Category Archives: conference

ASLS Schools Conference, 1/10/16

A healthy number of SATE members and friends attended the annual Association for Scottish Literary Studies conference, a veteran highlight of the CPD calendar.  ASLS is a fantastic organisation that has for decades been highly influential in promoting Scottish writing, both in and outwith schools.  You can join the ASLS here:  ASLS .

An excellent day was had by all.  Here are some thoughts and reflections.

Kerri-Anne Campbell, SATE student member trick

It was a pleasure to be part of the annual ASLS School’s Conference on October 1st 2016. Writers of the past, present and future were celebrated. Engaging, passionate speakers offered fresh perspectives on classic and contemporary Scottish literature and provided insights into engaging young learners with such texts in the classroom.

It was an autumnal Saturday spent chatting to fellow student teachers and literature enthusiasts. Lots of useful resources were provided and lunch was pretty good too!

As a PGDE student from Northern Ireland, the discussion of the languages of Scotland was particularly interesting as it was something I knew very little about before moving to Glasgow.

I have realised that teaching Scottish literature to young learners is not necessarily a simple task. The conference introduced me to teaching challenging Scottish texts, from Walter Scott’s short stories to Janice Galloway’s novels including ‘The Trick is to Keep Breathing.’ Each of these texts present potential obstacles in their own way however, the conference has inspired me as an English teacher to embrace such challenges.

I left the ASLS conference with a greater understanding and appreciation of Scotland’s history and literary culture and a long list of new Scottish novels I can’t wait to start using in my classroom.

Jane Wilson, SATE Committee member

Our phones and PCs give us access to a wealth of resources and information on just about anything. As English teachers, we teach about bias and identifying quality sources. Even so, sorting through the chaff to access the kernels of useful information takes time.

For the second year running, I attended the ASLS Conference.  It is my annual shortcut to high quality understanding of Scottish texts. (Being Canadian, I was raised in a different literary landscape.) The opportunity to hear from curriculum experts on specific set texts gives you new insight. Whether you are staring at a text for the first or looking it over for the 1000th, hearing someone else’s considered perspective rends it fresh and relevant.

The internet also provides global access to information; the ASLS conference narrows the focus to Scottish. Scottish texts as understood by Scottish teachers of English. On the day we delved into the works of James Robertson, ‘Men Should Weep’, ‘The Trick is to keep Breathing’, a fabulous round up of Scottish fiction for the BGE, introducing Walter Scott to the BGE…. It was resource-tastic both inside and out. Free teaching resources, discounted Scot Notes, literary magazine, posters (SATE lapel badges!) and delicious scran. I came last year out of interest. I returned this year for the quality of content and resources.

Rowan Climie, English Teacher, Queen Margaret Academy, Ayr

This was the third year I have attended the ASLS School’s Conference and, again, it was both an enjoyable and thogideonmack2007ught-provoking experience.

As always, a wide variety of texts were considered, ranging from Walter Scott to Janice Galloway.  Each speaker conveyed their enthusiasm and passion clearly , delivering not only thorough and original papers on their chosen text but also addressing how these texts can be used successfully within the context of the classroom.  Dr. Gillian Sargent discussed the challenges of teaching Galloway’s text and offered practical advice on how these can be overcome and   Alison Lumsden explored ways  in which Scott’s texts can be used as a stimulus for a range of creative writing activities.

In addition to the excellent speakers, we were treated to a celebration of work from writers of the future as the presentations were made for the Young Writer’s Award.

Overall, a great event which provided  both practical advice and aimed to excite the our enthusiasm for the wealth of Scottish literature available to us and our pupils.

Colin Bain, English Teacher, Ellon Academy, Aberdeenshire

Having been teaching for three years, I have come to realise how important it is to share and receive the expertise of others to continue to grow and develop practice as a teacher.  The ASLS School’s Conference on October 1st came highly recommended to me, and did not disappoint.  This conference provided an entertaining and insightful look into important works of Scottish Literature and, more importantly, brought life to the teaching of these texts.

A rich mix of material was provided, addressing the need for clear and strong material and approaches for both National 5 and Higher.  ‘The Testament of Gideon Mack’, ‘The Trick is to Keep Breathing’, and ‘Men Should Weep’ were all explored in a way that showed an understanding that whilst exams are an important part of the process and progress of a student’s learning, they are not the sole reason for which these texts were created.  I certainly wish to (re)read these without my teacher hat on.

The richness of the Scots language, and the power that it has in the classroom was made clear, and the use of well chosen literature can really inspire and engage pupils.  A portion of the day was given over to the Dictionary of the Scots Language, and their endless work documenting and formalising the state of our language was inspiring.  Also, a great look into the up-and-coming work being published right now, including a power of work on Scottish Graphic Novels and Picture Books.

As I sat on the train on the way back to Aberdeen, bag filled with new resources and books (I’m a sucker for a book stall) I found myself inspired.  I know a little bit more than I did before, some of it about the ‘old stuff’, and some of it about the ‘new’. Here’s tae ye, ASLS, for the conference – hopefully get the chance to attend in the future. See ye after.




Nate Conference 2016: an NQT’s experience.

Fhionnagh Waterfall was one of only three UK student teachers to win a free place at the 2016 NATE conference.  Here, she reflects on her experience and how it will influence her NQT year.


‘Congratulations!’ read the first line of the email and, for perhaps the first time, I was lost for words. A few weeks previous, however, I hadn’t been lost for words as I agonised over my 300-word application about what inspires me as a Newly Qualified English Teacher. I then forgot about the NATE conference for a few weeks, until (at a slightly obscene hour) I was notified that I had won a free place at the conference. I was obviously sleep deprived the next day from all the excitement. Two weeks later I arrived at a swanky hotel, very appropriately situated in Stratford-Upon-Avon, with picturesque views of the river and a blessing of great weather compared to the Scottish ‘summer’.

This was my first ever conference and as an anxious and nervous NQT about to embark on my probationary year, I felt extremely inferibadgeor to my fellow delegates. ‘I don’t have much to offer,’ I apologised, ‘but will probably just ask lots of questions.’

Friday morning began with breakfast, registration and a welcome before the conference opened with a bang with John Hegley’s opening keynote. John’s emphasis on ‘playing’ with text was really refreshing and packed the fun back into learning and teaching. Songs of guillemots, ukulele playing and comical anecdotes set us up for a weekend of more fun and, quite frankly, it got me pumped for what was to follow (which, much to my delight, was more tea, coffee and biscuits).

I attended two workshops that day – the first on approaching annotation through drama. The colour coding system used by Five Island’s School really appealed to me – as I’m sure it would to any stationary-obsessed English teacher. A small group of four in the workshop left me initially a little exposed but increasingly comfortable around like-minded, open people still willing to learn after years of practise. Getting up on my feet and bringing Shakespeare to life felt great and this is something I’m excited to share this with the kids.

Outside the main conference area was an array of sponsorship stands, with sign up forms, ‘how to books’ and – most importantly – free pens.

Tessa Hadley’s Keynote emphasised the importance of literature, particularly writing about writing. Tessa’s solution to writer’s block or how to deal with “the kid who can’t write” really stuck with me. “Write your self out of it” she said. Physically writing down “why can’t I do this? What am I trying to say?” and answering these and helps you organise your thoughts, claimed Tessa. I would like to personally thank Tessa for this as it worked wonders in the writing of this blog!

On Friday night we were greeted by a champagne reception and a beautiful three-course conference dinner during the award ceremony. This really gave me a sense of the ‘NATE family’ that I had recently became a part of. The dinner also allowed the more shy delegates to have a few drinks and get to know others. Networking at the event was perhaps one of the biggest benefits from attending the conference. Not only was I building on my knowledge and approaches to teaching and learning, but I was also widening my circle of colleagues and experts to learn from. I also gained a substantial number of new twitter followers – Result!

Needless to say I woke up the next morning a little less fresh than I’d hoped.

My fuzziness, however,  quickly subsided with the beginnings of day two, as we launched into another jam-packed day. Nick Handel’s ‘calling the shots’ seminar was a dream for those nervous about teaching media. Nick’s resources and ideas were extremely classroom friendly and practical, despite Nick’s expertise being mainly in media making rather than media education. Having met some of my classes already, I can see Nick’s approach to media as a great way to inspire creative writing – an area of English I’ve always lacked confidence with.


Jenny Grahame’s Keynote ‘Wild West to World Wide Web’ was hilarious and captivating. Despite being strapped for time, Jenny took us on a whistle-stop tour of the history of media education. Previous to this event I had ignorantly considered the teaching of media to be a relatively new practice. I was obviously enlightened by Jenny’s chart of the arc of media education, which, sadly, appears to be increasingly side-lined. There are ‘extremely uncomfortable compromises to be made’ in England, claimed Jenny. I reflected after this presentation, feeling sincerely grateful to be a teacher in Scotland where freedom and creativity is welcomed and celebrated. I am so thankful to be a Scottish English teacher.

Chris Riddell’s closing keynote was ultimately the highlight of the weekend. Not only because I was fan-girling all over the place, but because it brought to the forefront why we were all there – our enjoyment of reading and our passion to inspire that in young people. Chris addressed the tragedy and travesty of the closing of libraries, an issue close to my own heart as I see the hugely positive impact our school librarian has on the kids. I felt star-struck, honoured but also deserving to be there. Despite my lack of experience and relatively limited knowledge of the teaching profession, I feel that my confidence has grown hugely after attending the conference. I am now part of a family that evolves, innovates and continually reinvents the nature of teaching.

I left the conference weighed down by the free pens and bookmarks I had acquired over the weekend, but also uplifted by the friends, colleagues, advice and confidence I had acquired too.


Fhionnagh Waterfall is a former student at The University of Strathclyde.  She teaches at Larbert High School. All views are her own.