Category Archives: My educational philosophy

Standing up for justice; standing up for our children.

I sit and write this blog after one of the most thought provoking discussions so far in my university journey. One in which we were discussing theories such as the Montessori, Owen and Frobel perspectives on education. Each being primarily child-centre focused and broadening on aspects of children thriving on their own initiative and creativity.


It has been a week since I attended the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow. Amongst many very interesting seminars, I was particularly hooked on an inspiring talk on the “Play in Primary One” perspective of Canal View Primary School in Edinburgh, a school which has benefited from Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) due to increasing poverty surrounding the area and high levels in the SIMD indicators for deprivation.


After finding that a change had to be made into the dynamics of their early years classroom, Canal View completely replenished their existing timetable. It enabled them to create a more active learning environment in which the children, like the views of the practitoners in the opening paragraph expressed, could thrive in and build on their own learning. This was enforced by employing extra members of staff through PEF, including a child psychologist, an early years practitioner and a speech therapist.

What they then found, was that their stats on both numeracy and literacy rose significantly within just a year of their new practice. What they found to be a key aspect of this change was more collaboratively encouraging continuous dialogue within the classroom, having planned and purposeful play (waiting til children were READY for phonics, reading and writing) and stripping certain things back to basics, for example, teaching children skills such as listening.

  Standardised scores from Canal View after one year of new programme.

Vocabulary pie charts over one year at Canal View.

They did find some difficulties within this however. It took a lot of time and not just within the planning of this, but to get the parents on board with the new ideas. They expressed to sustain the high levels of achievement, they would need two new members of staff for the following year. This they could do with PEF.

Now what striked me today, during the lecture on these practitioners was, are we really getting it right for every child? Yes, you could argue that Canal View is a prime example of a wonderful success story. But could it have been achieved without the increasing staff numbers and the funding available? Why is it not compulsory for us as teachers to have access to these professionals and other specialists in order for our children to have the best learning experience?

Robert Owens in his theory stressed that creative subjects are key to improving health, education, well being and rights of the working class. He used those subjects in his system to relieve stress and when minds became fatigued, he would engage in these subjects with pupils to expose them to physical exercise and music.

When I came to Dundee from Orkney I was surprised that there were next to no specialist teachers in the classroom. From somebody who had achieved great things through music, art, PE and drama at school, I couldn’t understand how a child would thrive in any environment without these subjects. I am thankful to have an interest in these subjects and feel (with practice) I could expose my students to these key subjects in good detail. The same cannot be said for all teachers however. Having specialist creative arts and technology teachers provides our children with enriching experiences that can benefit them in not just the classroom but in their lifelong learning.

In a recent survey, Education Scotland (2013) said that the general consensus of creative skills amongst teachers were as follows:

” Although most staff are familiar with the interrelated skills within the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, there is general agreement that understanding of the creative process and associated
creativity skills as distinct concepts needs to be enhanced across education sectors,
so that their particular characteristics can be developed for the benefit of children
and young people.”

What I feel strongly about is that specialist teachers are crucial to a child’s development. It was shown in Canal View to make an incredible difference to not just the children’s creative skills, but their all round skill levels, including numeracy and literacy. I feel that to remove this from schools is a major injustice to our children in Scotland and it will be interesting to see how this changes in the future.

Standing up, speaking out and supporting our children in their journey through school –  if it can make a difference to some schools, we must ensure this is happening in the rest of Scotland.



Education Scotland (2013), Creativity Across Learning 3-18, Livingston: Education Scotland



Memorable Classes in School – The Creative Arts

Throughout my time at school (both in primary and secondary), the most memorable classes for me were ones that emphasised on skills primarily used in the creative arts. Be this cutting cardboard with Stanley knives to make human sized dinosaurs or presenting wall posters describing Orkney’s role in World War 2. My favourite experience at school however was when I played Rizzo in Grease!

Yes back in 2014, I got the chance to play one of my least favourite characters (yes you heard right…LEAST favourite) in my world of musicals. The real story behind this was how I grew to love her through learning about who the real character was behind the attitude and how I apply and think about this in my every day life.

My drama and music teachers were my most influential and inspirational teachers at school. They saw my potential as a learner and encouraged me (and others in the class) to think outside of the box in everything that we did. Be that both within and outwith the classroom.

When the news came out that we were doing Grease as our school show I was ecstatic. Our teachers prepared us for auditions by doing extra script readings after school (they did this so often and I realise now how much that helped so many of us through our time at school) and song sessions at lunchtime. As we became familiar with the script, I despised Rizzo’s character more. I had never played such a saucy, sarcastic and tough character in my life?! No way would I be auditioning for that part.

2 weeks later and my hopes of playing Sandy were quashed…I had got the part of Rizzo..

What followed however, through many rehearsals, tears and tantrums, was a love for a character that I had only ever had once before (Nancy in Oliver!). You see, despite the tough and arrogant persona that Rizzo flaunted, there was a certain vulnerability to her that I had never considered before. My teachers had encouraged me through means of messages in song to see beyond the outside version of a person.

This particularly hit me emotionally when I sang “There are Worse Things I Could Do.” The words and power behind the music really got me to contrast the previously stubborn Rizzo into a sense of sorrow and relent on her previous behaviours.

The show was a real hit in the community which was great and we ended up raising around £10,000 for the school. What I think was important about this particular time in my life was realising the importance of never judging a book by its cover, and it was my teachers, whilst encouraging me to pursue the role, that made me realise that.

Baby Steps, Big Dreams: Journey to my mental health recovery

So I haven’t posted in a while (a year and a half ago eek!) but I have been taking time to blog on my own personal life. Truth is, this year really hasn’t been easy and to know I have made it through and to still be at university is a blessing.

A lot has changed since the last time I blogged, especially as last year I was diagnosed with depression.

I had always been prone to problems related to anxiety but it had never really dawned on me that depression would be the root cause of how I was feeling. After placement last year, I struggled a lot. I was ill for the first week with continuous bouts of tonsillitis. It was only when I got home in summer that things really started to go downhill. I was so lethargic and I didn’t really manage to get out of bed to work. From someone who was so sociable, smiley and friendly, I became tired, overly emotional and a recluse. The point I am trying to make is mental health issues do not discriminate and what I have learned from this is to never judge a book by its cover.

I knew that things weren’t okay, I just didn’t have the motivation or energy to do anything about it. It actually ended up being family members that spoke to me about it as they were extremely worried about my well-being. I am speaking about this on such an open forum, not for sympathy, but to share my story in the hope that others can relate and not feel isolated in what they are going through.

Furthermore, I have created an Instagram account (@babystepsbigdreams) and started up my own website ( to share my own personal experience with depression and to document my road to recovery.

The response has been incredible so far with folk from all over messaging me in with their stories of recovery. I want to be as positive an influence I can on a topic that affects so many people. I also feel that opening up the forum in Orkney is what’s been needed for a long time. To feel like I am not alone for the first time in years has truly helped me in so many ways, but as well, it has helped others to not feel alone either. That was the sole purpose of why I wanted to go public with my story. I do not want it to define me because I know, with the help and support that I have received that I will get there, in time. I have a lot of aims that I have made recently and one of them is to make sure that I take care of myself more. Not get stressed over little things, let things go and not be so hard on myself.

However things haven’t all been doom and gloom! For one, I can definitely take some positives from my experience but also…


Something I never ever thought I would achieve! So the camp I am heading to is Camp Kennebec and it is for kids and teens with special needs, learning disabilities, and developmental delays including autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, ADD, Down Syndrome, OCD, brain injury, anxiety, social skill and other challenges. This is going to be such a special experience for me and I honestly can’t explain how excited I am to go! New challenges, conquering fears and having fun are all up on the tick list!

The message I want to send out today is its okay to not be okay, its okay to take time out for yourself and I cannot stress the importance enough of having good, supportive people around you. Little things like organizing your room, getting up and getting out and seeing friends is all part of getting through each day. Its the little things in life that count. Without the support system I’ve had from both the university and outwith, I don’t know where I would be. Everything takes time and it won’t happen overnight. Do what you need to make your life yours again and to make yourself feel like you ♥

The view from my new flat for next year – onwards and upwards!

My next post is going to be reflecting on my feelings surrounding our brand new Education and Social Work society, which is now up and running! I was fortunate to be voted in as president for this year so I look forward to writing up about it all soon!

So for now, lots of love and take care,

Gemma ♥