Interim reports

Education Learning Log

HMIe engagement

Another really positive HMIe follow through visit in our area yesterday. Delighted for the school, children and parents. I’m increasingly finding the HMIe’s direction of travel is impacting positively on those schools who engage. The key as always is self evaluation, and the move to being able to take feedback as a positive, which can impact on practice. Really when we get right down to it is that not what learning and teaching is all about – finding out where we are, finding ways to keep doing things well and to improve, talking about learning, being life long learners? The journey from an initial HMIe visit to a positive follow through can be long, hard and sometimes rocky but the feeling, when things start to improve and the focus on learning becomes embedded,  is empowering. So yesterday I managed to hold it together during the dialogue session but not too old to admit to a big greet in car later, just because I was so delighted for the school.

A really nice analogy was drawn by the inspector – during the follow up to an HMIe visit where HMie are returning- its a bit like running, sometimes you might have fallen behind the pack a wee bit and then you need to sprint to catch up, that sprint is hard going and a big ask, but once you’re there with the pack again, then its much easier to keep getting better. And once you’re in that position in a school talking about learning, focused on self evaluation and really meeting the needs of the children then you’re on a journey which makes a huge difference – Patrick Duignan summed it up – you’re a future’s teacher and you’re impacting on future children by the work you do now in ways you will never know.

November 27, 2009 Posted by | education | | Leave a comment

Lanarkshire Supershow

Went to see the new Lanarkshire Limited Supershow. New Lanarkshire Limited raises awareness and develops civic pride in the county. John Scott the Chief Executive worked in a school where I taught many years ago, and he’s always supported work I’ve been involved in where appropriate over the years. Last night’s show was the thirteenth Supershow which is a showcase for Lanarkshire High School pupils. It was hosted by Michelle McManus who is a Lanarkshire girl through and through and her former school St Ambrose excelled themselves with their performances. It was a great evening showcasing our talented young people with a mixture of expressive arts performances. Made me really proud to work and live in this community. Some of the schools involved were St Ambrose High, Strathaven Academy, Caldervale High, Greenfaulds High, Hamilton Grammar, Holy Cross High, St Aidan’s High, Our Lady’s High, Cardinal Newmann, Brannock High, Carluke High the SSOMT, Biggar High, Taylor High. Hard to pinpoint a highlight but I have to say Nicholas from St Aidan’s was just wonderful!

November 27, 2009 Posted by | Creativity, education | , , | Leave a comment

Parents as Partners, Learning, Thinking

SLC hold an annual parents as partners conference. This session’s was held on Monday. It was well attended with parent forum and council reps from across the authority’s establishments. The key themes were Curriculum for Excellence and where we are in SLC –  with talks from the Depute Director and also from a secondary Head who told the story of his school’s journey with CfE. There was a workshop session when those attending looked at possible new CfE reporting to parent formats, adding their thoughts to this development process. Great singing from John Ogilvie High pupils added a special touch to the evening.

Some really nice ideas seen when visiting Calderwood Primary. Great example of planning an interdisciplinary topic from P6 below. Classes are working on developing CfE via interdisc topics. They have done a similar piece of work to our early years forum who are in the midst of breaking down the key elements of a focus/topic planner. If the key elements are right then the paper planner will follow. But its the getting right of all the steps within planning first that important. This primary 6 example  shows great work on consulting with children.

Our EY area focus planning has decided the following are the key elements which are needed in focus planning (equally very similar 3-18!)

List of Key Elements within a Focus Planner

  • Consultation with Children Prior to Focus Planning – (What do we already know, what would we like to know and how can we learn about these aspects)
  • Consultation with Children During the Focus Planning (A response to developing interests, aspects which are assisting motivations and relevance of activities to planned experience and outcome development)
  • Consultation with parents/carers and partners
  • CfE Health and Wellbeing Indicators – Safe Healthy Active Nurtured Respected Responsible Included
  • CfE Principles – Personalisation and Choice Challenge and Enjoyment Depth Coherence Relevance Breadth Progression
  • Specific CfE experiences and outcomes – NB these can be linked to the annual Improvement Plan to ensure implementation is not overwhelming
  • List of Resources and possible activities discussed as a team after consulting with children. This would include outdoor play activities, external visitors, community involvement in the focus, enterprising activities etc
  • AiFL strategies to be used
  • Evaluation of focus by staff involved – as related to children’s development/learning in the planned experiences and outcomes
  • Children’s Evaluation of their learning
  • CfE four capacities in full – so evaluation of experiences and outcomes can show progression toward development of four capacities

Calderwood alongside other schools in the area have been working together for a number of years looking at AiFl with a focus on peronal learning planning. This can be increasingly seen in practice throughout the school. Couple of pictures below demonstrate just some of the things on the go

So there area some really nice ideas here – individual targets in different headings, targets which are current and targets achieved moved to different parts of wall etc Lots of other examples within the school –  from their plp booklets, to evaluations of specific topics (what we have learned etc)

 One of the things I’m really delighted to see in Calderwood and in other schools round about (I have to mention Loch here too!) is the increasing focus on the language of CfE with the children – they need to understand what it means to be a successful learner etc at their age and stage. This shows up mostly from talking to the children. Loch for instance have children plastered up with “ask me badges” – you may see a child who has been a successful contributor and the idea is you ask them why – the children love this. Great for home school partnership/dialogue too. Below is another great idea from Calderwood which I’m seeing in other places too – group reminders in the middle of tables re CfE language (along much the same lines as a VCOP pyramid)

Down in the infant department the children were really enthusiastic to show me their enchanted forest area. A couple of weeks ago this area was bare – awaiting the children to develop it. Some lovely work going on

They had also bought in the thinking dice which are a favourite of mine! This further developing of questioning skills can be seen embedding further across the area as AiFl becomes a more natural part of the learning and teaching process. The HT is developing booklets, ideas for activities etc around the thinking dice and blooms taxonomy. Great question starters can be found pretty easily by a spot of googling. Some below pochled from various sources

Question Cards Question Starters – these could be cut out and laminated for all staff.


(Recalling information – Recognising, listing, describing, retrieving, naming, finding)

 What do you know about….?

Can you find out about…?

Where does it say…?

Who is it about…?

Who did it….?

What is it called…..?

How many…..?

What types of….are there…..?

Can you remember….?

What happened after….?

Who was it that….?

Can you list…?

Where is….?


(Explaining ideas or concepts, Interpreting, summarising, paraphrasing, classifying, explaining)

 What do you understand…?

Why do you think….?

Can you give a reason for/explain….?

Can you explain why/how/what/when…?

Why did….?

Why does….?

How is….feeling….?

Which is….. and why…..?


(Using information in another familiar situation, Implementing, carrying out, using, executing)


Can you explain why/how/which….?

What would you have done…?

What do you think will happen/would have happened next…? What makes you think….?

What would you use for….?

How would you use….?

How would you organise….?

Why is …. an example of….?

How could ….. be improved….?

How could this….be made even better?
How would you deal with….?

What would be an example of…?

What ideas show….?

Can you explain in your own words…?

What is meant by….?

What is the main idea of…?


(Breaking information into parts to explore understandings and relationships, Comparing, organising, deconstructing, interrogating, finding)

 How would you group/sort/order….?

Can you work out the parts/structure/bits of….?

How can you show the differences/similarities of….?

What patterns can you find….?

What can you tell about…. Because of….?

What is important/not important about….?

Why would someone else think that….?

What would you say to a person who said…?

What are some of the problems….?

What caused…?

How does…. Compare with…..?


Justifying a decision or course of action, Checking, hypothesising, experimenting, judging


How successful was…?

How would you rate…?

What do you think of….?

What makes…. great/good/not so good?

What went well/didn’t go well…..?

What did you find out….?

What would you suggest…?
How would you….?

What us the most important….?

Do you agree or disagree with….why?

How would you choose…..?

If you could change one thing about….what would it be?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of….?


Generating new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things – Designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing.

 Can you think of a better way to….?

What would you have done if….?

How would you do this better next time…?

How would you change this… to…?

Could you invent/design a new way to….?

What could you do to improve….?

What would you sort out/take away….?

Are there any ways you could….?

How many ways could you….?

Can you solve….?

How would you find out….?





November 27, 2009 Posted by | education, teaching | , , , , | Leave a comment

Its life long…

 One day last week I was in a nursery one minute talking about consulting with children and how they use mind maps and talking thinking floor books to do this, then in a secondary looking at self evaluation, then in a primary hearing about how they were using a grafitti wall to gather ideas from parents at parents nights using the ten dimensions, and then at Motherwell College’s awards system in the evening. And the one theme going through the whole day – its all about learning to learn, partnership, talking to each other and humaness. We know what we want to do, its just sometimes keeping that focus in amongst the minutiae of everday life thats the tricky bit… If 80% of what we do every day doesn’t really have an impact on real improvement how do we keep that focus? How do we keep our eye on what we really want to achieve? Maybe its all about that filtering thing….. So what have I learned this week? Maybe the most important bit about my job is attempting to help people filter out what’s important and what’s not. Now if I could find out the answer to that….

I was delighted this week  to read that initial teacher education in Scotland is to be reviewed. Its one of the best bits of news I’ve read in some time. I hope that they look to Finland when unpicking this agenda. Teachers are highly valued there, highly educated, with a high bar for intial entrance to teacher training. This review sounds like the inevitable next step in moving forward education in Scotland’s whole journey to excellence. And re JTE – the website has been updated and is looking much improved. But my plea is that there needs to be a sustained re-advertising of this to all teaching staff. Its still sitting too much at the edge of many establishments’ work…

November 21, 2009 Posted by | education | , , | Leave a comment

The best feeling!

The best thing about being a QIO is not much different to working in a school. Its that feeling you get when you see someone (whether a child a parent or member of staff) really developing their skills. A lot of my job is to do with supporting establishments – nurseries, primaries, secondary – in their whole improvement agenda. Part of this involves all the  ongoing work towards preparing for HMIe. As far as I’m concerned thats just part of the whole self evaluation, improvement agenda within an establishment.This should be work that is done all the time, not in the three weeks after the box appears… Over the past session I’ve seen some fantastic examples of how, fully engaging with HMIe, really leads to  sustainable improvement within establishments. The other day I had the delight of listening to the dialogue session at the end of a follow through report. The pleasure of seeing the pride of the establishment in the focused work they had undertaken, the increase in real concerted talk about learning, the teamwork that had blossomed was something special. So I’m taking a stance, I’ve seen too many positives come out of HMIe visits. Its maybe time some serious myth busting was done about HMIe. Like so many things we listen too much to the negatives about the process. I think part of that negative bit is the natural process of learning after a visit, but sometimes thats the only bit we listen to. Like principle 1 of CfE that time can be pretty challenging, it can make people feel low etc but just like that challenge and enjoyment bit, the challenge of planning, improving, developing can give a huge feeling of achievement once the real journey to improvement gets underway and the buzz of what I saw the other day was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at work.


November 12, 2009 Posted by | education | | 2 Comments