Archives for December 2010

A quick look back at 2010

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Claire O'Gallagher Claire O'Gallagher | 14:30 UK time, Thursday, 23 December 2010

It's that time of the year where people feel reflective and start making lists of the best things to have happened in the last twelve months. I don't want to bore you to tears with another 'Top 10 of 2010' so instead I'll take the alternative route, get all emotional and tell a few tales...

The change in government at Westminster and the implementation of the new curriculum have made it an interesting time to be involved in Scottish education, bringing to mind that old Chinese curse, 'may you live in interesting times'. But, despite many of the headlines, it wasn't all doom and gloom.

There was so much good practice going on in schools it's hard to single out any examples. I loved seeing the wee faces of the 'class of the week' at Corsehill Primary in Kilwinning when they came striding into class proudly singing 'we won the cup!' as has become traditional after their weekly assembly. I was fascinated by the Paperclips project taking place in Cumnock Academy (amongst others) to enhance understanding of Holocaust education. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Primary 6 pupils at Carronshore Primary in Falkirk who gave our producer, Gerald Strother and I a real grilling about our jobs here at the BBC and showed us their blogs and wiki pages. I think we may have found a few reporters of the future for the BBC Newsroom!

If I had to pick just one highlight, though, it would be the day I spent at Hazelwood School in Glasgow. The pupils at Hazelwood range from 2 to 19 years old, and all have sensory impairments and pronounced support needs. We've had young people from Hazelwood in the LAB making a radio podcast, and we've previously made a film about the design of their beautiful building, which is a marvel of architecture and really empowers the pupils to be independent.

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I happened to be there on November 5th, and watching how carefully they prepared for their 'Guy Fawkes' assembly was just amazing. An MP3 player was loaded full of firework sounds as the real thing might be too loud for some of the children, but the staff wanted them to have the sensation of fireworks. The bonfire was lit, even in the wet conditions, and marshmallows were toasted. My senses were alive - the smell of the fire and the damp wood, the taste of the marshmallow, the noises of fireworks, and it made me realise just how much thought has to go in to delivering learning for young people with sensory impairment.

I even had a go on a trampoline with Margaret, the rebound therapist, and watched as she used her momentum to get children moving who may not be able to exercise on their own. The reactions from the young children were amazing to see and the results she's had have been fantastic - children sitting up unaided, or pushing down with their arms where they couldn't before.

Combine this with the classroom where young children were listening to Polish classical music as one of their number was Polish, and they were learning about her homeland as a project - this place is inspiring and I was privileged to meet the staff and pupils there.

I'd like to say a big thanks to all the schools who welcomed me in this year - and I'll be out and about on my travels again in January. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Maybe you'll ring in the bells with the programmes on the BBC, or in a more traditional way... in either case, all the best from the team here at BBC Scotland and we'll see you in 2011.

The big university funding debate

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Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 16:24 UK time, Monday, 20 December 2010

On Friday I popped along to Wellington Church in the west end of Glasgow to watch the live broadcast of Brian Taylor's Big Debate. It was the day after the publication of the green paper on university funding. The day's newspapers had the headlines of SNP Green Paper sparks university funding row and Michael Russell in cash grab to avoid tuition charges. This was a chance for the public to have their say - direct to the education secretary.

Patrick Harvie, Ken Macintosh, Brian Taylor, Liam Burns and Mike Russell

The panel was made up by Mike Russell, Ken Macintosh, Patrick Harvie and Liam Burns. It wasn't the easiest of set ups for the producer of the show after weather warnings forced the cancellation of the originally planned location in Ardrishaig, and he was worried they wouldn't have much of an audience at the rearranged venue. Choosing a location directly opposite Glasgow University, they managed to get twenty or so hardy students into the drafty church hall, while exams were taking place in a room round the back. Brian Taylor was in good form, with his prematch warm up cup of tea, woolly bunnet and Dundee United scarf. And the panel and audience soon sparked into heated debate...

Brian Taylor talks more about the cost of education on his Blether with Brian blog. You can download a pdf file of the 50-page green paper, or read up on the BBC's at a glance guide.

The effect of initiatives on education

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Seonag Mackinnon Seonag Mackinnon | 14:56 UK time, Friday, 10 December 2010

"Once more unto the breach". It's probably the politest phrase heard in staffrooms after the launch of yet anther government initiative.

The report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development charting where Scottish education stands on the world stage, seems to confirm teachers' suspicions that the seemingly never ending stream of initiatives here over the last ten years caused a great deal of upheaval and didn't necessarily make a big difference to children's education.

Can anyone even remember what half of them were called? It seems a blur of ministerial launches with photo opportunities in specially selected schools.

Lots of change and lots of money over the last decade but it seems we've slumped and are now treading water in maths, science and reading.

The Scottish Government says almost routinely at the end of every press statement that the Curriculum for Excellence will tackle all problems.

Dirk Van Damme head of educational research at the OECD and an authority on Scottish education, indicated in an article for Times Educational Supplement Scotland earlier this year, that he's not entirely convinced Scotland does even now have the right strategies in place. Time to go back to the drawing board?

Report claims Scots education system 'treading water'

School snow closures

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Alistair Mooney Alistair Mooney | 14:58 UK time, Friday, 3 December 2010

Schools across Scotland have been dealing with the effects of snow all week. Some were back in today, others were written off midweek until Monday and some haven't been off at all. It's been interesting to watch it unfold, as if by surprise, over the week.

We had plenty of snow earlier this year, Claire wrote about it in January, pointing out how Glow could come into its own in these circumstances, and of how the decision to close a school isn't an easy one. When I was at school I never really questioned why schools shut when it snows, a blanket 'frozen pipes' or 'boiler problems' was generally accepted while the real consideration was "I don't care, where's the sledge?"

Twitter's been a great gauge of what's being going on. From the geographical differences of thundersnow in the north east to the tropics of Troon, to the same type of tweets being replayed a few days later by teachers and parents south of the border.

For me, Twitter has also highlighted how technology has been used to relay the message of school closures. Complaints about council or school websites being down started on Sunday evening and carried on during the week. There was a sense of mixed messages and teachers were questioning whether they should be reporting to schools local to where they live.

The BBC website gives the latest on school closures, while it is hard to beat the trusty wireless too. Every morning Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland covered what was going on, even the surprising late school closures. Not to mention the latest traffic and travel news.

But for those whose schools have closed, the lessons continue, with staff posting learning activities to their school blogs or through Glow. It'll be interesting to see if this trend continues, and whether anyone will appoint themselves as important enough to draw up guidelines, instead of trusting the teachers to do it for themselves. It's good to see papers picking up on the positive possibilities of using Glow in the snow, reporting on pupils use Glow to beat the freeze and Scotland combats school closures by offering lessons online. We'll see how this develops if the frozen weather keeps up into a second week. And down the line we can wonder if we need classrooms or school buildings at all.

While the snow and ice can bring genuine dangers, some people's reactions to technical and transport problems and hastily made childcare arrangements has been a tad childish, ranging from "a disgrace" to "a catastrophe". An inconvenience certainly, but if that's the worst thing that happens to you all week, good luck to you. I say childish, but children would provide a lesson of how to enjoy the snow. Dare I say in this weather, some people should just chill out. Have a watch of the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo. And if you do venture out, wrap up warm, like this little owl in a hat.

In pictures:
Let it snow
Snow bound in Scotland

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