Category: Falkirk Council Educational Establishments

Social Studies Updates and Support from Education Scotland

The following information, resource links and opportunities were shared at the latest National Social studies network meeting by Senior Education Officer Lynne Robertson, Education Scotland.


  1. There are new national Social Studies Microsoft Teams where practitioners and senior leaders can keep up to date with all developments & opportunities, including professional learning. The primary Team code is 8wgkwpp and the secondary Team code is1zy7b8q
  2. A wide range of teaching support resources for social studies are available from Glow Social Studies Network (#socialstudies) – Resources ( (Glow login req’d)
  3. A Social Studies Skills Progression Framework has been created here. It is a support document which complements the social studies Experiences and Outcomes and the Benchmarks, and is in line with the Principles and Practice document. The following extract explains its purpose and the image below shows how it is structured. “Practitioners should plan learning, teaching and assessment using the Experiences and Outcomes.
    Social studies is a content heavy subject area, and the ability to learn content is important. However it would not be best practice for a similar content area to be taught repeatedly during the broad general education to gauge the progress of learners. Therefore teachers cannot signpost the next steps for a learner by referring simply to content.
    Social studies also has various gaps in the experiences and outcomes, across early to fourth level. As a result it can be difficult for teachers to assess the progress of children and young people.
    The purpose of this support document is to guide practitioners in evaluating the progress of children and young people in how skills can be developed from early to fourth level. The skills in the tables below have been identified from the Es and Os and benchmarks. Where that skill is not mentioned in one or more of the five levels across the broad general education, the gap has been filled to enable progression to occur from each level to the next for each skill.”
  4. A full list of social studies resource links is available here . A summary of BGE @ GU Social studies resources produced by teachers in partnership with Glasgow University can be found here and includes:
    • People of Medieval Scotland (30 resources)
    • The Vikings in Scotland
    • History of Weather
    • Homes in High Places
    • Alfred Nobel and the Peace Prize

5. Statistics showing the number of pupils participating in NQ 5 and Higher grades were shared – see below.


New guidance and support for curriculum planning and design for BGE

Education Scotland’s weekly news letters for practitioners and for parents/carers have been offering support with the planning of learning across the curriculum since early May and all issues can be found in the Scotland Learns section of our National Improvement Hub here (this alternative link is provided for your convenience as it takes you to the page where the activities are collated into subject areas such as literacy, numeracy, etc ).

The refreshed curriculum narrative was created with and by educators in response to OECD review of Scotland’s progress regarding CfE; it was presented to the education community in September 2019 and can be found here. Examples of good practice and professional learning materials relating to the refreshed narrative of Curriculum for Excellence can be found by clicking here. Many of these show how schools kept sight of the design of their curriculum during lockdown by capturing how their learning grids and blended approaches addressed the four contexts of the curriculum.

Education Scotland colleagues have created curriculum planning support suggestions for August to October 2020 for literacy (see photo above), numeracy, health and well being and cross-curricular studies – click here to view the Scotland Learns document. These take the form of a loose outline or learning focus so that practitioners and pupils can plan responsively for their particular context.  A cross-curricular outline using the theme of Thriving offers a context which works across levels to enable practitioners and pupils to engage with the impact of Covid 19 on us and our society to date. This context or topic could be a useful curriculum design starting point during the first few weeks of schooling.

A link in the Scotland Learns document alerts us to a 2020-21 re-focus on Interdisciplinary Learning (click to visit this page) which was partially inspired by  “Pillars, Lintels and Foundations; a conference paper”. This paper used a metaphor for IDL, seeing it as the lintel which rested upon the pillars of disciplinary learning and the foundations of  “routine competences, aptitudes, knowledge, skills and methods in and across subjects, including basic literacy and numeracy”  (click here to view the whole paper). The concluding paragraph which provides the rational for this re-focus is shared below:

The majority of learners would appear to progress through most or all of their education
without actively engaging in IDL, yet most jobs, even at graduate level, seldom require a
background or qualification in any particular discipline. The transferable and higher-order skills that learners acquire throughout their education may be of more lasting importance. A systemic response to this challenge is required since the jobs of the 21st century will be
increasingly project-driven rather than discipline-driven and will require the collaborative
engagement of generalists and specialists. Understanding a complex and rapidly changing
world requires a wide range of knowledge and an interdisciplinary perspective. It is, therefore, a responsibility of educators to try to ensure that learners become adept in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning.

We are advised that this session Education Scotland will be developing the following IDL opportunities:

  • Thriving in challenging circumstances with reference to current issues of COVID-19;
  • Creative Bravery with an opportunity to join the Creative Bravery Festival which will run from 21-27 September, 2020;
  • Scotland’s Culture with a focus on creativity and the arts;
  • Sustainability with a focus on Learning for sustainability.

Webinars and resources are being planned to support the IDL opportunities above.

At an appropriate point during this new session, Yvonne McBlain, education support officer with Falkirk Children’s Services will contact all Falkirk establishments to connect with senior leaders and practitioners interested in engaging with these developments. Together they will explore how these can inform and support our ongoing curriculum planning and design. Contact if you are interested in being part of this work.

Yvonne and Jane Jackson, outdoor learning support officer, have already looked at interdisciplinary learning within the Learning for Sustainability focus – find out more by viewing our Sway here.

The Learning Online guidance on was also produced by Education Scotland (click here to view) and may still prove to be a very useful blended learning pedagogical support – particularly for the first few weeks of our new school session. All Education Scotland guidance for online learning can be found by clicking this link.


Drama Resources made available by The Drama Box



The Drama Box was a young business which supported UK schools with their development of drama as part of their curriculum. Unfortunately, the company has fallen victim to trading circumstances resulting from coronavirus restrictions, but they are making their valuable resources widely available to the education community. Those Falkirk establishments who previously worked with them will have been contacted directly to ensure they still have access to resources. On behalf of Falkirk educators, I would like to thank The Drama Box for sharing these valuable resources under these difficult circumstances. They have also made their online training courses available to staff by clicking here.

Click on this link to view YouTube videos of the teaching of Early level skills: Voice, Movement and Expression and Improvisation – set 1. This link also provides a Pdf document sharing next steps for further learning. These lessons progress to set 2 which can be found by clicking here.

Click to view First level set 1 videos and First level set 2 videos.

Second level set 1 videos are here and set 2 here.

Warm up activities are available here and they have also made other supportive resources available here.

I am currently working on our Falkirk Expressive Arts Progression Pathway and look forward to building these valuable support materials into the professional learning and resources we pull together for this important subject area. Watch this space but get in touch with if you are a Falkirk practitioner who would like to help with the creation of these important documents and support materials.

New Developments in Practitioner Enquiry in Falkirk Establishments

Yvonne McBlain has been working with probationer support team colleagues and colleagues in schools for the last 4 years to promote practitioner enquiry as an integral element of good practice. Practitioner Enquiry has been a mandatory part of each professional standard defined by the General Teaching Council for Scotland since 2012 – click here to visit their site.

Stephanie Ross, class teacher at St Andrew’s Primary School, and Susan McCudden, class teacher at Denny High School act as “critical friends” for teacher colleagues across Scotland with the Scottish College for Educational Leadership programme. They are passionate advocates for the positive impact practitioner enquiry has on pedagogy, and on pupil attainment and achievement, and Yvonne is delighted that they would like to take on a supporting role across our authority. Click here to find out more about practitioner enquiry and SCEL, and here to visit the practitioner enquiry section of GTCS website. GTCS enable access to reading and research materials for enquiry projects which were previously tricky to get, and have also created a collection of teacher research projects (enquiries) via their Education Hub which can be accessed here with your GTCS log in details.

Stephanie and Susan will work with Yvonne to deliver an information session about practitioner enquiry on 15th March 4.15-5.15 (CPD Manager Falkirk code YMc 1-18. Below, they introduce their own journeys so far with practitioner enquiry.

Stephanie writes:

My first experience of practitioner enquiry was at the end of my undergraduate degree when it took the place of the traditional dissertation approach. Following this I then had another chance to partake in an enquiring approach during my masters degree. Both of these experiences were very positive, I felt empowered and satisfied by having the freedom to delve into issues that mattered to me and the learners in my classroom. I see practitioner enquiry as a truly authentic form of CLPL as it enables you to evidence and actively lead productive change in teaching and learning on a continual basis.

Although valuable, both of these initial experiences were relatively isolated and formal. So as a class teacher I then became intrigued as to how to integrate this process into the everyday fabric of the classroom and utilise what I have done to help others to develop a manageable enquiring approach. As a result I came into contact with SCEL and became a ‘critical friend’ on their Teacher Leadership Program. Afterwards I also attended a two day ‘Supporting Teacher Leadership’ conference. Both of these were a great opportunity to share how practitioner enquiry is being approached across authorities and develop my understanding of enquiry in the classroom.

As practitioner enquiry is built so firmly into the GTCS standards I feel it is important that teachers are appropriately supported in building knowledge and confidence of the enquiring approach. This has furthered my enthusiasm to support others and I am looking forward to developing this process alongside other colleagues.

Susan adds:

My experience of practitioner enquiry has been through the programmes offered by SCEL. In July 2016 I applied to take part in the Teacher Leadership Prototype Programme- I had only ever heard of practitioner enquiry as a project carried out by Falkirk Council probationers, so I didn’t really know what I was signing up for. The programme led me through the process of carrying out a practitioner enquiry and allowed me to engage with other teachers from across Scotland- we kept weekly blogs and had online tutorials about our progress. For me, the best part of the practitioner enquiry was the fact that it gave me control of my own professional learning and allowed me to spend my CPD time on work that would directly inform my practice. I had complete ownership of my own enquiry and learned a lot from other people through reading their blog entries and engaging in online discussions.

At the end of the programme, I was invited to be a critical friend and have supported participants this year by coaching them through their own enquiry. I have thoroughly enjoyed this process and have been excited to work with a group practitioners who are enthusiastic and committed to professional excellence.

Like Stephanie, I attended SCEL’S ‘Supporting Teacher Leadership’ conference in January 2018, where I learned even more about the fundamental importance of practitioner enquiry- not just in terms of our CPD but also in fulfilling the GTCS standards that are so important in delivering the high quality teaching and learning that our pupils deserve.

I found practitioner enquiry to be extremely worthwhile and enjoyable and I was able to fit my work into my classroom practice really easily. I hope to inspire others to adopt this approach to CLPL and look forward to learning more from colleagues in the process.

Susan and Stephanie have kindly provided the links to the Teacher Leadership video below, and this link to SCEL’s online learning space for developing teacher leadership.


Grangemouth HS Developing Practitioner Enquiry for Professional Learning

Image result for photo of grangemouth high school

Yvonne McBlain attended the most recent meeting of secondary professional learning co-ordinators to hear how Falkirk secondary schools are using an enquiring approach to their self-evaluation and development of teaching and learning. Yvonne provided an update on the success and impact of the practitioner enquiry element of Falkirk Children’s Services’ probationer induction programme. Co-ordinators from each school then shared how they are exploring the extent to which this approach can impact on learning. Ash Wood, depute head at Grangemouth HS wrote up the following account of what this looks like in his school.

We have purchased resources to supply a “practitioner enquiry” section for teachers in our library.  We also offer limited financial support to enable teachers to buy resources to support their enquiry.  When they have completed their findings these resources are added to the library.  We have created a one side of A4 template for teachers to complete to share their findings with their colleagues.  Mrs Laura Gallagher (Teacher of Chemistry) has developed an interactive “toolkit” for teachers to use to help them understand, prepare for and complete a practitioner enquiry.  She has also conducted a pilot of the tool with her faculty colleagues and received very positive feedback both about the toolkit and the benefits of the practitioner enquiry process.  Laura has also shared and demonstrated her toolkit to CPD Co-ordinators in the authority.

Dr Alex Fraser (Teacher of Biology) will present his practitioner enquiry on pupil voice to our Extended Leadership Team later this session to promote the benefits of practitioner enquiry and demonstrate its relevance.  His findings will support PTs who have pupil voice as part of the Faculty Improvement Plans.

Laura will promote her toolkit, and practitioner enquiry in general at our staff meeting in February.  Leanne Welsh and Amy Nichol, two of our NQTs from last session who are now with us permanently, will also share their practitioner enquiries from last session to illustrate the process and how it has benefited their practice.

We are currently considering using our core School Improvement Groups as a way of taking practitioner enquiry forward, while conscious that the voluntary nature of the exercise is key to teacher “buy-in”.


Moray Primary use Storyline Approach to Develop Literacy Skills

Rebecca Spalding and Rachel Keane are using the Storyline approach to develop their pupils’ language and literacy skills. They are class teachers at Moray Primary school – Rebecca has a primary 1 class, and Rachel teaches primary 2 pupils. They chose a Fairy tale context to target specific language skills and have been supporting each other in planning the structure of their storyline episodes since February. Both teachers feel the approach has had a very positive impact on their pupils’ literacy and personal skills.

The photos throughout this post evidence pupil development of sequencing skills within language tasks, creating a variety of texts, and the development of independent writing.  

Rebecca feels that her pupils are better able to write sentences, and can interpret visual texts and re-tell stories with much more confidence and flair. Her class get so excited each time a letter or a message or book is left by the “dragon” (their main storyline character). The dragon leaves a trail of glitter to let the children know he has been, and they’ve decided that he sneaks in through their classroom window when they are not in school. The children are thrilled when each message appears and relish the tasks they need to do for the dragon. This approach motivates and engages the children and they can’t wait to post their messages into the dragon mailbox.

Rachel’s class have a knight as their main character and their classroom includes a wonderful castle frieze and life-size drawbridge where the children can play. Both classrooms are very stimulating learning environments because they have evolved and been led by the pupils’ response to the clues and messages received. The messages from the knight enable the children to take a problem-solving approach to each task he sets. Pupils are developing their creativity skills and a positive mindset towards their literacy. The photos show how relevant each literacy experience has been for the children, and where Rachel and Rebecca have taken advantage of natural links across learning. (Growing a bean when studying Jack and the Beanstalk, applying measuring skills and completing a technology/expressive arts rich homework task).

Rachel feels her pupils are much more engaged in their work. They are more confident about their literacy skills and are more willing to share their ideas and suggestions. They can sequence a story better and are more independent when writing.

One of the most noticeable changes for Rachel and Rebecca has been the increase in pupils choosing to read. Pupils are reading for enjoyment and picking up books much more often than before. Both teachers feel they have been able to build personalisation and choice into their storyline by following the prior knowledge their pupils have of traditional tales. Using these stories as a focus fits well with the discrete active literacy work being done in class, and offers opportunities for pupils to broaden, challenge and apply their literacy skills. Both classes are perfecting their classrooms and preparing for their big storyline celebration in the last week of term. The pupils are looking forward to sharing their learning with the guests they have invited along.