We often talk about the impact that we as teachers have on young people. Helping them to see their potential, encouraging their success and supporting them to achieve their very best. But this post recognises the encouragement great teachers and leaders often give to colleagues, and the importance of those individuals who go beyond their day job, to take time to build others up and inspire through formal or informal mentorship.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to support aspiring teachers, student teachers, early career teachers, experienced teachers, new and established principal teachers over the last few years. It’s always a privilege to be able to tease out their confidence and help them to see their own strengths. Often the conversation is all they need. The opportunity to share and clarify their thinking which gives them confidence they need in whatever situation they find themselves in. I’ve listened to worries, concerns and frustrations. I’ve been asked searching questions or my opinion on moral dilemmas. I’ve offered advice on application forms and supported individuals prepare for interviews. I’ve reminded colleagues of their worth, of gaining perspective and the need for balance. I’ve been there when colleagues have been successful and shared disappointment when something was not meant to be. I hope I’ll always be someone who makes time for this and who colleagues feel they can come to for this support. Because in my own career, this has made a huge difference to me.
All teachers are truly brilliant, but sometimes in education, you will find a small number of individuals whose values, energy and purpose totally aligns with your own. You will look up to them. You will be inspired by them. And you will learn so much from them. Find these people, hold them close and use their experience to help you be the best you can be.
For me, many of these inspirational mentors are people I haven’t even met! But they build me up. They keep me right. And their support, when I’ve needed it, has been invaluable. From taking time for a phone call to talk through an issue I’m experiencing in school, to giving me honest, direct and practical feedback on an application form. They’ve thought of me and given me opportunities to shine. They’ve connected me to other colleagues. They’ve encouraged me when I’ve doubted myself. They’ve been a cheerleader when I’ve been successful, and even more so when I’ve not been experiencing success. They’ve helped me to become the teacher and leader I am today. And I’m incredibly grateful for that. These acts of mentorship don’t need to be formal. They very often aren’t. They may not officially be mentors, but are instead good people, being good role models and being incredibly good with their time. Through them, others are being given opportunities to thrive. Colleagues are inspired to be even better. And ultimately it is our young people who benefit from this act of paying it forward.
Always remember to look back. Never be too busy. Or too important. Because not long ago the person asking for the help was you.
Have a great week.
Coding develops cognitive skills, problem solving and analytical thinking ("computational thinking"). By introducing and developing these abilities from primary school onwards, we create the building blocks and thought processes necessary for robotics and AI. This is not about displacing traditional subjects but, rather, changing the emphasis. Coding can comfortably sit alongside other subjects, especially those with a creative slant, reinforcing the development of key skills through multiple channels.
Coding develops cognitive skills, problem solving and analytical thinking (“computational thinking”). By introducing and developing these abilities from primary school onwards, we create the building blocks and thought processes necessary for robotics and AI. This is not about displacing traditional subjects but, rather, changing the emphasis. Coding can comfortably sit alongside other subjects, especially those with a creative slant, reinforcing the development of key skills through multiple channels.
Coding certainly can develop cognitive skills, problem solving and analytical thinking. A lot of other things can too. I think it is difficult.
Any class will present a wide range of learners. Designing or adapting lessons to try and get as many of them in the right zone to develop these skills is tricky. If you don’t get this right coding is neither productive or fun.
The article notes:
. Coding can comfortably sit alongside other subjects, especially those with a creative slant, reinforcing the development of key skills through multiple channels.
I’ve certainly found that putting coding into a context can lead to more fun and success. By adding elements art or making to a coding project more pupils are involved in problem solving, collaboration and creativity.
A difficulty in managing this might be the perceive need to be an expert in several different areas. I’ve certainly found myself in situations where I’ve not be completely confident around some of these areas.
The article acknowledges that covid has had an effect:
It is a reasonable assumption that this immersion in IT and technology is preparing young people for a digital future and teaching them the skills they will need.
But we need pupils to be creators as well as users:
there is a largely unrecognised digital difference between the users of technology and the creators
I think there is also a gap around literacy and the problems that the mixing of commercial and educational interests in technology. A lot of the uptake in digital solutions lacks any questioning of the provides of these solutions.
This is something I am not very sure I’d know where to start with? Perhaps Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex:
In just a few years, understanding programming will be an indispensable part of active citizenship. The idea that coding offers an unproblematic path to social progress and personal enhancement works to the advantage of the growing techno-plutocracy that’s insulating itself behind its own technology.
I tell you
I teach you
The facts, the information, the knowledge.
I repeat, review, re-phrase
Recognise the resistance
Re-double my efforts.
I get frustrated.
Why can’t you
Do as I say
Not as I did?
I don’t want you to make the same mistakes
I can’t bear to see you suffer the same pains
I shudder in the imagining of the same risks
History must not repeat.
Unless it must.
Do the best teachers tolerate this?
Loving so hard that they let go
Never saying I told you so
Having faith it won’t be so
And if it is, just being there
And helping mend those pieces.
It is time to reflect on : what we need from a national awarding body, what we expect of support agencies, funding bodies, audit and inspection organisations.
They are all, in one way or another, part of the mix.
What is missing is any real form of national discussion around what the future of schools assessment and certification should be. The Scottish government response to the OECD report is big on headlines but thin on detail. The press, including the educational press, tend to stick to the shallow end of any debate on national assessment systems.
BBC Radio Four ran an excellent series simply around thinking aloud about Re-Thinking Education with one programme dedicated to looking at alternatives to the current school exam system in England. I am not a big Lord Kenneth Baker fan but his opinions on ending any form of national assessment for 16 year olds is worth exploring. his thoughts on an academic vocational split at age 14 are abhorrent.
I am concerned on two fronts. The populist decision to abolish the SQA does seem to ignore the fact that one way or another a new agency(s) will simply rise from the ashes. The timing is appalling given the stresses and strains on the system, but it is perhaps that simple political expediency that heralds many education reforms, give them the big news just before schools and parliament go into summer recess.
Lost in this and the only bit that has ever been in anyway exportable is the vocational education system founded in early 1980s by SCOTVEC and buried in the merger with the Scottish Examination Board on the creation of SQA.
In the worst scenario, asset strippers in the form of private sector awarding or the 'not for profit' awarding bodies in England will gladly hoover up SQA's commercial and overseas business and the receipts they brought to support national awarding in Scotland. I wouldn't even be surprised to see elements of Universities Scotland hovering around this area.
If the focus is just on schools then a new agency or vehicle needs established to look after vocational awarding in Scotland. It needs to be new and separate from agencies like SDS or SFC who fund the qualifications. Perhaps this is the new quality assurance agency for Universities and Colleges mooted in the SFC review papers and lauded here by Ewart Keep at least SFC talks about the tertiary education system and working with SQA and successor bodies in their Coherence and Sustainability Review.
Clarity here is needed quickly, vocational awards are at the heart of any economic recovery strategy.
But what about school assessment and certification ? Will removing SQA, rather than reforming the assessment system, solve the issues ?
In my view incessant power struggles over school curriculum and assessment held the whole Scottish system back. They certainly held SQA back from 2003 - 2015 while I was there and they were delaying things like HN reforms when I worked in the College sector immediately prior to that. I am guessing now there will be further delays around the HN Next Gen work which the College sector badly needs. We need reforms too around qualifications in the work based learning sector.
I'll post separately on where the opportunities lie for a new sort of awarding agency for the public good.
Where will consensus on school assessment and certification come from ?
The school assessment system with its narrow subject and exam focus was not really about SQA but an image of what teachers and governments wanted. To have a more flexible system it starts with the teachers and schools knowing and applying national standards, no matter what subject area, this could be in any domain or discipline, you can then have flexible assessment policies , it could all naturally flow through from the experiences and outcomes.
The tech and systems have been in place for years to support more innovative forms of assessment and certification but the school system has fought , resisted and won battles to keep the exam system and year long courses, while maintaining glacial speed too on any curriculum changes.
While the civil service and local authorities continued to embrace systems that only recognised achievement in exam based subjects. Universities like this too. I hope there is now a confidence in the system to tackle this. It needs to be tackled system wide. There will be a real drive in many quarters to ignore any learning from the last two years and get back to business as usual.
I fear further insularism - the awarding system in schools needs to place learners more at centre , subject choice should not be determined by which school and where it is located , assessment should take a variety of forms and be ready when the candidate is ready - not annually and teachers should as matter of course be able to make accurate estimates on grading, and certification should be digital by default.
"The SQA levy to local authorities and entry fees charged to independent schools and colleges for the certification of national qualifications have remained unchanged since 2012-13. These fees contribute to the cost of awarding. The costs of awarding National Qualifications are greater than the contribution made by local authorities, independent schools and colleges."
"Scottish government funding in the financial year 2019-20 to the SQA was £41.4 million but, in 2020-21, that figure almost halved to £21 million"