Archives for August 2010

Edwin Morgan

Post categories:

Claire O'Gallagher Claire O'Gallagher | 08:00 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Like many people, I first encountered Edwin Morgan at school. I was lucky enough to meet the great man for the first time when I was in Primary 6, and he was presenting the prizes at a local poetry competition - in the face of a bit of controversy over the subject matter over some of his own work, the 'Stobhill' sequence in particular. He told me I had a wonderful imagination - little did I know at the time what a compliment that was - and I felt like I was floating on air. After that, all I wanted to do was write like Edwin Morgan. (And, of course, we all sought out 'Stobhill' at the library, thinking it was going to be some kind of salacious, saucy piece of writing - the negative press only fuelling our need to read it. It should go without saying that it isn't 'juicy' at all, but it is a fabulous poem. Search it out.)

On Bill Boyd's blog, his post on 'Eddie' and the subsequent comments tell a similar story to mine, of Morgan taking a real interest in young people and their writing. The young people return the compliment, by taking his work to their hearts in schools all over the country every year. Poems such as 'In The Snack-Bar' and 'Strawberries'are often the first Morgan works that students encounter at school, but they're only the beginning of a journey that can take readers from Glasgow to Saturn - via Loch Ness, Mercury, and a computer that writes Christmas cards.

My own fascination with Morgan only grew as I grew. I wrote my Advanced Higher English Specialist Study on his 'Glasgow' poetry, a devoted fan even then. He came and read to my year group when I was in first year at Glasgow University - with such zest and zing that you would have been forgiven for thinking you hadn't heard poetry read aloud before. One of my favourites, which he read that day, is 'The Apple's Song':

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed.

Visit BBC Webwise for more information.

For my money, he is the best poet Scotland has produced since Burns. The first to be given the title of Glasgow's Poet Laureate and latterly, Scots Makar. He has translated work from countless languages, has stretched his genius from descriptive poems such as 'Glasgow Green' and 'King Billy' about his native city, to wonderful sound and typographical experiments such as 'Canedolia' and 'Message Clear'. (My husband to this day swears that 'Message Clear' is in the shape of a bottle, but when he asked Eddie if it was intentional, he was told categorically that it wasn't.)

If you haven't already introduced your students to this wonderful poet, I urge you to take the opportunity to pass on the gift of his poetry. As he is laid to rest today, there will be many tributes paid to the great man and his legacy. A teacher himself for many years, I'm sure Morgan would delight in the idea of his work continuing to inspire new generations of students. There would be no greater tribute.

More tributes to Edwin Morgan:
Pauline McLean's Arts blog
BBC News
The Herald
The Guardian
University of Glasgow

WN Herbert in the Scotsman

Edwin Morgan interviewed by Liz Lochhead

Gamu, the LAB factor

Post categories:

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 14:12 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

At the weekend, Johanna Hall spotted a face she recognised having worked with in a L.A.B workshop. A girl that might well turn out to have the X Factor.

In the L.A.B (Learn At BBC Scotland) we work with quite a lot of young people and there are some who are very talented but it's a welcome surprise to see them pop up somewhere unexpected making a splash. I was in Birmingham airport reading the newspaper when I saw Gamu's picture and read the rave reviews about her performance on X Factor.

The L.A.B is all about digital media workshops and getting folk to have a hands on go at things. The pupils at Alva Academy already knew they wanted to work on making a music video with one of their school bands 'Haven'. The band had a really punchy jazz sound and was fronted by Gamu Nhengu... a petite girl with a huge voice.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed.

Visit BBC Webwise for more information.

The day was spent singing... again and again and again... and taking lots of different shots to make the 3 minute video. The group were very professional but we had a real laugh, especially when it came to doing the 'funny walks' which the band were required to perform.

The L.A.B team wish you well in the competition, Gamu, we hope you go all the way... who knows, this might be one for me to tell my grandchildren about!

Scottish History - The Eric Morecambe Paradox

Post categories:

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 15:02 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

Introducing Paul Adams, my friend and colleague who joined BBC Scotland's Learning department at the same time as me, back in 2001. Talking of history...

Firstly I'd like to apologise for my brass neck. It's not often you find an Englishman in Scotland who has the sheer gall to inform the Scots about their own history. I do, however, have a bit of form as the producer of the Scotland's History website.

As a foreigner to these shores one of the things that continues to surprise and impress me is the passion most Scots feel for their nation's history. There really is a strong sense of pride - a fire in the belly for what the country is and how it got there.

The other thing that never fails to surprise me is how little the average Scot actually knows about it.

Interestingly that was the starting point for the whole A History of Scotland series. In the early project meetings a panel of consultants was organised comprising largely of academics and members of the teaching profession.

The message that came out of those meetings was clear. The average level of understanding of Scottish history was pretty damn poor.

Most people's knowledge boiled down to the old favourites - Wallace, Bruce, Bannockburn, poor wee Mary Stuart and dashing Bonnie Prince Charlie. All the rest was a bit hazy.

To make matters worse, the precise chronology of these nuggets of learning were at best suspect.

And this is where the title of this blog comes in. To paraphrase Eric Morecambe, they could play all the right notes - but not necessarily in the right order.


So how can this be? How can a nation so proud of its history have such a patchwork understanding of it?

The problem seems partly to be the way Scottish history has traditionally been taught in school. Small, self-contained modules of history don't really foster a broad appreciation of a nation's history. The end result is several generations who leave school knowing a bit about Bruce, a bit about Mary Queen of Scots and a bit about World War II.

The TV series took that as a place to start and set out to try and fill in some of those blanks and add some flesh to the bones of the stuff the audience thought they knew. It seems to have worked a treat.

To back up this decision almost without exception the most viewed episodes were the ones that covered the subjects the public never really studied at school.


Episode one in particular was very popular. Focusing on Scotland up to the end of the first century it introduced the public to new heroes - Calgacus the swordsman and Constantine II, the first King of Alba. When was the last time they came up in a history lesson?

On the website the weekly debates tied into each programme were inundated with thousands of comments from the public. As well as the die-hard history enthusiasts the vast majority of punters were casual interest viewers who felt that their eyes had been opened up by the series - for the first time they understood the story of their own nation.

Take this comment as a good example:

I think the programme is fantastic, even though i have been educated in Scotland Scottish history was never really covered in school, other than that of the Highland clearances. This programme has made me more interested in my country's earlier history than ever before...

Kieran, Ayr/Scotland

I believe this is ultimately where the success of the series lies. It not only stirred the blood, it joined the dots. While, yes, the series missed huge bits of history it did tell the story. From a land of warring painted tribes in programme one to a modern, devolved nation in programme 10.

In this approach I think there are some lessons that can be learnt in the way history is taught in our schools. Every story in the world has a beginning, middle and end. It does help to have all of them and, as Eric Morecambe would agree, it usually helps to have them in the right order.

The response to the series certainly inspired me in making the Scotland's History site. It could have been anything it wanted to be - it's ended up as a video chronology of Scottish history. It tells the story.

Hopefully it has inspired a few teachers to do the same and take their pupils on an epic journey; to join those dots and show the next generation who they are and how exactly they got here.

CFE - Can't Find Enthusiasm?

Post categories:

Claire O'Gallagher Claire O'Gallagher | 15:14 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

It feels like everyone's kicking the new curriculum before it's even started.

Unofficially, of course, teachers have been preparing and working on this for months - and some claim to be carrying on with their classes of old until someone pulls them up on it - but this is the week when the spotlight falls on the new plans. It's make or break time.

Or is it? All the quotes in the newspapers (and on our own news site) are from 'concerned parents', 'worried teachers' and show beleaguered government officials defending the curriculum. You'd think that this system was dead in the water.

But surely, hopefully, there are some teachers out there looking forward to getting their teeth into these new guidelines? One of the teachers I follow on Twitter seemed particularly annoyed at the coverage of CfE. We need to make sure enthusiastic voices are heard, too.

I'd be interested what you make of the new curriculum - vent your spleen or sing its praises here!

No room at the inn?

Post categories:

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 09:28 UK time, Thursday, 12 August 2010

Tuesday's Newsnight Scotland looked at the state of clearing and stories of full universities. Seonag Mackinnon peeks behind the headlines and considers what it means for those who didn't quite make the grade.

Would-be students undoubtedly have it tough this year but the situation isn't as desperate as some headlines have suggested.

Anyone who secured the Higher grades they needed for a conditional offer is guaranteed a place.

The competition isn't as great as seemed earlier this year when UCAS, which handles applications, indicated a whacking great rise of 31%. It's since emerged this was largely down to a change in the way the figures are compiled. The true increase seems to be just under 5%.

Eight of Scotland's 15 universities are full, one week after the Highers results emerged when the competition for clearing places began. But in recent years, some such as St Andrews have been full. And at a far earlier stage in the year.

Also worth noting, today anyway, there are over 300 university courses in Scotland with spare places. They are however concentrated in four institutions - Abertay in Dundee, the University of the Highlands and Islands, the University of the West of Scotland (formerly Paisley University), and in the Scottish Agricultural College.

The difficulty is essentially for those who didn't do as well in their Highers as they had hoped. They may well scramble for those places which some universities have been unable to fill even with just weeks to go before the start of the academic year.

Careers advisors are urging applicants tempted to snap these places up to investigate them as thoroughly as they can.

It is all too easy to feel a few months down the line that they are on a course they don't particularly like, in a town they don't particularly like. That means a danger of dropping out - and that can mean stress and potential debts for individuals who have already suffered the setback of disappointing exam results.

Opening exam results on air

Post categories:

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 17:45 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

Seonag Mackinnon, BBC Scotland's education correspondent, gives us her take on the big results day...

We don't ask much. We only ask young people on the most nerve-wracking day of their lives to date, to open their SQA envelopes live on radio while a nation listens.

On results day head teachers, parents, education authority press officers and the SQA tend to steer the media towards confident youngsters likely to have done very well and unlikely to break down in front of a microphone.

It can mean however that press coverage is dominated, arguably distorted, by youngsters with straight As.

BBC Scotland tries to buck this trend. We are grateful this year to East Ayrshire Council for allowing us to interview youngsters on the shared campus in Kilmarnock of Grange Academy and Park special school.

It was a great privilege to witness Park school children in particular opening their envelopes. For them the SQA letters on Access level represented a monumental achievement.

My own daughter was lucky enough to do very well in her Highers yesterday. Without taking an iota of that away from her, I believe what some of the Park children achieved was more impressive.

You can hear Seonag's interview with the pupils on yesterday morning's Good Morning Scotland - skip to 1h 36 mins.

Exam results 2010

Post categories:

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 14:20 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Clunk, fsssp, thud. The sound of exam certificates arriving through letterboxes tomorrow morning. Well, maybe not thud unless the results are really heavy, man.

Beep, ping, buzz. The sounds of this afternoon as those that signed up to MySQA get their results first as texts and emails, due to be sent out just before 3pm.

Some yelps of joy, some sounds of silence as the products of the preparations and performances of a just few weeks ago are quietly checked and rechecked. Shereen Nanjiani sitting in for Kaye Adams on this morning's Call Kaye considered the fairness of exams and asks have we become too exam obsessed? And are we putting too much pressure on our young people to do well in their exams?

Good luck to those thousands bracing themselves for the inevitable, today and tomorrow, to whatever sound effects. The SQA and UCAS websites will be handy clicks in deciding next steps. And remember the Skills Development Scotland exam helpline is there to help with any crash, bang, wallop.

Results day update:

So, how did it go for you? Okay I hope. We've seen the scary business of pupils opening their results live on camera. Not sure I would have been so brave. It's bad enough telling parents or pals. And with headlines reading Scots pupils set record Higher pass rate, I hope those that didn't quite get there can recover, relax and work out their next steps...

And for stat fans and lovers of graphs - have a play about with the subject-by-subject results as percentages achieving each grade.

The L.A.B on tour to Tiree

Post categories:

Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 10:49 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

While I'm stuck in the office, enjoying the so-called summer, some of my lucky colleagues have been working out and about. Here's some Hebridean highlights from Johanna Hall, Project Leader of the L.A.B.

A first, travelling to the island of Tiree and not being sea sick! According to the ship's officer it wasn't too windy really... hey, call me a land lover but gale force 5 seemed windy enough to be filming in, from where I was blowing about. So it was with hoods up and being wind beaten we first caught a glimpse of this island gem on camera. I have to confess to being a bit biased here as I have roots on this small island. I played on the sandy beaches on holiday as a small child... oh yes and was seasick on a regular basis on the boat journey.


The L.A.B, which runs digital media workshops with all kinds of groups, was reaching out further than we have ever done. Tiree was just underway with their Feis when we joined them. The Feis movement celebrates Gaelic culture and music, the island of Tiree has both in abundance. The local doctor, John Holliday, who organises the event in Tiree had found us some wonderful people to work with including the tireless Iain MacKinnon.

LJ and I were going to spend two days working with young people to make their own short films. The mission was to make two films, one in Gaelic and one in English. Then edit the films so they could be shown at the island's new cinema... more of which later.

Read the rest of this entry

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.