Reflections – Day 3

Becoming a Teacher and networking

There has been a Scottish system of induction into the teaching profession for many years. A legal precedent for a formal system of induction was set in The Teaching Council (Scotland) Act 1965. The Act created the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). In Argyll and Bute we have had very positive relationships with the GTCS and the current, soon to be retiring Chief Executive Ken Muir has been a great supporter of our work in Argyll and Bute. Ken will be succeeded by Dr Pauline Stephen first female Chief Executive who will I am certain be keen to keep developing the strong connections.

Thinking back to the beginning of my career as a probation teacher in Park Primary in January 1982.  I was fortunate to be in a school where I had good support, very experienced teacher colleagues and a Head Teacher and Depute Head Teacher who had real vision, passion and creativity for learning and teaching. This was not always the case and many of my peers were left to their own devices. At that time being a probation teacher and being successful was more often or not down to your luck which school you were sent to and the support you were given. I was fortunate as the school provided a package of customised support and really encouraged as much training as possible.

My own positive start instilled in me the desire to support probationer teachers and to become a colleague who helped and inspired them through those difficult early days. I had the opportunity to take part in some early pilot work being set up in what   of being a supporter teacher in 1986. At that point in time newly trained teachers were provisionally registered for two years. A final report was submitted at the end of two years of service along with the recommendation for full registration to the Council. This period was referred to as the probationary period and new teachers were known as probationer teachers.

In 1987 when I was teaching at Inveraray Primary I became a probation support to Roslyn Redpath during her probationer teacher period. Roslyn was an exceptionally talented and creative teacher who had the wellbeing of her class at the forefront of the curriculum.  Roslyn and I became friends and she remains to this day an important colleague as Principal Educational Psychologist. Roslyn has provided support to me in many ways in my leadership roles. We have shared many laughs and have together launched many important policy developments which have the children and young people’s health and wellbeing at the centre.

In 1989 I became Senior Teacher at Ardrishaig Primary and part of the remit was supporting probationer teachers. Don MacAlister joined the staff as a probationer teacher and he remains a valued colleague and friend.  Don and I share a real love of learning and teaching with an emphasis on curriculum development. These early professional relationships and connections are so important as we develop in our roles in Education and are intertwined as we all grow and develop as educators.

The Teacher Induction Scheme, introduced in 2002, marked the first major change to new teacher induction in Scotland in 37 years. In the new Scheme, all teacher graduates from Scottish universities are entitled to a training placement – of one year duration – in one of 32 local authorities from August 2002.  The new scheme introduced support on a more formal basis than it was in previous years and eliminating much of the chance element of which school you were placed in for your probation period. The Teacher Induction Scheme provides a guaranteed one-year full-time probationer post for every eligible student graduating with a teaching qualification from one of Scotland’s universities. When introduced the training placement provided a limited weekly timetable of class contact – 0.7 of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) teaching contract – and guaranteed time for continuing development (0.3 FTE) this has now changed to (0.8 FTE) and (0,2). This time is used to meet individually with an induction supporter, to undertake planning and CPD activities. The new scheme was supported by standards expected to be developed during the induction year with a final sign off by the HT and supporter that the standards were met.

I am delighted to have been part of the setting up of this scheme in Argyll and Bute in the early 2000’s when I was HT at Inveraray Primary working with Rosemary Ward, (QIO)  and Anne Devine, (HT at Lochgilphead Joint Campus). As a working group we established a programme which would suit our context and provide quality support for our probationers to grow and learn as teachers. Over the years the programme has been shaped by many inspiring leaders including, Matthew Boyle (HT Vale of Leven Academy), Jay Helbert (HT Inveraray Primary), and Sandra Clarke, (Acting Education Manager). Our current programme, known as the Newly Qualified Teacher Induction, has as one of its strengths the involvement of current practitioners and is currently being headed up by the dynamic and inspiring duo of Sandra Clarke and David Mitchell (HT at Dunoon Grammar School). Sandra and David are supported by Janice McGregor (PT English Campbeltown Grammar, Mairi Wright (PT Easdale Primary), Caroline Armour (HT Dalintober Primary) on delivering the central support events where there is a focus to learn and to develop networks. Argyll and Bute’s Probationer Teacher Programme consists of 8 seminar and networking days with inputs from a variety of experienced and well respected partners and officers.  These inputs are tailored to meet the development needs of Newly Qualified Teachers aligned to national and local priorities.  In line with recommendations from Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson 2010), Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in Argyll undertake an area of practitioner enquiry in order to demonstrate and develop their effectiveness as teachers as well as to assist in school improvement.

The Argyll and Bute Newly Qualified Teacher Induction Scheme has been something I have held near and dear to me and have had involvement in throughout my career. A highlight of my year was taking time to get to know our newly qualified teachers and what would support their journey as a developing teacher in a rural context. As part of my Masters of Education I undertook some research with the 2016/17 cohort delving into what influences were important to their own development. The results clearly indicated the need for supportive colleagues who understood what they were going through, could support their needs and build networks. Our next generation of teachers need supportive colleagues. Our education service needs strong developing teachers. The OECD Education Working Paper No 196, (Echazarra and Radinger 2019) describes distinctive characteristics which shape the learning experience in rural contexts.   Learning in rural schools: Insights from PISA, TALIS and the literature

In 2004 we had concerns about the number of probationer teachers that we were being attracted to Argyll and Bute.  We began to explore a partnership with Strathclyde University and Argyll and Bute Council in 2005 to provide a distance learning PGCE in Primary.  As part of the Argyll and Bute team and in conjunction with Lynda Keith of Strathclyde University I co designed a bespoke programme to deliver ITE in Argyll through the medium of face to face tutoring and via VC. This work involved me taking part in selecting candidates, interviewing tutors, training and supporting tutors, training school providers and preparing high quality placements. I was heavily involved in in writing the course for Argyll and Bute and ensuring the quality of the training being provided would be held in high regard.  During the 6 years the programme ran in Argyll and Bute we had success in attracting Gaelic Medium students who successfully completed the course and have been employed in local schools. I am delighted to see that some of the early cohorts of this training are now in HT posts within our schools.  As part of the council ‘Growing our Own’ programme a partnership was established with University of the Highlands and Islands in 2015.  I worked with Professor Morag Redford to create a bespoke programme to allow students to stay in Argyll and Bute and access quality teacher training programmes. This is an exciting areas that continues to develop and an area that I look back on with pride as an area that I have supported in my career. It is part of my core as an educator that we grow the future new entrants and that they receive the best possible beginning to their careers enabling each to realise their potential as teachers. In recent years I have been a member of the Scottish Board for Teacher Education (SBTE) representing the rural schools within Scotland.

I am currently undertaking a Doctorate of Education with a focus on rural education and a core part of my research is exploring what are the conditions for developing rural teachers so my own interest and passion in this area will continue. I am now back at Strathclyde University – Education (Jordanhill) continuing my learning with amazing colleagues. I am being supported by Professor Kate Wall, Professor David Kirk and Dr Katajia Frimberger on my academic journey. I continue the theme of networking and have met wonderful colleagues who have become friends on this new journey. My Saturday morning “on line” writing friends  including Lorna Anderson, Nova Scott, Linda Bell, Paul Fleming, Lynne Jones, Charlaine Simpson, Nicky Shaw, Jenny Carey, and  Di Douglas who offer incredible support, friendship, motivation and laughs. They are incredible tweeters too so check out their pages on Twitter. We all need this networking as we become educators and we never stop learning.

Reflections – Day 2

Connections to place.

Place is central to establishing who we are. The place where we are nurtured is where we learn to become human. This then influences the relationships we then make within a community and how we build belonging to a place. There is a relationship from birth by those who care for us and in the place we are brought up. Stehlik (2001) states that we need to recognise just how important meanings of place are to people and not to just dismiss these meanings in a structural analysis which denies their own experiences and their own narratives.

I spent all of my primary school days at Kilberry Primary and in August 1972 I began my secondary education at Tarbert Junior Secondary (now Tarbert Academy) I experienced my first taste of transitioning to a new place and making different connections. My world and my place in it had changed and suddenly I had to learn to become a member of another community. I experienced for the first time some negativity of who I was and where I came from. There was a definite sense of coming from the country and this somehow being a deficit model. I became aware that place limits us, defines us and shapes us. Our own sense of space is punctuated by places we stop and the experiences and interactions we have with these places. The longer we stop in these place the greater the roots we form. “The quality of human world relationships must first acknowledge that places themselves have something to say” (Grunewald 2013 p 624).

During the seventies and eighties I made several transitions, new connections, putting down new roots and gaining new experiences in new places. I spent my senior education at Oban High School staying in the hostel during the week and traveling home at the weekends. I had my sights firmly set on becoming a teacher and from the day my aunt Lillias MacAlister (former teacher at Tarbert Academy) took me to visit Jordanhill College in Glasgow the fire was lit to achieve this ambition.

In September 1978 I moved into Douglas House at Jordanhill College and spent 3 very happy years learning my craft, networking and becoming best friends with Shirley Mathieson who later become Head Teacher of Lochnell Primary. Our Argyll connections were very much part of our good friendship.

During my period at Jordanhill I had placements in Drumchapel and Maryhill which were very influential in my development as a teacher. However I was always glad to come home to Kilberry Primary during the holidays to do some work within the primary school and bring some of my growing knowledge to the school. The Head Teacher, Miss Aitken was always keen to see me and to learn of the new developments taking place in teacher education. At that point in time two big areas were Primary Science and Storyline approach. My skills were well used in these areas during my holidays. I am delighted to say that one Lucy Blake (HT at Achahoish) was a pupil at this time in Kilberry Primary and she tells me enjoyed my time spent there.

In addition I spent holiday time with Robert Leadbeater (DHT at Kirkintilloch High School) being his preschool teacher. Delighted to see both Lucy and Robert have developed into key leadership roles in Education.

After graduating with a merit my first ever days of teaching as a qualified teacher was in Achahoish Primary on supply in December 1981. The HT was absent so I was drafted in to teach the whole school P1 – P7, no support, just me and the “dinner lady” and I absolutely loved it.

In January 1982 I took up a post in Park Primary with an inspirational staff and Head Teacher Elma McColl who taught me so much and ignited my creativity and curiosity as a teacher. I also met Carol Evans (Walker) at this point too and together we have achieved great things over the years.

Connections, creativity and being curious featured highly during this period and I knew rural schools mattered. Anyone who has a real interest in rural schools then I recommend this book:

Greenwood (formerly Gruenewald), D (2008) A critical pedagogy of place: from gridlock to parallax, Environmental Education Research, 14:3, 336-348, DOI:


Stehlik, D (2001). “Out there”: Spaces, places and border crossings. In S. Lockie & L Bourke (Eds.), Rurality Bites: The social and environmental transformation of rural Australia (pp- 30-41) Annandale. V. A. Pluto Press

Reflections – Day 1

It has been quite a while since I used my blog but I am going to reinstate it for December 2020. As many of you already know I leave Argyll and Bute Education Service formally on the 31st of December 2020. I have many thoughts and reflections at this time and over the next few weeks I am going to share some of these via my blog. So here goes with Reflections Day 1

Being Me – Being connected, being curious and being creative.

So who am I and what are my connections??

I grew up in the rural community of Kilberry, in Mid Argyll,  surrounded by love and connection not only to my family but also to the wider community, My mother and father were both hard working and neither had been given the opportunity to extend their own education. My father left school at 14 and instantly began working on a farm and then on to serve his national service. He was a farm worker and we lived in a tied house on the farm. The house was part of the agricultural wage which was a low wage. My mother had worked in the hospitality trade in a café which was of first generation Italians. This background had led her own interest in cooking and especially baking. She was a homemaker and worked in the local “Big house” – castle on the estate. Today I would have ticked all boxes for receiving Pupil Equity Funding (PEF). Growing up in rural poverty would have been a term attributed to me but I certainly was rich in love, aspirations and community support.

These are all important factors as we try to take forward the national policy on Excellence and Equity.

Scottish Government Achieving Excellence and Equity – click here

Understanding rural poverty, childcare and education, Prof Chris Chapman – click here

My early childhood was spent mainly with adults my parents, grandparents and community “aunty and uncles” My grandfather became my childminder as both my mother and father worked hard to make both ends meet. He was a great man of the countryside and knew so much about reading the weather through nature, taught me so much about reading the sky, watching nature to predict weather patterns and looking after our natural world. Both he and my father truly nurtured in me my own deep interest in the connections we have to the natural world. The creativity element from nature is deep rooted within me and these connections are integral to being me and have shaped my own views of the world.

I began my link with Argyll and Bute Education Service in 1965 when I attended Kilberry Primary School.  I was delighted to get to school and have the opportunity to meet with other children and to have peers to play with and interact with. Needless to say my interactions were often a source of discussion at home. I seemed to spend more time talking than learning!!  My position at the front of the class indicates not only me being the youngest but also perhaps the most disruptive. Even at that age I enjoyed networking.

During my school years I loved learning and my own links to the natural world were extended again by the local community. The HT (only teacher in the school) had a husband who was a gamekeeper and again he was a source of knowledge to us and our learning. I will always remember the day I found a wildcat who had been hit on the road lying at the side on the verge. The cat was still alive but obviously stunned. The gamekeeper collected the cat and brought it back to look after. We watched the amazing animal become well and eventually released back into the natural environment. The compassion and respect shown to the animal who was majestic but very vulnerable is something which has always stuck with me.

My love for books was born from the school and from my mother, and grandfather. Interestingly they all brought different skills to reading which today I now see in my own reading. Mrs MacArthur my teacher opened up the world of learning from text books and from reference books. She taught me the skills and functions of reading and for that I am always entirely indebted. My mother loved to read fiction from which she could escape the world around her and I watched and witnessed that sheer joy that a book can bring. She also read the newspaper daily inside out. My father read agricultural press. My grandfather interestingly had not had any formal schooling from the age of 10 was one of my greatest literacy influences. His own reading was limited but he spent hours with me looking at story books and telling me orally the stories. We entered a magic world together and made up stories. We continued this on our many walks and explorations of the community. Visiting these places today.  I can still envisage the rich story contexts that he created for me. I literally read all that I could in my formative years from magazines, catalogues, adverts to all types of books.

My love of books continued and my mother was housekeeper at Kilberry Castle. Marion Campbell who owned the castle was a historian and author and was very supportive in opening up my world further to literature. In my later primary years I was often permitted to go with my mother to work and to go into the working den of Marion Campbell. She let me look at the range of books and get lost in their worlds from Celts to Modern Agriculture. The cigarette fog of the room is a distinct smell which lingers with me to this day and I associate with books. She often talked about her own education and had never attended university but had so desperately wanted to and her hopes for Scotland. She was strong nationalist and I had the joy of listening to many friendly but robust debates between her and my grandfather who was a very firm conservative.

The influences from both Mrs MacArthur and Marion Campbell instilled in me the love of learning and the aspiration to become a teacher. I was keen to follow my desire to become a teacher and reflecting back my now strong commitment to rural education was born from the culture and ethos I grew up in a strong community.

It is clear that our formative years are so important and a couple of important links for us all are.

Education Scotland Realising the Ambition – Being me – click here

Joining the dots, Prof. Susan Deacon – click here

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

2017 was been one of the busiest and most demanding years I have known in Education. Over the past 36 years in Argyll and Bute I have seen many changes but the changes this year have been significant.  As we move into 2018 there are further changes ahead. The consultation currently taking place in regard to the provisions of the Education (Scotland) Bill seeks to look at the structure and governance of schools. There is much to consider within this consultation and I would urge everyone contribute to this consultation.

Our Children Their Future has now been in place for a year in our authority.  I am keen to celebrate the work undertaken this session and am looking for examples of how the vision and strategy are being realised in our schools and impacting on our children’s futures.

I am delighted that the follow through inspection report which was published on the 7th of December has recognised the improvements within our service and the potential for greater achievement. A huge thanks to all involved.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives

Regional Collaboration has been a big focus for Scottish Education during the Autumn and Argyll and Bute Council is now part of the Northern Collaborative. The Local Authorities involved in the Northern Alliance are:

Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeenshire Council

Argyll and Bute Council

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Highland Council

Moray Council

Orkney Islands Council

Shetland Islands Council

In September 2017, COSLA Leaders agreed to an approach of Regional Collaboration which left democratic accountability clearly with Scottish Local Authorities and their officers.  Currently, in their role as Education Authorities, Scottish Councils hold the statutory responsibility for the provision and delivery of Education, for performance and improvement of individual schools as well as the cumulative authority, as the employer of all staff within a school setting, and more.

During the autumn term in October, November and December we have been involved in various working groups with the Northern Alliance.  We look forward to taking this work forward in 2018.

A main message coming from Scottish Government is of the importance of collaboration and working in improvement collaboratives both at National and Local level. This will be a key focus for us in 2018 in Argyll and Bute.

Conference Season

During November it was the conference season. The Argyll and Bute Early Year’s conference focused on ensuring our children have the best start in life. The day was very informative and thought provoking in looking at the health and wellbeing of our young people.

The Children and Young People’s Improvement Collaboration conference took place in Glasgow and once again the emotional wellbeing of our children and young people were the focus. It was interesting to have 4 Scottish Ministers on the stage together acknowledging that it is everyone responsibility to ensure our children are all in the best place to learn.

The ADES conference had a focus on changing how we deliver education services and how we take forward a joint approach with partners.

The final conference of the year was the Argyll and Bute two day Head Teacher Conference where the focus of the day was on health and wellbeing and the core importance of this in closing the gap.

There is a strong message for us all for 2018 that the health and wellbeing of all our young people will be at the heart of all our improvements.

We all need a Champion

This past week the theme for me has been about being a Champion.

It started off with me watching a Ted Talk last Sunday which one of my daughters recommended by the late Rita Pierson. On Monday I also picked up the same message on a tweet on Twitter. It made me reflect on the whole concept of being a Champion and how in fact educationalists we also need a Champion.

Continue reading We all need a Champion

Week Commencing 18th September 2017

This week I have been delighted to have made two visits to schools in the Cowal area. On Tuesday morning I began the day at Sandbank Primary where I was delighted to be shown around the new Gaelic pre 5 provision which is taking shape and looks as though it is going to be a really stunning facility when it is completed. The team involved in the works have been trying hard to ensure the build stays on time. It now looks as though it will be completed by December 2017 in time for the new registrations for next session.

Continue reading Week Commencing 18th September 2017

Consulting and Planning w/c 11th September

This week has been very busy with a variety of meetings focusing on consultation and future plans.

On Monday I was involved in a telephone conference in relation to 1140 hours expansion programme for early years. This is a very important development across Scotland at this current time. All Authorities are asked to submit a delivery plan to be with Scottish Government by the 29th of September. The Early Years Service are working hard on this with other services of the council. This is a very big project. A consultation on the increased hours is currently available at:

Continue reading Consulting and Planning w/c 11th September

A Week of Meetings – 28th August 2017

First thing Monday morning I drove up to Oban to meet with the Head Teachers from Oban High, Tobermory and Tiree to discuss the recent SQA results. A very good professional discussion took place with some innovative solutions of how the schools could support each other. This type of networking and working together is going to become more important as we look at raising attainment. I then drove out to Lochnell Primary where a lovely welcome and lunch awaited me. Shirley Matheson the Head Teacher and her team gave me a real welcome and I enjoyed a couple of hours at the school lea ring about their successes and challenges. I had a tour of the school with 3 P7 guides in the shape of Katy, Ewan and Bobbie. These young people really knew their school and could explain very clearly how the school was ensuring the action points of Our Children Their Future are being developed. Visits like these and discussions with the heads give me a real sense of the work happening at the chalk face and make me very proud.

The advisory group of Head Teachers met with myself and the Executive Director on Tuesday morning to discuss various strategic issues and ensuring we move forward together. I then joined the Education Management Team on Tuesday afternoon to continue with our strategic planning and in particular the self-evaluation in relation to our current inspection action plan. The inspection team from Education Scotland will return the week beginning 26th September.

Continue reading A Week of Meetings – 28th August 2017

Home and Away

My main base is at Inveraray Conference Centre and this year I am trying hard to have at least one day a week at base to try and catch up with correspondence and strategic planning. My week is usually spent out and about and in various offices. This week was no different.

On Monday, I began the week with Community Services Departmental Management Team (DMT) where we examined many issues related to overall strategy of the Council in relation to finances, HR and particular elements related to Community and Culture and Education. This fortnightly meeting with the Executive Director ensures that all Education Service matters are represented within overall Council strategy. My words of “but it is different for Education” are often uttered.

Continue reading Home and Away

Welcome Back to Our School Community

Welcome back to the new school session. I hope that the summer although rather damp has been restful and given time for enjoying many activities. For me it has been a summer of family activities with my eldest daughter getting married. There was much organisation, ticking off lists, socialising and above all else happy times filled with love and laughter. The time spent in the run up to the wedding and during the wedding was a time to reflect on how small communities come together for events and the wedding demonstrated the support from many friends and community members. Community help was available from flowers to car parking and much more. Argyll and Bute has a special community feel and we need to be proud of this as we think about how we live and work in the area. We have a wonderful environment and great community spirit and these should be core to our lives and a big part of our Education Service.

Continue reading Welcome Back to Our School Community