Category Archives: Primary

Benchmarks – the value of collaboration

A blog by Lorna Harvey, Acting Senior Education Officer
for Numeracy and Mathematics

Last year ( August 2016), we published draft Benchmarks for literacy and English and for numeracy and mathematics with the aim of providing clarity on the national standards expected at each level of the Broad General Education. We wanted to make clear what learners need to know and what they need to be able to do to progress through the levels, and to provide guidance that would support consistency in teachers’ and other practitioners’ professional judgements.

By publishing the Benchmarks in draft, we wanted to ensure we had time to consult with the very people who would be using the Benchmarks. We were committed to developing guidance that would hit the mark and achieve our aim of providing clarity.

From the outset we were keen to hear from as many practitioners as possible and we wanted to make sure anyone wishing to provide feedback felt confident that they could be as open and honest as they wished. To achieve that we set up an anonymous online consultation, but we also planned a number of face-to-face sessions allowing for more depth to our discussions and the opportunity for people to ask questions.

A number of National Network events provided opportunities for practitioners from across Scotland to contribute to this consultation process. This included the National Literacy Network, the National Numeracy Network and the Principal Teacher/Faculty Head Forum for Mathematics. Colleagues from SQA were involved in many of these discussions.

Some people decided to get together with colleagues and offer suggestions, while others wanted to provide their individual response. Whichever way people chose to provide feedback, it was extremely valuable. It was great to receive insight based on practitioners’ engagement with the Benchmarks in their education setting.

Together with my colleagues across Education Scotland , I worked on collating the results and analysing the feedback before making relevant changes to the Benchmarks. A number of stakeholders had offered to be involved in further consultation so we shared the updated Benchmarks and gathered more feedback as part of the process.

And then we had them. The final Benchmarks, shaped by practitioners and providing the clarity that we had been aiming for. A real collaborative effort.

We have now published the Benchmarks on our National Improvement Hub and would encourage practitioners to familiarise themselves with the documents before they begin using them in their setting. It’s also worth having a look at the ‘change’ documents we developed which clearly show where changes have been made from the drafts. There is also a frequently asked questions document.

We have uploaded a broadcast on the National Numeracy and Mathematics Hub which provides background information, advice and guidance on using the Benchmarks. The majority of this broadcast is relevant for all practitioners and there is a specific numeracy and mathematics input also. This broadcast could be used at an In-Service day in August to raise awareness of the Benchmarks and support professional discussion and planning.

We will be providing seminars at the Scottish Learning Festival in September as well as a Yamjam – where practitioners are invited to engage in an online discussion about the Benchmarks.

We would like to say  a huge thank you to all the practitioners who supported the consultation process, working with us and engaging with the drafts to provide valuable feedback to help shape the final documents

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Baillie Gifford Schools Programme – 21-29 August 2017

What’s the Big Idea?
The 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival Baillie Gifford Schools Programme challenges young minds to question, imagine and wonder. The programme brings together well-established writers, illustrators and performers from every corner of the globe, along with some shining new talent.
The programme is full of activities that will entertain, educate, enthral and inspire everyone from P1 pupils to teens and teachers, including events with bestselling illustrator Kristina Stephenson, Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy, picture book events for the youngest primary school pupils, and a Relaxed Event for pupils with Additional Support Needs.
You can find more information, download the full programme and book tickets on the Book Festival’s new Learning Site: learning.edbookfest.co.uk

Water Safety

As we approach the summer holidays, Scottish Water would like to make all parents and their children aware of the water safety code.
Water safety is a priority but especially during the summer months when children spend more time outdoors.

Scottish water would encourage teachers to take the time to access the Go Safe Scotland resource and deliver a water safety lesson before the summer break.

For more information go to Go Safe Scotland – Water Safety.

Ask the Explorer!

Glow TV is delighted to support inspirational explorers Luke and Hazel Robertson in their adventure to Alaska. In this session we look forward to following their progress as they trek across Alaska.

Join us live on Monday 19th June at 2pm from Fairbanks where they are preparing for the next leg of their journey.

If you unable to join us for the live event you can always catch up with the recording at another time – Glow TV’s Watch Again.

E-Sgoil: A digital solution for Gaelic Medium Education Scottish Learning Festival: Wednesday 20 September

E-Sgoil offers schools a digital learning solution to increase the breadth of programmes and pathways on offer to young people as part of Curriculum for Excellence.  You are invited to a seminar at the Scottish Learning Festival at which Angus MacLennan, Headteacher of e-Sgoil will share an evaluation of some primary and secondary pilots that e-Sgoil ran in their first year.   Advice will also be available on how e-Sgoil can increase learning through the medium of Gaelic at the secondary stages. Information on how to register for this seminar, and the festival programme, are available here.

Gaelic Medium Education – self-improvement, attainment and leadership

By Joan Esson, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for inspection of Gaelic Medium Education

The recently published report, ‘Quality and Improvement in Scottish Education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) highlighted a number of key areas of strengths and aspects for improvement from 3-18 Gaelic Medium Education (GME) inspections. You can read the chapter relating to GME on our website.

It was a great privilege to review our inspection findings for GME and evidence how the sector is developing. The approaches that are used in GME are a very effective example of language learning in Scotland.  Children learn the language to a high level of fluency which enables them to access learning through Gaelic, while achieving expected attainment levels in all areas of the curriculum.

Overall, inspectors found that most children and young people in GME were making good progress in developing their fluency. By the senior phase, attainment in Gàidhlig as a subject is strong.  Interest in the role of Gaelic (Learners) as an additional language, and the development of GME in some areas of Scotland, is growing.

In this blog, I would like to consider three areas that should be given initial consideration in using the QuISE report as part of the improvement journey for GME.

  1. Being a self-improving GME provision

Education Scotland aims to support practitioners as they build capacity for improvement. The QuISE report presents an important source for practitioners’ use in self-evaluation. The chapters for early learning and childcare, primary and secondary, should be used along with the one on GME. Education Scotland’s Advice on Gaelic Education gives a strategic guide to what constitutes high-quality national practice, some of which now forms statutory Guidance. Taken together with self-evaluation frameworks, practitioners have a rich resource to enable an in-depth focus on Gaelic. Senior leaders, along with other practitioners, should take time to use these resources for self-evaluation. In future inspections, we would like to evidence improved leadership of GME, with Gaelic being at the heart of strategic planning and part of continuous improvement.      

2. Closing the attainment gap

An important outcome of GME is that children attain equally well, or better, than their peers in English medium education. This gives parents confidence in GME for which we need to have a relentless focus on high-quality attainment and progress. In our forthcoming inspections, we would like to see practitioners, and indeed the children and young people themselves, being clearer on their progress and how to improve further. To clarify expectations, teachers assisted us in designing Benchmarks for literacy and Gàidhlig. These need to be used in the joint planning of learning, teaching and assessment;  for monitoring and tracking of progress and in the moderation of standards.

At all times, practitioners have an important role in interacting skilfully with children, while modelling good immersion techniques to help children acquire the language. Practitioners’ skill in doing this impacts on children’s fluency. Playroom experiences are threaded together and given direction with a curriculum framework that promotes continuity and progression.

Education Scotland’s Advice on Gaelic Education (particularly chapter 7), coupled with Building the Ambition, (particularly chapters 6 and 7), present practitioners with effective pedagogy for early learning in GME. Building the Curriculum 2 details children’s natural disposition “to wonder, to be curious, to pose questions, to experiment, to suggest, to invent and to explain”. In the immersion playroom, practitioners will engage in short periods of activities that they will lead as part of children’s intended learning. At other times, children will be choosing what they play which they may initiate as they follow their interests, or be an experience planned by practitioners.

If we are to close the attainment gap in GME, we need to recognise the early gains from a strong total immersion experience as part of early learning and childcare. For this, children need to hear and absorb very fluent Gaelic across a range of play contexts.   Practitioners’ quality and frequent interactions are key drivers in helping children to acquire fluency as they foster learning which is creative, investigative and exploratory.

3. Improving the leadership of the GME curriculum

The QuISE  report highlighted that our strong primary GME provisions are clear on the correlation between immersion, fluency and impact on attainment.   At the secondary stages, there is still more to do to ensure young people have enough opportunities to learn through Gaelic. We recognise in the QuISE  report that there are challenges from shortages of Gaelic-speaking practitioners.  However, we ask for more of a solution-focused approach.  Our Advice on Gaelic Education  (particularly chapters 9-13) gives strategic direction to the development of the GME secondary curriculum.

In our forthcoming inspections, we would like to see much more prominence given to those learning in GME as a group for whom pathways need to be developed. It would be useful to continue to develop a shared understanding of how Curriculum for Excellence, with its emphasis on the totality of learning, may be maximised for GME. Speakers of Gaelic are a key driver in planning the curriculum. Could more of our Gaelic-speaking practitioners in schools be delivering some aspect of the curriculum in Gaelic?  Could they, for example, be encouraged to deliver a subject, club, universal support or an opportunity for achievement through Gaelic?  The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” chimes with the need to increase the role of partners in the GME curriculum.  A good starting point would be for curriculum planners to know who their Gaelic-speaking partners are, and begin to ascertain how they can assist with planning and delivery of learning.

Finally, I would like to invite you to a seminar at the Scottish Learning Festival which focuses on how technology can increase learning through the medium of Gaelic. e-Sgoil presents a digital solution to delivering the curriculum. The headteacher of e-Sgoil will share an evaluation of some pilots that ran this year. Information on how to register for this seminar, and the festival programme, are available here.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge within overall school improvement

By Graeme Logan, Strategic Director, Education Scotland

We have a once in a career opportunity to make a significant breakthrough for children living in poverty in Scotland through the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC). The areas for improvement highlighted in our recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) are all very relevant to our national mission to close the poverty-related attainment gap and to strive for excellence and equity for every child in Scotland.

SAC, including the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF), gives us the additional resources to transform children’s progress and attainment. I know that many headteachers I speak to are excited about the possibilities. They are also keen to make sure we make the best use of these resources.

At Education Scotland we aim to provide you with the best possible advice on what works. In addition to the inspection evidence in QuISE, our advice includes access to a Scottish version of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Learning and Teaching Toolkit, and also our own Interventions for Equity, which shares a range of interesting examples and approaches from Scottish schools which have been involved with the SAC programmes.

Other significant changes we have introduced this year will also help. These include clarity on the model of assessment for the broad general education, which is teacher judgement of children’s achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, informed by a range of evidence and high quality moderation.  This demonstrates the value and trust placed in our teachers to make overall judgements about children’s progress. In doing this, teachers helped us to create the new Benchmarks for literacy and numeracy, which clarify the national standard for the achievement of each level.

We are taking a broad definition of the attainment gap and are not just considering statistics on overall attainment in isolation. If we are to achieve the vision of Curriculum for Excellence we need to think about achievement in a range of areas too. Earlier this year I spoke to around 2,000 headteachers from every part of the country in a series of events. We encouraged them to think about the attainment gap in the context of five key areas:

  • Attendance
  • Attainment
  • Exclusion
  • Engagement
  • Participation

The first three may seem more obvious and in some respects easier to measure. However, engagement and participation are equally as important for children’s progress and development. Some schools have started to track all five areas, for example, observing the extent of children’s active engagement in learning through use of tools such as the Leuven Scale of Engagement.  They have also started to track the extent to which children participate in the school’s wider curriculum and wider offer.

Schools will not be able to make the breakthrough we want to see for children living in poverty on their own. Many third sector and partner organisations are making a major contribution to improving children’s progress and engagement, and there are examples on the National Improvement Hub; type ‘Scottish Attainment Challenge’ into the search box to see all our resources.

One of the most important partnerships is that with families and communities. In the first year of the Challenge this was the area in which we saw least activity, and we’re actively looking at how we can change that. Our Review of Family Learning provides a good evidence base and recommendations for ways in which family learning can be developed within communities.

With inspection looking at attainment (QI 3.2) from August, including how schools are using PEF to close the gap, now is a good time to self-evaluate your approach to attainment. We will be particularly interested in the rationale and initial decision making for the use of PEF, as we believe that this will be key to ensuring that the most effective interventions are selected for each individual school and community context.

Online collaboration is also a key feature of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Our Yammer group on Glow for headteachers has over 1,000 members! The largest ever online collaboration between Scottish headteachers. My keynote presentation from the pupil equity conferences is available on the Yammer group. Further key materials will be shared through the Yammer group too. I am currently preparing a keynote presentation for our September Curriculum for Excellence conferences for headteachers. During this presentation I will discuss ways in which curriculum flexibility and curriculum design can be used to close the gap. I will also share the most effective approaches attainment advisors have shared and also draw on the key strengths from schools where HM Inspectors have evaluated the new QI on raising attainment and achievement.

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a national endeavour and something which many teachers feel passionate about. For many the main reason they entered the profession was to make the biggest difference to children’s chances in life, particularly those who live in poverty. Reflecting on QuISE’s five priorities for improvement, as well as the specific focuses of SAC, will help ensure the success of our drive to remove the pattern between lower attainment and living in poverty.

QuISE’s five improvement priorities are an excellent place to start.

Gaelic Translation Competition Winners!

Education Scotland and SCILT are delighted to announce the winners of the Scientist biography translation competition.

They are: 

Hannah Wood, Gairloch High School-Gaelic (Learners);

Donald Morrison, Millburn Academy-Literacy and Gàidhlig

Congratulations and well done! Mealaibh ur naidheachd is gur math a rinn sibh!

Thank you to all who took part.

These winning entries are now available on the National Improvement Hub alongside the other biographies. This work will support learners of Gaelic across Scotland.

Tackling the priorities in QuISE – a joined up approach?

 

By Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director

Our report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) points to five key aspects of education and practice which we believe should be priorities for improvement if all learners in Scotland are to achieve their potential. Many or all sectors of education should be:

  • exploiting fully the flexibility of Curriculum for Excellence to meet better the needs of all learners;
  • improving arrangements for assessment and tracking to provide personalised guidance and support throughout the learner journey;
  • maximising the contribution of partnerships with other services, parents and the wider community to enhance children’s and young people’s learning experiences;
  • improving further the use of self-evaluation and improvement approaches to ensure consistent high quality of provision; and
  • growing a culture of collaboration within and across establishments and services to drive innovation, sharing of practice and collective improvement.

Looking at these priorities from my perspective in ensuring the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, the employability and skills agenda, and digital learning and teaching, I am struck by how the priorities inter-relate and, indeed, are interdependent.

The flexibility offered by CfE has the potential for schools to design their curriculum structures in ways that reflect fully the local contexts and aspirations of their learners. Within this, the range of progression pathways can then enable children and young people to make suitably brisk progress across the broad general education, and into and through the senior phase.  This needs to be informed by improved assessment and tracking to ensure teachers, learners and parents make the most appropriate decisions at the right time.

However, there is no doubt that the curriculum structures needed to make this a reality rely very strongly on the direct contributions of partners, including agencies and local employers. Collaborations amongst staff within and across schools, with colleagues in colleges, community learning and development and other areas of expertise all combine to enrich the curriculum and motivate learners.

In early learning and childcare provision, primary and secondary schools, the new curriculum area Benchmarks are beginning to support a clearer understanding of learners’ progression across the broad general education. This  will help teachers to plan the breadth, challenge and application of learning that will prepare young people for the three year learner journey of their senior phase.  And that of course involves collaborations and the wide range of qualifications across the SCQF framework, exploiting again the flexibility of CfE in preparing learners for their futures.

Partnerships are the essential element in Developing the Young Workforce. I’m becoming aware of increasingly effective approaches to employability, skills and career education, often promoted through three-ways partnerships amongst schools, colleges and employers.  And by now you’ll be seeing the connections with the other QuISE priorities of collaboration and more informed personal guidance that can help to exploit that full flexibility in CfE.

Digital learning and teaching has great potential to promote and improve partnership working and collaboration, locally, nationally and internationally. Teachers and pupils can gain significantly in learning from the innovative and effective practice of others.  Where digital is central in planning and delivering learning and teaching, and makes use of learners’ own digital skills or develops them further, I’m in no doubt that young people benefit.  Digital can and does support teachers in their tracking and monitoring, reducing bureaucracy and workload.  As digital access and digital skills continues to improve, the opportunities for leaders, practitioners and learners to take steps that address the QuISE priorities are significant.

The individual QuISE chapters on each education sector highlight good practice as well as challenges in providing high quality experiences for all. The key is often the distinct professionalism of leaders and practitioners, engaging individually and collaboratively to reflect and to make the changes that matter.

Finally, effective self-evaluation is central to ensuring continuous improvement in addressing the priorities in QuISE.   I am beginning to see schools, colleges, and community learning and development now looking beyond their own centre and working with all partners in undertaking self-evaluation and analysing evidence.  The benefit will be greater collective understanding of how effectively their curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment genuinely meet their learners’ needs.  Where that process leads to jointly agreed actions for improvement, I’m in no doubt that the learning experiences and the outcomes for all children and young people will also improve.