Access to exams for all

For pupils absent due to illness in the weeks during exam preparation,
appeals and additional support procedures can be put in place in collaboration with Support for Learning Departments.

In 2007, for the first time, according to Chief Nurse, Janice McKenzie, at the Sick KIds in Edinburgh, in-patients were able to sit Standard Grades in English and Maths.

A pupil from Fife had her papers locked in the ward safe under great secrecy and security; while Chris Rainger, Support for Learning at Knox arranged to have the East Lothian pupil’s papers sent directly to my home address.

The designated exam area was in a room beside the phlebotomists’ tearoom, at the back of the haematology labs off Rillbank Terrace.

The ward play specialist wheeled the pupils through the Victorian building out of the back door and along the street. I invigilated, provided IT support and tried to keep the girls comfortable with cups of tea and hot water bottles as the temperature dropped.

Anxious to follow the SQA guidelines accurately, I packed up and posted off the papers at the end of each day.

Both pupils finished the papers exhausted but happy to have experienced this high point in their education.

Hannah’s mum said that, like any 15 year old, Hannah wanted to be able to share the experience with her peers.
She was able to discuss papers with friends on her return home and Hannah
went on to complete 6 more exams on day trips from hospital to school where special arrangements had been made . Her results were excellent.

With a ‘can do’ attitude and collaboration, inclusion can limit the disadvantages for pupils with medical conditions.

Pupils to start the school day with Nintendo

The Herald reports that primary pupils are to start the school day with a dose of Nintendo gaming to boost their learning ability, it was revealed on Friday. The children will play “brain training” exercises on the DS game console before going into their normal lessons. The scheme is to be used in 16 schools following a successful pilot in Dundee.

Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) the body responsible for the development of the curriculum, is to extend the project around the country next month. Derek Robertson, LTS Development Officer for games-based learning, said: “The initial pilot project that used the Nintendo DS and Dr Kawashima produced fascinating results. “Not only was there a significant improvement in attainment in mental maths but there was also an improvement in concentration levels, behaviour and self regulation in the learning process. “It will be interesting to see how this applies on a larger scale.”

LTS is working with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and the University of Dundee to carry out a larger pilot of the scheme, with 16 schools using the game every morning and another 16 acting as the control group.

Labour aims to tackle high rate of illiteracy

 The Herald reports that a new literacy commission is to be established by the Scottish Labour Party to look at ways of tackling the estimated 10,000 pupils who currently leave school unable to read or write properly. Under the plan, a group of experts will be assembled to look at the benefits of synthetic phonics, one-to-one tuition and more vocational courses. In particular, the commission will look at the success of West Dunbartonshire in tackling illiteracy and look at how the techniques used can be rolled out across Scotland.

Dyslexia link to school failures

The BBC reports that many schoolchildren could be failing reading and writing tests because they are unaware they are dyslexic, new government-funded research suggests. A study by Hull University academics of 1,300 children said dyslexia was a major cause of failure.

Over half of those who did not achieve expected levels in SATS tests displayed all the signs of being dyslexic. The research has led to calls for more specially-trained teachers in schools as well as better diagnosis.

The Guardian also runs the story:

2m children have dyslexic-type reading difficulty, study claims,,2265283,00.html

The Guardian reports that according to a research study schools are not identifying children at risk, says the research, which reveals that 2 million children have dyslexic-type learning difficulties, more than has previously been thought but in line with research in the US. Only 76,000 children have been recorded as having a learning difficulty and dyslexia groups said it showed that too few pupils are getting specialist teaching.

The research, based on screening 1,341 pupils and funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, suggests that 20% are at risk of a learning difficulty including dyslexia. It found that 55% of pupils who are failing Sats are at risk of dyslexia or learning difficulties.

From The Guardian’s article:

Separate research by the National Union of Teachers last year revealed that the majority of state schoolteachers lack confidence to identify and teach dyslexic pupils.

Fewer than one in 14 said they would be “very confident” in identifying a child with dyslexia.

 Comment from the Dyslexia Support Service in East Lothian: I’d be curious to hear whether class teaching colleagues in our authority identify with this research from England. And if so, what can we do about it?

When did you last write a letter?

Technology and the death of handwriting
The BBC reports that the art of handwriting is being threatened by the rise of the machine, research suggests.
One in three children struggle with their handwriting and almost one in five slip into text message language when they do put pen to paper, according to a recent survey. Meanwhile, one in five parents surveyed for My Child magazine’s Write a Letter Week said they last penned a letter more than a year ago. If the figures are representative, this apparent demise of handwriting could have serious implications for educational achievement.

Professor Rhona Stainthorp, who is conducting research into children’s writing abilities, says there is growing evidence those who write faster and more legibly get better marks.

Special needs website wins fans
BBC Scotland reports that a website for parents of children with special needs proves a hit.
A couple who set up an internet support community for fellow parents of children with special needs hope it can become a charity due to its success.

Debbi Robertson and partner Graham Brockie, of Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, set up Extra Special Parents two years ago after daughter Willow was born. Willow had a rare congenital condition and they felt “upset and isolated”. Now the growing website has hundreds of members across the world who can discuss special needs of any kind.

Connected 20 – latest magazine now online

The latest issue of LTS’s flagship Connected magazine is now available online.

The Spring edition looks at the roll-out of Glow with Laurie O’Donnell, director of learning and technology spelling out what it means for authorities. Professor Kay Livingston explains the importance of an international education and reveals details of the Confucius Classrooms coming to Scotland. There are also articles looking at personalised learning and providing technology to support pupils with additional support needs, the launch of a new music programme, a debate on healthy eating and all the latest education news from across Scotland.

As ICT is increasingly embedded into the day-to-day experience within schools and the curriculum, Connected has also evolved to showcase education at its best across the integrated learning landscape.

Improving support for autism sufferers Scottish Government announces that First Minister Alex Salmond has visited the New Struan School – a Centre for Autism in Alloa.

Welcoming the work of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership, which draws together national autism charities of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the First Minister said sharing information and skills would improve services across nations. The aim of Celtic Nations Autism Partnership, a partnership of Autism Northern Ireland, Autism Cymru, the Scottish Society for Autism and the Irish Society for Autism, is to establish an alliance of interested parties to work with Government.

The New Struan School, run by the Scottish Society for Autism, is designed to provide a positive, caring environment that promotes the development of pupils. Pupils have access to speech, drama, music and dance therapy services and enjoy the use of a specially designed playroom and heated swimming pool.

Situated on the Bradbury Campus, on the outskirts of Alloa, the New Struan School – a Centre for Autism was opened in September 2005 following a £5 million fundraising initiative. An architect with family experience of autism, who understood the nuances that can affect children with this condition, designed it. As a result the School includes a number of specific features, such as indirect, although natural, lighting, wide corridors, a specific use of colour and purpose-built classrooms.

The Scottish Society for Autism (SSA) is an independent Scottish charity and is now the leading provider of services for persons of all ages living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Scotland.

Cash boost to help train autism care staff Herald reports that First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday announced an extra £300,000 for training staff working with autism sufferers.

The money has been awarded to the Scottish Society for Autism (SSA) and will allow the society’s staff to benefit from specific training modules on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A report found that more than half of adults with the condition do not have enough support to meet their needs.

A Polish parent helping at Musselburgh Burgh Primary School


This is a reprint of an article from 2008.  This  example of best practice should be happening more often in our schools as there are so many benefits for pupils, schools and parents.

Story time at The Burgh











Last year when her daughter was in Primary 5 the EAL teacher helped to arrange for a Polish mum to support our Art Specialist on a weekly basis. This was a great help to both the teacher and the pupils and the mum really enjoyed the experience. She is a qualified teacher and although she speaks very little English was able to communicate with the children through their artwork.

This year the same lady asked if she could help out again. She is now attending college so does not have as much time as previously.

I asked if she could come into my Primary 1 class to read stories in Polish once a fortnight. I have a Polish pupil in my class who often finds it difficult to focus during story time. We purchased bilingual story books and the mum read the Polish version and I was able to echo in English. When she heard the story in Polish, my P1 pupil was really excited and the rest of the class were fascinated. Now that they are a regular event the other children also enjoy these sessions and are beginning to predict what I am going to say based on what has been read and they are able to pick out some Polish words if they are repeated a lot within the story.

The bilingual books also go home with my pupil and she reads them with her parents who can both speak English.

We are working on Personal Account writing at the moment and I asked the pupils to draw a day out they had enjoyed. I asked the P6 Polish pupil to pop down to explain this task to her mum and my pupil. The mum then sat and supported her with her drawing and discussed the details of her picture encouraging her to add more detail when appropriate.

This collaboration has been of mutual benefit to everyone involved.

Alison Elgin