Last post, first feature

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 10:27 UK time, Tuesday, 3 May 2011

We're going to give a little rest to posting to this blog for now. We've decided to try using a new 'feature' layout which give us more flexibility and can cope with audio slideshows and other nice things. Our first feature is a page of top tips about Studying smart. Hope you like the new look.

Thanks for reading our blog over the past two years (and longer, in its old format - going back to January 2008, with the first post from Ewan McIntosh), I hope you've found something of interest hidden amongst all the posts.

You can keep up to date with the latest learning output at our Learning Scotland homepage, and more general Scottish content at, along with the full list of published features.

Judy Murray interview with pupils

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Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 17:51 UK time, Monday, 21 March 2011

Judy Murray, tennis coach and mother of Andy and Jamie was recently with us to answer a volley of questions from a group of Primary 6 pupils. You can hear her answers served up in the second part of four Q&A podcasts for schoolchildren. Here's how her day went...

Seemed like a good idea at the time when I got an email asking me if I would take part in a children's radio show for BBC Learning Scotland. After all I'm used to working with kids and this looked like a great opportunity for them to visit the BBC Studios in Pacific Quay and take part in their own show. The request came several months ago and I plotted it in to my calendar but as usual with my life, things can change on a daily basis and I found myself working in London the day before... so when my alarm rang at 4.30am on the morning of the recording, I was definitely having second thoughts!!

Judy Murray

I had to take the early flight in order to be sure I would get to Glasgow for the scheduled slot. No problem though - flight was on time and I even had time to grab a cup of tea and an outrageous strawberry cupcake from a phenomenal little café on Byres Road, before heading over the squinty bridge for my rendez-vous with Menstrie Primary School p6s. Perfect.

Menstrie is a small town in Clackmannanshire, about 15 minutes from where I live in Dunblane so I was delighted to be mixing with kids from my area. I wasn't sure how much they would know about tennis because the two courts in the town at the old DCL plant, are derelict and have been for several years. In fact there is only one tennis club in the whole of Clackmannan county... but I was aware that there had been some mini tennis coaching in the school gym during the last few months and that there's a bit of a campaign going on to resurrect the derelict courts! Good news. Hope I can help them out with that and that the kids who are keen to try tennis can finally have a club to play at!

Well, what a very pleasant surprise I got - 28 kids all very smartly dressed in their blue school sweatshirts and each of them had a question to ask. Smart move from the teacher Mrs Doran who had got the kids to print out their questions so they didn't forget what they were going to say! I sat up on a pretty high chair at the front of the room with the shows presenter Laura McCrum who told me she was training to be a football coach because her daughter had got into girls footy! She also bemoaned the fact that there are hardly any female coaches. Had to agree with her there. It's the same in tennis.

Judy Murray

Anyway, back to the studio. Richard Bull, the producer kicked off by explaining all the house rules to the kids - very important for them to know where the fire exits are, and the loos! Laura who was fantastic at engaging the kids and making them feel comfortable kicked everything off with the first question and it all rolled pretty smoothly from there. Some great questions which showed that the kids had clearly done their homework. Everything from Andy's dog to Jamie's hair to my plans for a tennis academy! One question floored me - "what is the funniest thing that has happened when you have been at a tennis event?". I really couldn't think of anything funny off the top of my head so I said I would come back to that one. At the back of my mind, I kept searching for a funny moment that would appeal to kids, but I just couldn't find anything. Their humour, I reckoned, would be totally different to mine, though Jamie and Andy would probably argue that one!

Great question from Thibault (pronounce Teebo) who asked about how kids from Menstrie could be encouraged to play tennis when there are no courts in the town. It's a real issue for me that one because so many Scottish children (and adults) are aware of tennis these days and keen to try it but we simply don't have enough local facilities across the country. It's great that mini tennis classes for p3/4 are going on in school gyms but if the kids enjoy it and want to play outwith school, they need a local park or club which is accessible, affordable and which has lots of activity going on. It's one thing attracting kids to a sport, it's another thing retaining them. That boils down to the environment - facilities and people to create activity.

I suggested they approach their local newspaper to highlight their participation in the show and to draw attention to the fact that there's no tennis in the town but that there are two derelict courts which could be regenerated. Put a bit of pressure on the local council. I can see that will be my next project and I will kick it off with a visit to the school next month to do some mini tennis sessions - in the gym - and follow that up with some teacher training classes and an equipment drop.

So you have started something Thibault...

It looked like the kids and the teachers enjoyed the day out. "Better than maths?" I asked. Resounding "yes". I enjoyed it too and for sure I'm going to see them all again! Well done to the BBC for dreaming up this great idea and giving the kids the opportunity to make their own radio show. Wonderful experience for them all.

Listen to the q&a with Judy Murray and the P6 pupils in the podcast which is available to download via the BBC website.

You can subcribe to podcasts for Scottish learners at 1st level and 2nd level. And have a look through the other Learning podcasts available or the full range of BBC podcasts.

Judy Murray

The Big Debate: Education

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Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 16:13 UK time, Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Here's a chance to hear what the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and counterparts are thinking about the current state and future of Scottish education in The Big Debate: Education.


Isabel Fraser is joined by Michael Russell, Elizabeth Smith, Des McNulty and Margaret Smith, for the debate in front of invited guests and a live audience - tackling everything from children's education to learning in later life.

I'm looking forward to watching the programme after attending the big university funding debate in December and catching up with Ken Macdonald's The Graduation Game programme, looking at the future funding and role of Scottish universities and the golden age that never was.

Showing tonight at 22:40 on BBC One Scotland, the debate will be available on BBC iPlayer soon after, for the usual seven days. If you have any comments about the debate or programmes, do let us know your thoughts...

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