Category Archives: Leadership

Coffee, croissant, controversy Planning Meetings

Yvonne McBlain and Karen Thomson of Falkirk curriculum support team facilitated two lively sessions recently with principal teachers, depute and head teachers. The initial session explored how our establishments were including each element of the NAR planning flow chart in their planning processes. Discussion focused on the numbers of layers of planning being used, and how this was contributing to the improvement of teaching and learning. Participants requested a second session to enable them to bring along and share their planning layers and documentation.

So, on 10th December Julie McKenna shared how Airth Primary are using a digital tool to manage their planning. Staff use this system to create discrete and interdisciplinary units of work in the form of planning wheels with skills and other information noted. They are able to track both the depth and coverage of experiences and outcomes and the progression of skills. At Airth PS, all staff collaborate to create the annual long term plan, and their planning wheels form the rest of their planning structure, with any other detail being recorded in the weekly plans. Julie and her staff now intend to develop how they integrate their  assessment and recording into their planning. 

 Jill Stocks and Andrew Watson from Bonnybridge Primary shared how they use the Learning Unlimited tool “Realistic Record Keeping and Powerful Planning”. Bonnybridge PS staff work from the experiences and outcomes to create annual master plans for literacy, numeracy, and non core learning. Further detailed planning takes place in weekly plans, meaning that the school has two layers of planning. You can click here to see a collection of the master plans for second level. Staff are also using maths pathways to support their planning of progression in specific numeracy skills – click here to view. Jill and Andrew now intend to develop their tracking of coverage and depth of learning within the E & Os. They value the way this planning tool has enabled a significant shift away from a resource-led approach to planning, increased focus on the principles of curriculum design, and a reduction of paperwork for planning. Early years senior managers also shared their development of floor books as their main planning layer  in nursery settings. They value the way floor book planning makes visible the relevance, personalisation and choice and progression of learning for pre and ante-pre school children. It was noted that not all practitioners are comfortable yet with not having additional layers of planning and documentation.

The rest of the meeting consisted of really valuable discussion of how to effectively integrate assessment, manage tracking and monitoring, and how to enhance awareness of when each of the four contexts for learning is being addressed. Click here to see the power point presentation for this second meeting.

A Saturday Morning spent thinking about Employee Review and Development!

Last Saturday morning Anne Pearson, Curriculum Support Manager, headed down to the Falkirk Football Stadium  to team up with Colin Finlay who was hosting the event in his new role as Falkirk EIS Learning Representative. Over 80 teachers from Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Stirling and North Lanarkshire came along and whilst  football was not on the agenda, we engaged in continuous professional development all about Professional Update  and  Employee Review and Development (ERD) supported by delicious bacon rolls and lots of hot drinks. Ken Muir,the Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council Scotland and Larry Flannagan the EIS General Secretary shared their thinking on the importance of high quality CPD, how this links with Professional Update and is a key factor in school improvement. To quote McKinsey, “The quality of an educational system  cannot outperform the quality of its teachers. The only way to improve outcomes is to improve learning and teaching.”     These national and international perspectives have informed the  rationale for Falkirk Education Service’s ERD systems and processes. Anne Pearson focussed on 4 key elements of effective ERD and shared exemplar Work Profiles, explaining how these were developed and link  to the revised national standards that went live in August this year. The morning ended with a Question and Answer session, the panel being made up of Ken Muir, Larry Flannagan, Anne Pearson and the local EIS Secretary Margaret Smith. The presence of such a large group of committed teachers on a weekend illustrates there is a high level of interest in Professional Update and review and development. Good teachers wanting to know how to be even better! Education Services look forward to continuing our partnership with our professional associations.



Latest Developments in the Teaching for Deep Learning

Yvonne McBlain of Falkirk Education Services Curriculum Support team has been working with our team of facilitators for the Falkirk Teaching for Deep Learning programme. There are 18 trainee facilitators for the programme – 15 from the primary sector and 3 from the secondary sector. Some are already taking on a distributed leadership role in facilitating teacher learning communities within their own establishments. Others are willing to facilitate sessions across the authority, and anyone wishing to access their services should contact . The latest training meeting on 3rd October was the first opporunity for the facilitators to practise delivering the programme content to each other. Kim Davidson from Bo’ness Public PS, Jaime Thomson and Shirley Gallivan of Comely Park PS led the rest of the group through session 12 “Using professional collaboration to reflect upon & support teaching for deep learning”. The group was able to experience this session as participants, and then give feedback to Kim, Jaime and Shirley on their delivery. Read some of the feedback below:

Reflected and developed comments really well; Calm and purposeful

Pace really good – just right amount of time to reflect; Nice conversational feel

Allowed discussion to keep going – allowed it to go deeper; Circulated well

Deep understanding of content;  Made participants feel comfortable

This meeting also gave Laura Wallace, Fiona Caygill and Mary Jalland an opportunity to share how sessions they had facilitated in their schools had gone. Staff colleagues gave these facilitators very positive feedback about the value of the sessions for them. Mary reported that her colleagues had put into practice some of their actions from the session the very next day! This training session was a very positive experience for all concerned, and we look forward to the remaining 3 meetings this year where the other facilitators get a chance to deliver their chosen session to our group. Click here to visit the Falkirk Teaching for Deep Learning Glow group and browse the session materials. * You may have to request permission to join the group – just click and ensure you type a short message explaining who you are and what establishment you work in.

Update on our Teaching for Deep Learning Programme

Yvonne McBlain from Falkirk’s Curriculum Support team has now created a page for each of our Teaching for Deep Learning sessions here in Glow. Five of our secondary schools have used, or are beginning to use these sessions as content for their Teacher Learning Communities and working groups. Nineteen of our primary schools have already accessed at least one of the sessions – sometimes as a whole staff, and other times within smaller collegiate groups. We have 18 TfDL (Teaching for Deep Learning) facilitators who are being trained to deliver the sessions – some want to do this in their own schools only, whereas others are happy to make themselves available across the authority where needed. Four of our secondary schools are modelling a whole range of Donaldson Review recommendations regarding professional learning in their use of the programme. Most have recruited teachers interested in becoming facilitators within their schools, who then attend an information session (Click to view) on the programme from Yvonne. Each school is then deciding how they can enable staff to identify which sessions should be priorities for their professional learning this session. Once these decisions are made, teacher learning communities interested in the same sessions can be formed. The same model of distributed leadership (facilitators) and professional autonomy through self-evaluation is being taken forward by some of our primary schools “in house” too. Feedback from participants of  sessions so far confirms the value of the programme as one of the ways in which we can move Falkirk schools from Good to Great.

Falkirk Teaching for Deep Learning Programme

Falkirk’s Teaching for Deep Learning programme is now available to support school-based professional learning. This programme consists of 19 sessions focused on aspects of effective teaching which are essential to the promotion of deep learning in our pupils. The sessions are active, intellectually stimulating and designed to be experienced by collaborative groups of practitioners such as Teacher Learning Communities.

 “Teaching Scotland’s Future” said that the “foundation of successful education lie in the quality of teachers and their leadership. High quality people achieve high quality outcomes for children.” Without a doubt what it means to be a teacher is being re-conceptualised.  Enabling our teachers to operate as enquiring practitioners and encouraging their self efficacy is at the heart of this programme.

 Trialling in a range of establishments this session has demonstrated how flexible the content of the programme is, and that there are varied ways in which it can be used.  View these variations in the document at the end of this post and consider if any are useful to you as you self-evaluate and create your school improvement plans. 

 The programme was created by Susan Dyer, Head teacher at Bankier Primary School, Gillian Campbell, PE teacher from Braes High School and Sharon Wallace and Yvonne McBlain from our Curriculum Support Team. Colleagues across our service have helped the team revise and improve the programme and we have a team of 16 facilitators currently training to deliver it.

 I am confident that the programme aligns with the recommendations of the Donaldson Review, the new suite of GTCS standards & Professional Update and our own Employee Review and Development process. I recommend it to you.

 To discuss how this programme might support your School Improvement Planning in more detail, contact . Click here  to view a summary of programme sessions.

Working collaboratively to spot talent!

Anne Pearson, Curriculum Support Manager, led a staff development session with Early Years and Primary leaders looking at  how talent is managed in Falkirk Education Services.  This work relates to how we are managing change, which in turn is  influenced by context and culture.

Context and  culture is influenced by many things and the groups made use of the following key influencers: 

  • Learning to Achieve (Falkirk Council, Education Services, 2009) Section 4,
  • the revised General Teaching Council for Scotland standards that come in to play in August 2013 

 Falkirk’s goal is to ensure that teaching and learning will be delivered by highly skilled practitioners with increased levels of professional autonomy and accountability. Class teachers through to Headteachers have a role to play in delivering this goal; the focus of the session was how leadersgo about selecting and recruiting new staff.

The learning intentions for the session were

• to have  a clear understanding of revised strategy- know the big picture

•acquire new learning re behavioural event interviewing

In turn, the participants noted it was ‘changed days’ and that it was important to ‘know the processes’  and also ‘to start to think of a long term strategy for talent management’. Another big question was ‘how do we grow and retain our own talent?’ and that in times of fiscal constraint ”how do we make sure we get a return on our investment?’

Here is what some leaders are going to do in light of what they learned: 

  • I need to look at staff development , thinking more about PTs moving on to becoming DHTs
  • I am going to find out how to get involved in our assessment centres
  • I can now apply further understanding  to the planning and running of my future assessment centres
  • I will attend the upcoming Selection and Recruitment training event
  • I am speaking to others so I can  clarify how to take forward recruiting a PT
  • Go talent spotting!

Let’s end on this comment- it sums up where our leaders want to go:

I got such a buzz out of this session- working as a collaborative is powerful !

Informed Scotland

Informed Scotland – Issue 9 March 2013 is the first issue of this digest to be circulated within Falkirk Council Education Services. We have taken a subscription for a year and will review towards the end of year 1. The digest is designed for professionals who need to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of learning and skills.

Carol Paton, Curriculum Support Officer Secondary, Falkirk Council Education  Services Curriculum Support Team will review this from responses.

Outdoor Learning Lead Teacher Course

Cooking lunch
Jane Jackson – Outdoor Learning Development Officer of the Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team worked in partnership with ‘Grounds for Learning’ to deliver a year long CPD programme for 20 Falkirk Council primary teachers.

The teachers were selected from across the authority with every cluster being represented.  As well as being expected to take a lead in outdoor learning in their own schools, the Lead Teachers will be instrumental in establishing OL networks within their clusters.

Setting up home for the day!
The course involved the teachers in a wide range of activities with each session involving setting up base camp and getting the fire going.  We experimented with cooking a range of things on the fire including bread, stuffed apples,  soup and marshmallows!

Each session had a curricular focus and included sharing ideas for how literacy, numeracy and science could be delivered in the outdoors.  The main purpose of the course however was to stimulate discussion and thinking about how we could move close to achieving the aim of outdoor learning being embedded within the curriculum.

Some comments from participants include:

“Before undertaking the course I had virtually no understanding of how to use the outdoors as a stimulus for learning. I hate being cold and wet and dirty, but I have loved every minute of the course so far. For me building fires and dens was a small part. The big part was how the outdoors could be used to teach almost anything and how learning outdoors fits into everyday literacy and numeracy tasks quite naturally.”

“Throughout the course I was continually reflecting on how the activities would have made the learning accessible to pupils who I had taught in the past who to whom literacy and numeracy was daunting. It would allow them, at the very least, to start learning at the same level as their peers.”

“I am taking outdoor learning forward in the school next year and cannot wait to develop all that I have learned on the lead teacher programme.”