talks.

Ben Davis gave a fascinating and inspiring account of the work  going on in his school to develop character through strong ethos and creating a culture of love and care -making no apologies for the terminology. Listen to Ben’s talk here:


This is a capture of the St Joseph’s manifesto, written by a group of S4 students:

photo 2

Colin Mair, Chief Executive of the Improvement Service discussed schools as a force for good within the context of the wider systems within which we operate- again he gave a lively and insightful perspective on these significant and strategic  issues which you can listen to here:

#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

SELMAS 2009 – a brief report from Margaret

Selmas Conference 2009

The Impact of Change

11th September 2009

Once again education leaders from all over Scotland gathered in Stirling for the annual Selmas conference.

As in previous years conference was addressed by the Cabinet Secretary. Fiona Hyslop MSP who spoke of the increase in spending on education by the current administration, and the somewhat disappointing decline in the rate of improvement within the system. She invited school leaders to develop a culture that is genuinely aspirational, and that is built on a commitment to innovation and change. Curriculum for Excellence offers us all the opportunity to engage pupils in learning that has breadth and depth and that raises standards for everyone. She spoke of her optimism for the changes and of  her view that schools were now engaged in working on the CfE agenda for change.

Margaret Alcorn followed with a brief input on the need for an aligned system, with confident and cheerful leaders all focused on the “main thing”. She spoke of the need to continue to consider the values and principles of CfE.

We then heard from a panel of 5 educational leaders. David Cameron spoke of the challenge for local authorities to provide consistency and cohesion; Christine Forde spoke of developing leadership to make an impact in the classroom; Neal McGowan asked whether we had the right climate for leadership within Scotland, and suggested too many headteachers were compliant and lacked freedom to act creatively; Alex Wood summarised some of his learning from the International Summer School and Jenny Campbell suggested that some heads were overly involved in the detail, perhaps because this was a comfort zone, and that it was important to develop a high performance mindset. The delegates then engaged in a lively discussion on the points raised by the panel.

After lunch, we watched the “My big idea for Scottish education” DVD, then listened to a description of Learning Rounds from Graham Thomson. The headteacherof Irvive Royal, Stirling Mackie, and a teacher of technical, Alan Hume, from the school then described their experience of Learning Rounds in a school setting.

We finished the day with Karen Prophet of Edinburgh who spoke about models for change in the context of Curriculum for Excellence. She said that in order to interpret the complexity of curricular reform, we require leaders not managers, and returned to one of the recurring themes that had characterised the day, that is the role of headteachers to be “Leaders of Learning”.

The feedback from delegates suggests that once again, SELMAS managed to offer a challenging and stimulating day, packed with opinions, information and opportunities to network.