The status quo is not an option

We held our last HT conference of the session. The theme of the day was "A Curriculum For Excellence." Speakers were:
May Sweeney; HMIe Phil Denning – our new District Inspector; Paul Smyth from Research Machines – who spoke about SSDN; and
Ewan MacIntosh – whose presentation he has posted as a podcast.

Here is a summmary of my summary.

"Learning and Teaching is at the heart of A Curriculum for Excellence (ACE)" May Sweeney

This was very gratifying to hear, as we have placed our Learning and Teaching policy at the heart of our development. She also suggested that Assessment is For Learning (AiFL) needs to be embedded in ACE – once again our policy has at its core the building blocks which relate to formative assessment.

However, a policy means nothing unless it can be translated into reality -CONSISTENTLY – in all our classrooms. (I'll post our teacher self-evaluation tool here tomorrow.) Our challenge is to find ways of ensuring that it is consistently applied.

May Sweeney also pointed out that ACE is not a top down development model – which once again is one of our principles in developing practice in our schools. The reality is that ACE is already happening in many of our classrooms – it's not something which is new and totally foreign to our experiences. To this end we are holding a Celebrating Success event in September where schools will be asked to demonstrate examples of ACE which are already happening. The event will be held in the Brunton Hall, which will be split into four zones – each zone covering a different capacity.

I reflected on Ewan's presentation where he had challenged the traditional power structure in the classroom – I took this a step further by suggesting that we need to challenge the power structure at all levels within the education establishment – this doesn't mean that I'm advocating anarchy, but that people are engaged in helping to shape their practice. The bottom line is that we all need to give up some of our power, and leaders need to demonstrate through their own practice.

We were also encouraged to challenge the notion of being assessment led – which has been the bane of the secondary school curriculum. It's here that we come across the paradox which is ACE, i.e. will following the principles which underpin ACE lead to a drop in educational attainment.

I suggest we believe in the evidence and our own experience – where children are engaged in their learning then they learn more effectiveley – with a subsequent enhancement in their attainment. Our problem is that it would appear that children are more engaged in their learning within the primary environment. I referred to the one of our 5Cs – COLLEGIALITY – in relation to this and I was encouraged by the fact that HTs have been reinforcing the need for their teachers to learn from their colleagues in other sectors. Ewan had mentioned the need for more play – at all levels – this is now being reflected in the P1 curriculum which is now picking up on good practice from the nursery sector.

The point here is that we need to have faith in the power of effective teaching and learning. However, we can't fall into the trap that affflicated
progressive education in the 1960's where a lack of rigour and chellenge led to a worthwhile development being abandoned for a more traditional model.

May Sweeney had talked about curiculum organisers – such as "Me and my community" and using these as ways of encouraging inter-disciplinary projects. I linked this with the ideas we have been exploring in connection with
project work and inter-disciplinary work, whilst making best use of available technology.

Drawing my summary to an end I reflected upon what Phil Denning had been saying about the need to build sustainable communities – and the need for school to look at ways in which we can engage with partners outwith schools – COLLEGIALITY – particularly community learning and development. I linked this with our cluster based approach and referred to the notion of family resemblances as a way of considering how cluster could develop. – without uniformity. Clusters will be the key drivers for A Curriculum for Excellence in East lothian – which in turn is dependent upon all of us accepting COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY for its successeful delivery.