Tag Archives: partners

Talk with us…improving sciences education 3-18 conversation days

At our first face-to-face conversation day in December 2012, delegates shared their thoughts about key priorities for Education Scotland in the sciences, to inform our business planning processes for 2013/14. We have shared these below. What we plan to do next is to discuss these in more detail on the blog to gather views more widely. The first three related posts, from 20th December, 11th January and 7th February are on exemplification , sharing practice and providing input to the future of the Education Scotland online services.

Key priorities for Education Scotland’s planning

Developing online learning communities, and learning communities within education authorities; encourage collegiality to allow more professional dialogue; support mentoring or peer support schemes for practitioners;

Continuing to back up reports with forums to engage practitioners, such as the Sciences 3-18 blog and STEM Professional Learning Community

Supporting effective professional learning which meets the needs of practitioners, in particular provision of support for leaders in learning and senior managers; sharing good practice, identifying “champion” schools

Creating a portal of research; support classroom practitioners in carrying out research

Exemplifying learning and teaching of experiences and outcomes, and investigation and inquiry in the sciences; filter and recommend practical resources

Developing among practitioners a shared understanding of relevant skills, including responsibilites of all, and of assessment

Communicating clearly the remit of Education Scotland; keep Development Officers (DOs) for longer periods for more consistency

Reviewing ITE selection processes

Articulating with needs of industy

Working closely with parents

Reviewing accessibility of Education Scotland website

Implementation of Curriculum for Excellence in a holistic way within a national framework, with reminder of the priority – meeting the needs of learners and the child at the centre

Talk with us…improving sciences education 3-18 conversation days

At our first face-to-face conversation day in December 2012, delegates heard from young people and practitioners, before joining in discussion in groups to review the key strengths and aspects for development from the Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project report. Groups were asked to consider, what are the key priorities for transforming sciences education over the next 3 to 5 years? Groups discussed key priorities for sciences education, reflecting on the report’s findings and on their own views. We shared these discussions in our 23rd January post.

In the afternoon session, groups selected one of the priorities to explore in more depth, using the Implento tool. Almost all groups chose the same issue – raising confidence of practitioners teaching sciences within the broad general education – and through the afternoon sessions identified actions to help achieve this were discussed.

Below are the discussion notes, in the delegates’ own words:

We decided to work through the following action:

Boosting confidence of practitioners teaching sciences within the broad general education

We identified the following worst fears and outcomes from this action:

status quo; learning and teaching does not improve; teaching to the test is the norm and learners are exposed only to content without higher-order thinking skills; lack of scientific inquiry;

primary sector not including sciences;

science taught is less topical, and lacks creativity; teaching is in discrete subjects and chunks;

children and young people are less interested, and less confident, in STEM subjects; uptake falls;  children and young people have poor scientific literacy, general population is less scientifically literate;

staff feel overwhelmed and disillusioned; loss of practitioners from the profession;

political demand for specialists, diminishing resources;

the skills gap increases; Scotland’s economy suffers, low-tech economy unable to support high-tech business;

decline in life chances, choices and opportunities for young people.


The following actions were suggested to recover from this negative picture:

review, gather evidence, revisit the programme of support; clear and concise documentation for educational matters;

ensure greater accountability;

address leadership weaknesses at all levels—including continuity and school and council level; ITE and GTCS working together to promote strong leadership;

work collaboratively to identify and build body of excellent practice; practitioners involved in building support networks, peer learning and support; practitioners and resources updated; professional learning for and by practitioners becomes outcome and impact-based;

ensure high-quality learning and teaching with on-going professional learning, accompanied by quality dialogue about learning and teaching; use of professional learning communities, for example teacher learning communities; encourage practitioners to undertake classroom based research;

engage with learners and parents to enthuse about science before it becomes a chore; emphasise skills in science to meet industry needs and enthuse learners;

consideration of assessment methods; is the test worthwhile? Is it testing what matters? Learners able to self-select evidence of learning; change community ideas of value of the test by working together;

advantageous tax rates for new, high-tech businesses.


We saw the following positive outcomes as real possibilities:

science for all—not elitist;

Scotland established centre of excellence for science with room for diversity;

better communication and collaboration across all sectors;

increased uptake in STEM by all young people; increase in males in biology and females in physics;

children and young people being given, accepting and eventually demanding responsibility for their own learning; practitioners learning from children and young people with informed debate between learners and staff; children and young people talking about science and more confident;

learners exhibit increased curiosity, creativity, skills development, confidence; increased literacy and scientific literacy;

confident and enthusiastic staff, meeting the needs of individuals, with the confidence to apply science to every-day events;

scientific thinking informs other subjects; clearer natural interdisciplinary learning and understanding; science is relevant, and genuinely inquiry-based;

engaged learners and communities; better parental engagement and understanding of science.

The following were suggested as ways to build on the positive outcomes:

re-identifying the priority: the learner at the centre and development of the four capacities; implementation in an holistic way maintaining performance and enthusiasm; education authorities working together;

collaborating closely between industry and academia to reinforce shared goal outcomes, ES role in encouraging and supporting this;

promoting the development of school leadership;

developing learning communities in education authorities and online; developing mentoring and peer support within education authorities; continue to support publication of reports by online engagement;

creating a portal of research for practitioners and commissioning independent research;

sharing good practice and parental involvement that is apparent in early years to continue into all sectors of education; sharing excellent practice and identifying “champion” schools;

exemplifying excellence in learning and teaching; filtering and recommending practical classroom resources; exemplification of science investigation and inquiry within broad general education;

developing shared understanding of relevant skills,  skills progression and how to develop these skills; emphasise development of higher-order thinking skills and build these into National 4 and 5;

sharing lessons learned in the sciences across other curriculum areas;

planning for contextualised learning with the big ideas of sciences understood; planning across four aspects of the curriculum, and for 3-18 in a seamless way;

ensuring professional learning has a focus on the national perspective and linking to national agenda, with local quality assurance of provision;

reviewing ITE selection processes.

Education Scotland has licensed the Transition Leadership tools and the Three Horizons toolkit for the specific and sole purpose of improving Scottish Education and the partner services that support it. We are delighted to have partnered the following people and organisations in this venture: Executive Arts Inc.; James R. Ewing, ForthRoad Ltd.; International Futures Forum and Graham Leicester.

Talk with us…tell us what you think about Education Scotland’s website

In our 10th December discussion day, delegates discussed useability of Education Scotland’s website. At Education Scotland we are continually improving our website (http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk) to ensure it meets the needs of Scottish education. As part of our plans to redevelop the website we need your opinions of it; this is your opportunity to review the website and provide feedback for improvements.

We are looking for a wide range of people who work in, or have an interest in, the education system, such as:
· practitioners (early years, primary, secondary, additional support needs, Gaelic)
· establishment managers and leaders
· community development officers
· college lecturers and curriculum leaders
· education service managers
· quality improvement officers (QIOs)
· parents and carers.

All you’ll need to do is spend an hour completing a few set tasks, supported by one of our usability experts.

If you are interested and would like more information, please email the following details to websitefeedback@educationscotland.gov.uk

· Name

· Position or role
· Educational establishment
· Local authority area
· Email
· Phone number

Talk with us…improving sciences education 3-18 conversation days

Now that we are into the second half of January we are setting in motion our planning for the second of our series of face-to-face conversation days about improving sciences education 3-18 in Scotland.

We were delighted to be joined on our first day in December by young people and parents, practitioners from early years, primary, secondary and special schools, representatives from further and higher education, and a range of partners, with representation from a wide range of geographical areas across Scotland.

Following presentations from young people and practitioners, delegates joined in discussion in groups to review the key strengths and aspects for development from the Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project report. Groups were asked to consider, what are the priorities for transforming sciences education over the next 3 to 5 years? Groups discussed key priorities for sciences education, reflecting on the report’s findings and on their own views.

The priorities identified, in the delegates’ own words, included:

Planning for high-quality learning and teaching

The need for high-quality learning and teaching leading to highly-motivated children and young people. Within this priorities were given as: implementing planning which ensures a coherent curriculum and seamless learning from 3-18, across transitions at all stages, within levels, across sectors and from broad general education (BGE) to senior phase, with communication to ensure effective progression and taking account of prior learning; ensuring all practitioners plan learning across the four aspects of the curriculum, including interdisciplinary learning; ensuring BGE continues until the end of S3 in secondary schools; regular feedback to children and young people, and as part of planning for learning, so that they know how to improve their learning and know what success looks like; building confidence in assessing progress in the sciences in the BGE and towards qualifications; supporting young people in making successful transitions to positive and sustained destinations with the right skills including  literacy, numeracy and scientific skills.

Confidence of practitioners

Boosting the confidence of every / any practitioner teaching the sciences in the broad general education, and in all sectors. Giving colleagues the confidence to share courses and programmes, developing ideas and work.

Professional learning

Highly-skilled professionals and leadership at all levels. Professional development of practitioners in post being updated and monitored through robust systems which encourage and ensure participation. High-quality professional learning linked to personal and departmental improvement plans. Professional learning to support practitioners in developing knowledge and understanding of relevance and purpose of learning in the sciences, linked to transferable skills.


Developing genuine partnerships with parents, industry, colleges


Sciences for all, through a motivating and challenging curriculum. We need to ensure that all learners are aware of strengths and recognise successes to keep them engaged with the sciences throughout and beyond school.

In the afternoon session, groups selected one of the priorities to explore in more depth, using the Implento tool. Almost all groups chose the same issue – raising confidence of practitioners teaching sciences in the broad general education – and through the afternoon sessions identified actions to help achieve this were discussed.

The groups’ conversations, and those from future conversation days, will be instrumental in helping us to shape our priorities for the forthcoming sessions, to help us all work together to achieve transformational change in sciences 3-18 education in Scotland.

Our second face-to-face conversation day will take place in Spring 2013, with further conversations planned for Summer 2013. If you are interested in participating, or in hosting a conversation day please contact Lisi Kama (Lisi.Kama@educationscotland.gsi.gov.uk).

You can find out more about the first of the conversation days on this blog:

Talk with us…about what makes a good science teacher

Talk with us…improving science education 3-18 conversation days

Talk with us…about inspiring girls in STEM

Talk with us…about sharing practice

Talk with us…about exemplification

Education Scotland has licensed the Transition Leadership tools and the Three Horizons toolkit for the specific and sole purpose of improving Scottish Education and the partner services that support it. We are delighted to have partnered the following people and organisations in this venture: Executive Arts Inc.; James R. Ewing, ForthRoad Ltd.; International Futures Forum and Graham Leicester.

Talk with us…about exemplification

In our 10th December discussion day, exemplification of learning and teaching within the broad general education and senior phase was discussed as being helpful to practitioners.

One of Education Scotland’s approaches to this within the sciences is through STEM Central, our web based resource which provides rich, stimulating and challenge contexts for learning, exemplifying how to make connections between sciences, technologies and mathematics in strong Scottish contexts. The contexts published to date include energy-saving house, electric transport, water, renewables, bioengineering, games and sound, with our latest context “Rescue Vehicles” going live very soon.

Within each context is a selection of teaching ideas, activities, videos and interactives, designed to help practitioners plan learning and teaching, identifying and using quality STEM resources from partners and the web. Learning journeys also exemplify how to incorporate responsibilities for all, and develop capabilities, attributes and higher-order thinking skills.

Practitioners working with colleagues have found it helpful to use the learning journeys as the basis for talking together to understand standards. STEM Central has also been used to support primary / secondary cluster work to plan for progression through the broad general education. In this context, as well as using the STEM Central resources directly, staff have found that they can use the STEM Central approaches as the basis for their own planning.

Learning and teaching in the Senior Phase is also exemplified through our published advice and guidance.  Over the last six months this has included advice, guidance and exemplification of themes for learning such as Food Security, Energy Security and Health, as well as exemplfication of learning and teaching to support skills development.

Recently published Professional Focus Papers highlight important features of learning which are enhanced or different from previous arrangements at SCQF 4 and 5.

How are you using exemplfication as the basis for professional dialogue, planning for learning and teaching or directly in your classroom?

Talk with us…about sharing practice

The Sciences report discusses sharing practice.  In our first face-to-face conversation day which took place on Monday 10th December, some participants discussed the value of reflecting on others’ practice, and highlighted the importance of Education Scotland’s role in sharing practice in the sciences and more broadly in terms of planning and leadership for example.

“For many schools and science departments, improving the consistency of high-quality learning and teaching remains a top priority.  Overall, there is still work to do to share good practice effectively to help raise standards.”

“There has been an overall positive shift towards increased collegiate working in recent years across all sectors.  Teachers more often use non-class contact time to discuss and share ideas, experiences and resources with each other.  In the best examples of collegiate working, there is often a strong climate of self-evaluation and a commitment to improving outcomes for learners.  The strong ethos of collegiality observed in several schools helped to generate opportunities for effective professional learning.

Staff were comfortable in sharing their strengths and identifying areas for development.  Teachers are increasingly supporting each other and sharing practice across classes in primary schools.  Secondary staff are increasingly doing this with colleagues within the science department or across departments.  In a number of sciences departments visited for the purpose of completing this report, teachers of different discrete sciences were sharing good practice very well and supporting colleagues in delivering new learning programmes in areas of the curriculum in which they were less confident.  Some staff have formed partnerships with colleagues as members of Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) which are proving influential in supporting a culture of professional dialogue.  Staff are increasingly sharing and developing good practice by visiting colleagues in other schools and at times visit colleagues in a different sector.  This is not yet a consistent feature of good practice across schools.”

There are a number of routes through which Education Scotland shares practice, whether focused on sciences, or more broadly on Curriculum for Excellence, and learning and teaching.

One is the Journey to Excellence website. This is a professional development resource which describes the Journey to Excellence  and its five associated areas: learning and teaching, vision and leadership, partnerships, people and culture and ethos. Videos of thought-provoking and innovative practice from across Scotland are shared, along with a range of other resources for use in reflection, discussion and planning for transformational change. All films are also available through iTunes U. Other resources include:

  • learning together packs to support individual and collegiate working
  • research summaries and extracts
  • famous Scots describing what excellence means to them
  • leading educational thinkers talking about key issues.

The site is searchable by key words (e.g. science). Further work associated with the Sciences 3-18 Impact report is currently underway and new videos will be available in early 2013.

Through a number of avenues, for example our e-mail news services “Today’s News”, our twitter feed and Facebook pages, we share news of excellence identified through our inspection programme; for example excellence in implementation of CfE at Calderglen High School in East Kilbride, announced yesterday. 

Education Scotland evalutes and shares evolving practice and this is reflected in the series of Curriculum for Excellence briefing papers, of which paper 6 (parts I and II) has been recently published. The series of Curiculum for Excellence briefing papers can be found on our website.

The Opening up the Future blog is also a route through which innovative practice associated with the use of the “promoting innovative practice and transformative change” tools is shared. This approach, which brings a “futures” perspective into the improvement planning cycle, and increases the likely success of innovative change projects, was used as the basis for our recent sciences conversation day.

The Sciences Curriculum Area Impact Project report included 34 examples of good practice, and we’ve been pleased to receive inquiries around these, and to be able to facilitate discussions between practitioners and schools as a result. These examples of good practice will be updated from time-to-time as we gather evidence of emerging innovative and through-provoking practice in sciences across Scotland. The Sciences 3-18 blog provides a route for discussions and sharing practice associated with the sciences. It’s public and anyone can comment; so please feel free to do so!

STEM Central in Motion is an outward facing public Glow blog set-up to provide a mechanism through which children and young people, practitioners, partners and the wider STEM community can share practice associated with learning and teaching in sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics. The purpose of the blog is to help practitioners identify what works to improve outcomes for children and young people by sharing practice, and hearing from children and young people themselves.

Earlier this year we launched the  STEM professional learning community (Glow log-in required), tying in with the work associated with taking forward Teaching Scotland’s Future.

 This community provides you with the opportunity to connect with other educators with an interest in sciences, technologies, engineering or mathematics. You can tap into online learning opportunities, and keep up to date with STEM related professional learning opportunities available in Scotland, sharing practice with others in the community.

Community tools can help you to measure and track the impact of your professional learning on outcomes for learners. The community brings together relevant information from CPDFind the Education Scotland learning blog, the STEM Central in Motion blog and The Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project blog.

Are there ways of sharing practice which Education Scotland is not doing which would be helpful? Which of the current mechanisms do you find most useful? Do you use practice shared nationally as the basis for discussion in your department or faculty, or as a basis for reflection on your own practice?

Talk with us…improving science education 3-18 conversation days

The first of our face- to-face Improving Sciences Education 3-18 conversation days took place on Monday 10th at Denholm House in Livingston.

Setting the scene for an inclusive agenda for the sciences for all our children and young people were Education Scotland’s Ken Muir, Graham Norris and Marie McAdam. The It’s My Future song Believe , written and performed by children and young people from across Scotland about their hopes and expectations for the future, and what they want from education to help them achieve these reminded us of the purpose of the day and the impetus for change.

Without a doubt, we have a tremendous will and willingness in Scotland to ensure that our children and young people have access to the highest-quality sciences education. Curriculum for Excellence provides us with the ideal vehicle for doing so. A theme which came across throughout the day is that there is no magic answer, no “one size fits all” solution but that collectively we are in a far better position than working alone. Working together, we have a real opportunity for transformational change in sciences education 3-18.

We were delighted to be joined by children and young people, parents and practitioners from early years, primary, secondary and special schools, further and higher education, as well as a range of partners, and by the geographical spread represented at the day.

Kerry Edwards, from Strathallan Primary in Fife, shared with the delegates the Strathallan story of change in the sciences, from early years to primary 7, recognising the challenges experienced and the positive outcomes resulting from facing these challenges. Cara Jackson, Georgea Speedie, Fraser Foye, Scott Mitchell and Robyn Gardiner from Bellshill Academy told us about their experiences of sciences in the context of STEM – what inspires them, what motivates them and how these experiences have impacted on their views of science. Catherine Colvin, a former pupil from Monifieth High School who is now studying Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde shared her experiences and what inspired her to pursue engineering in higher education. Scott Harper, a former pupil from Kirkcaldy High School who is studying Maths at St Andrews, reflected on his learning in the sciences. He described the key motivators for him, drawing out issues such as opportunities for meaningful interdisciplinary learning, the motivation of succeeding in work which is challenging and the importance of quality opportunities to see relevance and opportunities beyond the classroom. Donna McMaster, Head Teacher at Inveralmond Community High School, closed this first segment by highlighting the very real opportunities presented to us as we move forward in sciences education.

The delegates participated in three discussion group sessions, broadly

–          Where are we now? What does the evidence tell us? Using the Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project report as a tool for reflection to arrive at a shared understanding of Curriculum for Excellence in the Sciences

–          Where are we going? What should the sciences 3-18 look like 3-5 years from now, getting it right for every child and young person?

–          Moving forward. How can we work in partnership to increase the momentum for innovation, to achieve transformational change?

Sessions were structured using the “Implemento” tool for transformational change.

Over the next few weeks, we will share with you the outcomes from the discussion sessions, and as we develop our business plans for 2013/14, details of how these discussions are impacting on our plans for moving forward.

Education Scotland has licensed the Transition Leadership tools and the Three Horizons toolkit for the specific and sole purpose of improving Scottish Education and the partner services that support it. We are delighted to have partnered the following people and organisations in this venture: Executive Arts Inc.; James R. Ewing, ForthRoad Ltd.; International Futures Forum and Graham Leicester.

Talk with us…about partnerships

The Sciences 3-18 impact report contains a range of examples of how working with partners to provide well planned learning experiences can enhance the learning and teaching and impact positively on outcomes for children and young people.

Have you worked with a local business, employer, industry, further or higher education or another partner to enhance learning and teaching in the sciences? Why not use the blog to share this with other practitioners?

“Building the Curriculum 3 (2008) defines the curriculum as the ‘totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people throughout their education, wherever they are being educated’. These experiences can be planned across the following aspects: the ethos and life of the school, curriculum areas and subjects, interdisciplinary learning, and opportunities for personal achievement. Although an improving picture, there is scope for more secondary science teachers to plan learning which takes more account of aspects such as the ethos and life of the school and offers more opportunities for personal achievement.

Increasingly, staff are recognising the significance of planning learning in the sciences which takes account of each of these four aspects of the curriculum. Many schools are providing a range of opportunities for children and young people to develop relevant sciences knowledge and skills outwith the timetabled curriculum. This is particularly notable in the many examples of eco work undertaken in schools across all sectors. Eco work in schools engages children and young people in key issues, including the environment, sustainability, global citizenship and the value of a low carbon future. Over 3700 schools in Scotland are currently registered with the Eco-Schools Scotland programme.

Secondary schools organise relevant work experience placements for young people and promote participation in science-based events and challenges such as Go4Set and Opito’s Petrochallenge.”

Some good practice examples from the report:

Good Practice Example 15

One school has been given a substantial area of land by a local business to maintain, develop and use as an ‘outdoor classroom’. This provides a relevant context for learning. Teachers can take classes to this outdoor area and develop young people’s knowledge and skills as they study areas of the sciences such as biodiversity and sustainability. Young people’s skills are developing through using sampling techniques, making various measurements, recording, presenting and analysing data. They develop team working skills as they contribute ideas for improving the land and work together to carry out practical work such as planting trees.

Good Practice Example 20

One primary school engaged children very well with their local environment through partnership with the Galloway Fisheries Trust in the ‘Clyde in the Classroom’ project. Children reared trout fry in a classroom hatchery before releasing them into the local river. Children’s knowledge of lifecycles and the basic needs of living things were developed as they cared for the trout fry. Working on the project provided a context for developing numeracy and literacy skills, for example through creative writing tasks and activities such as estimating and measuring the length of the developing fry. It also helped the children to understand the geography of their local river network and provided a relevant context for learning about the effect of our actions on an ecosystem.


Talk with us…about engaging children and young people in the Sciences 3-18 debate


Going well? Could be better? Along with the full report on the Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project, we launched last week a summary for children and young people bit.ly/sciences3-18childrenandyoungpeople . We want to hear from children and young people about their experiences and views around sciences, to help us focus on what we need to do next. Do you have plans to use the summary for children and young people, and the “conversation starters” below to engage your learners, or your own children, in the debate?

Talk with us…about practical work in the sciences

As you might expect from an analysis and evaluation of the sciences 3-18 in Scotland, practical work and its role in the sciences is discussed.

 “Young people at S1 and S2 frequently report enjoying practical work which they have experienced in their learning in the sciences…At S1 and S2 young people generally have plenty of opportunity to carry out practical work allowing them to develop a range of practical technique and investigation skills often within relevant and real-life contexts. They often cite this aspect of their learning as one of the main reasons they enjoy science.”

 “Young people at secondary school are developing practical investigation and inquiry skills within a range of relevant and real-life contexts. They can generally work collaboratively to plan fair tests, make a valid hypothesis, collect appropriate evidence, observe, measure accurately, estimate, record results in an appropriate format, interpret and evaluate findings and present them in a way of their choosing. They are often able to link two variables to determine relationships. A strong feature of practical work is young people’s ability to manipulate and name scientific equipment confidently, apply safety measures and take necessary actions to control risk and hazards. Many are not yet skilled at identifying the limitations of practical technique and scientific equipment and suggesting improvements to experimental work or investigation.”

 In the report we have identified some good practice. Examples 13, 19, 24, 27 and 32 illustrate practice taking place in our pre-school centres and schools, and are particularly relevant to this discussion.

What are your experiences of practical work in the sciences? Whether you are a child, young person, practitioner or parents, join in the discussion!