Tag Archives: Scotland

Identity, community and leadership: A virtual visit to St. Paul’s Primary School (Scotland) and Hymba Yumba Independent School (Australia)

This week, IEN provides a glimpse of “virtual school visits” to St. Paul’s Primary School in Scotland, and Hymba Yumba Independent School in Australia. This post is the third in a series sharing videos and reflections from a session of the 2022 (virtual) Conference of the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI). The series began with Promoting equity through language access: A virtual visit to Liceo San Nicolas (Chile) and Easton Academy (UK) and Exploring Democratic Student Leadership and Active Citizenship: Virtual Visits to a Kenyan and an Italian school. This post provides each school’s  description of their values and approach, key takeaways of school members from a virtual panel discussion, and the reflections from the coordinator of the virtual school visit. This post was produced by Paul Campbell (Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change). 

St Paul’s Primary School, Glasgow (Scotland)

St. Paul’s Primary School is a catholic primary school located in Glasgow, Scotland. The school’s virtues are faith, hope and love, with the central virtue being that of love. This is at the core of everything at St Paul’s; it is the basis of all interactions and relationships. The community at St. Paul’s believe that by creating a nurturing environment, where all of the community are welcomed and loved and none are judged, children can exceed their potential. 

“The community at St. Paul’s believe that by creating a nurturing environment, where all of the community are welcomed and loved and none are judged, children can exceed their potential.”

St. Paul’s Primary School is located in the North East of Glasgow and serves a community of 465 children. 385 children are in the primary school (ranging from 5-12 years old in Primary 1 to Primary 7) and 80 children (ranging from 3-5 years old) are in the nursery class. The children in the primary school and nursery class are learning at Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence levels Early, First and Second. Learning for some of the children in the nursery class is supported by the Birth – 3 years old curriculum in order to address identified and emerging barriers to learning.

The school is situated in a busy town, and the school serves an area of high levels of deprivation. 78% of pupils are eligible for Pupil Premium/ Pupil Equity Funding/ Free School Meals which are measures of deprivation.  25% of pupils have an additional support need and 25% of pupils have English as an Additional Language, with 27 languages spoken in the school.

The school has been recognized for sector leading work, with the senior leadership team having engaged in a range of accredited professional learning to support the ongoing work of the school. The school is therefore dynamic, and always looking for ways to improve their research-based pedagogy.  The school’s vision is to have 100% of pupils reading (91% of the 2020-21 Primary 7 cohort left the school being able to read). 

A virtual visit to St. Paul’s Primary School

The school has very high expectations for pupils; and everyone in the school community shares these standards including the children themselves. Over the past nine years the headteacher has been in the post, she has purposefully built a whole community of learners: children, staff and parents. A focus has been on empowering staff and children to lead change in school, using a number of strategies to develop their voices.

Staff and children are part of the school’s quality assurance procedures. Parents have also been involved in this empowerment agenda, gaining qualifications in parenting and food hygiene, and leading our successful Plot to Plate Initiative (more information can be found on the school’s website).

The school commenced their Children’s Rights journey 7 years ago and recently became the only state primary school in Glasgow to gain a UNICEF Rights Respecting School Gold Award. The children are fully involved in the running of the school; they drive forward change through the school improvement plan and through the various Pupil Voice Committees in the school. The children have a strong belief and drive to make the world a better place and this can be seen in their many campaigns to improve the local school environment, trying to create a more sustainable school and world and writing to the Scottish Government. The school’s strategies for Health and Wellbeing focus on building emotional resilience and the children themselves have driven the change from what was the Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy to a Relationship Policy; highlighting a shift in thinking, culture and practice.

Hymba Yumba Independent School, Queensland (Australia)

Hymba Yumba Independent School (HYIS) is founded and proudly based in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture. The school is a Prep – Year 12 majority Indigenous school, founded in 2011 by Uncle Albert Holt and has been built upon the traditions of Indigenous culture, spirituality and identity. Situated in Springfield, Queensland on the traditional land of the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul people, the name of the school is from the Bidjara language group and was gifted to the school by founder, Uncle Albert Holt. Hymba means the development of skills in listening, reflecting, evaluating and planning and Yumba is the building and support for learning; the building of school and classroom routines and the building of community. The excellence in teaching and learning stems from a 21st century cultural and pedagogical approach, focused upon the whole jarjum (child) and his/her journey in education.

“Hymba means the development of skills in listening, reflecting, evaluating and planning and Yumba is the building and support for learning; the building of school and classroom routines and the building of community.”

HYIS is developing not only a futuristic approach to education, but also developing and building 21st century facilities to create an environment that is engaging and stimulating to create the strongest outcomes for their jarjums. By the end of Year 12, their jarjums will be in a career pathway that is either ‘learning or earning’ and will be equipped with real life experience and skills. The vast opportunities provided at Hymba Yumba are supported by passionate teachers and a strong network of partners with tertiary and vocational organisations. Although teaching excellence is at the forefront of HYIS’ work, they focus on the jarjum as a whole and therefore provide multiple wellbeing and sports programs to support the jarjums in their education journey. This is in recognition of how good mental and physical health is just as important as academic education in today’s society. Upon graduation, jarjums will proudly be able to lead in both worlds equipped with skills, experience, education, cultural knowledge and strength. The school first opened its doors with only 50 students and 8 staff members, and today has over 280 students and 40 staff making up the school community.

Key Lessons: Reimagining the intersection of practice, policy and research

This virtual school visit, made possible through the generosity and community spirit of the schools involved, enabled a rich dialogue around the nature of school and community leadership, and the contextual variation that emerges in understanding this within a global context. With the emphasis on leadership, community, and the development of the whole child evident in both schools, participants in the school visit discussed and highlighted the idea that ‘nothing is too much’ in trying to achieve what is needed to nurture and support the development of the ‘whole child’.

‘Nothing is too much’ in trying to achieve what is needed to nurture and support the development of the ‘whole child’.

The role of leadership, and particularly that of the Principal was highlighted in relation to the possibilities for school improvement. The learning focus, and the values and ideas that inform the leadership they exercise within their communities was viewed by participants as being key to the successes shared within the two communities, and with application beyond. Importantly, as both schools and participants highlighted, the role of the whole learning community coming to understand, appreciate and continue to build an understanding of the students and communities they work with is central to responsive practices, and priorities or approaches to improvement.

Participants reflected that what the schools illustrated was the importance of professional community, and organizational learning, sustaining the passion and enthusiasm for the community and the schools’ mission and values, and the centrality of relationships in achieving this.

More broadly, the role of leadership, community and the development of the whole child and the sharing of this through a forum like the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) highlights the scope and possibility to be imagining and reimagining the intersection of practice, policy and research. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated even further the possibilities and potential of collaboration within and across systems. As national and international socio-political contexts continue to change, these school communities and the conversations that represented ideas and experiences from across the globe (Hong Kong, Morocco, Sweden, Australia, Scotland, the United States, and Qatar), highlight the role education and schooling can play in supporting communities, and society more broadly. This has required creativity, bravery, and new modes, means and outputs of thinking as to the role and nature of schooling in uncertain times.

What these virtual school visits have also highlighted is the need for sustained, critically reflective dialogue and analysis of the structures, mechanisms, tools, and approaches that not only support school effectiveness and improvement, but enable the learning, growth, development, and understanding of the young people we work with in school communities. Through the intentional development of shared and inclusive forums to share ideas, reflect on experiences, and imagine the future, we can collectively contribute to and enhance the positive experiences and outcomes of young people in school systems across the globe.

Note on ICSEI Virtual School Visits: The International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) held its 35th annual congress online in January 2022 due to the pandemic. Over many years of face-to-face conferences, participants have had the unique opportunity to visit local schools to gain first-hand experience with the host country’s education system, share ideas and insights from one system to another, and act as a catalyst for discussion and debate between colleagues from different countries during and after the visits. The Virtual School Visits sought to keep that purpose, with the added advantage of not being restricted to one host country, increasing the richness and diversity of insight, discussion, and collaboration beyond what was possible at a face-to-face congress. ICSEI 2023 will be in Chile in January 2023 and schools’ visits will again be held virtually. For more information: https://2023.icsei.net and https://2023.icsei.net/school-visits/

What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…

This week, IEN’s Thomas Hatch summarizes some of the reports and stories that describe the many different ways schools are starting the new semester and new school year following the coronavirus closures earlier this year. In many cases, the differences in reopening plans differ as much within countries as across them.

            New years and new semesters have started in schools all around the world over Some openings have included celebrations – like a “dazzling drone show” welcoming students back to school in Nanjing China – but often openings have taken place as coronavirus cases have spiked in countries like Germany, France, and Jordan. Teachers all over are expressing major concerns about schools reopening before conditions are safe, with teachers unions filing labor board complaints in Toronto, and in New York City, threats of a strike delayed the opening of schools at least two weeks.  For those schools continuing with remote learning, concerns about equity and problems equipping all students with devices and internet connections remain even after months of closures.  At the same time, The New York Times reports “China is harnessing the power of its authoritarian system to offer in-person learning for about 195 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade at public schools.”

Among the approaches to reopening schools around the world:

  • In Spain, with the fastest growing infection rate in Europe, requirements for public schools are more stringent:  class sizes are being reduced; students are assigned to “bubbles” with a small number of classmates; desks must be positioned at least 1 ½ meters apart; all schools must improve open-air ventilation, and students must wear masks. Yet some private schools have been able to take advantage of their own resources to create open-air enclosures, increase staff and take other steps to adjust.
  • In Norway, as schools reopened in cities like Oslo, cases rose to a “yellow,” caution level, and if they continue to rise to a “red” level, schools will have to close again. The Norwegian authorities have not mandated the use of face masks in schools, but many schools have dropped the tradition of allowing parents of first graders to shake hands with the principal and follow their children into their classrooms as part of a formal welcome for their very first day of school. (“Corona clouds the first day of schoolNewsinenglish.no)
  • In Estonia, some schools are almost “back to normal” but others are making their own adaptions to slow the spread of the virus.  One school is alternating between one week learning in school and the next two weeks learning online from home, while another has reduced class sizes, shortened classes, decreased the length of the school day and included “movement” days where students spend the whole day outside. (“New academic year: Alternating distance and contact learningERR.ee).
  • Hong Kong schools plan to resume face-to-face classes in stages, on a half-day basis with students from some years, such as those starting primary or secondary schools among the first back
  • In Germany, testing for students and educators has been “fast and free,” with quick contact tracing making it possible to isolate cases and contain spread. As the New York Times reported, after schools were open in Berlin for a few weeks: 49 teachers and students had been infected, but with testing and targeted quarantines, only about 600 students out of some 366,000 have had to stay home on any given day. (“Schools Can Reopen, Germany Finds, but Expect a ‘Roller Coaster’”, New York Times).
  • In the US, opening plans differ drastically depending on location as 65% of rural districts plan to start fully in-person, but only 24% of suburban districts and 9% of urban districts plan to do so; overall, estimates suggest 26% of districts plan to open fully remote, but over 40% of the highest-poverty districts will do so (Getting Back to School: An Update on Plans from Across the Country, Center on Reinventing Public Education). In Los Angeles, although almost all students are still learning from home, the district is trying to put in place a massive testing program to test and screen all 700,000 students and 75,000 employees in order to reopen the schools. (L.A. Schools Begin Testing 775,000 Students and Workers, New York Times).  In New York City, the teachers union continues to express concerns about the plans to open with in-person learning, and at the same time, over 40% of students (approximately 422,000 students) have enrolled in all-remote learning. (55 NYC School Staff Test Positive; Nearly Half of Students Opt for All-Remote, NBCNewYork).

Teacher collaboration and professional development around the world

Last month, at the American Educational Research Association Conference held in Chicago, I attended a presentation that offered multiple perspectives on the recent findings in the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) report. As the OECD explains, the TALIS report asks teachers and principals who they are, where they teach and how they feel about their work.

Linda Darling-Hammond focused on what the TALIS report can teach us about teachers in the United States. She explained that teachers in the U.S. have insufficient time for planning and collaboration during the school day, which means that they are often left to do this work alone at home. U.S. teachers report that they experience less helpful feedback (coming from principals more often than peers), and sporadic professional development. Yet, collaborative practices and self-efficacy were indicated as drivers of job satisfaction.

Andy Hargreaves argued that while collaboration can be important to job satisfaction, we need to develop a much deeper understanding of what effective collaboration looks like. He argued that we need to know more about why collaborative practices are not always embraced by teachers. As self-efficacy was also related to job satisfaction, Hargreaves suggested that we also think about collective efficacy—the belief that we have in what we can do together, not just alone. Further work needs to be done, he explained, to develop our understanding of when collaboration is useful, when it is simplistic, and when it takes the form of “contrived collegiality.”

With this attention to collaboration and professional development, I decided to conduct a scan of education news around the world to see what I could learn about how different countries are addressing the topic. This scan showed that countries are grappling with several issues, such as the quality, time, and funding for professional development.

In British Columbia, the government is proposing to create professional development standards. Education Minister Peter Fassbender views the establishment of such standards as an act that would put the teaching profession on par with other professions, such as the legal, accounting, or nursing professions. While teachers are currently required to attend professional development sessions, new legislation would determine what those session cover; however, Fassbender says there will be no increase in funding to support the new standards. Concerns have been raised about the privitization of professional development, and the lack of teacher input.

In Australia, ACT teachers have spent a year arguing that they need guaranteed time each week for professional development and collaboration. According to Union Secretary Glenn Fowler, “Teachers do not trust their employer to protect them from snow-balling workloads, and we say to the employer if there is no guaranteed and quarantined time made in the new agreement, we will never see it, and that time may continue to get stripped away from teachers.”

Meanwhile, teachers in Ireland oppose a plan for mandatory continuing professional development (CPD). While most Irish teachers place high value on CPD, a majority fear that “if compulsory, it would promote a ‘compliance mentality’ with minimal real engagement.”

New Zealand has established Communities of Schools as part of their Investing in Educational Success initiative. These schools will set their own achievement goals and will be funded to allow teachers the time to “work with and learn from each other, supported by new teaching and leadership roles.” While funding for these new positions is proving controversial, as one principal shared, “You have to change things. You can’t stay in your same structures, if you do you will end up with the same result: busy schools that are too busy to share.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has noticed how busy teachers in Scotland are as well, and called for a period of “consolidataion and calm.” Flanagan said teachers needed breathing space after the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and new exams:”The last thing Scottish teachers need to hear at the moment is that the pace of change needs to be stepped up.” He called for additional resources and support for professional development.

Deirdre Faughey

Scanning the globe

Several reports over the past month highlight issues such as educational funding, early childhood education, new schools and school closure, and curriculum:


In the Phillipines, http://www.philstar.com argues that the country is not contributing enough to education. While education spending increased from 1999 to 2011 (13.9% to 15%), it has yet to reach the target 20% of the national budget. According to UNESCO, “The share of national income invested in education, which equalled the subregional average in 1999, had fallen behind by 2009 at 2.7 percent of GNP, compared with an average of 3.2 percent for East Asia.” In CanadaThe Globe and Mail reports that school boards have increased their spending over the past decade. In Canada as a whole, expenditures have increased 53 per cent – or 5.3 per cent a year, a rate much higher than inflation. In Australia, The Australian Teacher Magazine reports that the government is in the midst of a debate over the funding of education. While the government has committed to a new educational funding system for four years starting from 2014, officials are debating the timeline for the new funding system as well as the question of whether the funding should go to private schools as well as public schools. Meanwhile, The Norway Post reports that the Norwegian government is making plans to increase spending on teacher training.

Early Childhood Education

In Bulgariahttp://www.novinite.com reports that, in order to avoid a loss of EU funding, new legislation is being drafted and must go into effect by September 2014. Legislation includes revisions to a draft law on pre-school education, which include making pre-school education non-compulsory for 4-year-olds. Meanwhile, The Helsinki Times reports that Finland, where approximately 63% of children aged 1-6 attended daycare in 2012, is considering a new law that would “secure the high quality of early childhood education,” as well as all other issues, including funding and teacher quality.

New Schools and School Closure

According to Norways The Foreigner, Conservative Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen has proposed lifting current restrictions on establishing private schools. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the government has amended the Children and Young People Bill in order to defer decisions about school closures to new review panels. The aim of establishing these panels is to improve transparency and remove allegations of political bias from the process. In Lithuania, the Education and Science Ministry has approved a network of Russian-language schools, emphasizing that education programs of foreign countries and international organizations must be consistent with the education goals and principles in the Education Law of Lithuania, as well as the law on national security and other legal acts.


In Finland, The Helsinki Times reports that a high school reform task force delivered a proposal to the Minister of Education and Science in which they proposed reducing compulsory subjects, such as the study of Swedish, and introducing new interdisciplinary studies. The proposal has been met with resistance from some teachers and politicians. Meanwhile, in The New York Times, questions about the relationship between identity and the curriculum surface for Palestinian children who are educated in Israel, and Muslims who are educaed in Germany. The debate over language instruction is ongoing in countries such as The NetherlandsLatvia, and Japan.

In AustraliaAustralian Teacher Magazine reports on a new review of the national curriculum, which leadership feels should be pared back to basics. Kevin Donnely, one of two men who will conduct the review, raises concerns over teaching and learning, and considers the relationship between educational spending and learning outcomes. As he explains, “We really do need to know whether the millions and millions of dollars that’s gone into education over the last 20 years, where results have flatlined or have gone backwards – we want to know how effective that money has been.”

Scan of news: Teachers

Scotland: Susan Quinn, Union president, highlighted members' concerns.

Scotland: Susan Quinn, Union president, highlighted members’ concerns.

Over the past month, reports from various countries have shown both the concerns of teachers and concern about teachers. For example, reports of teacher concerns include India and Argentina, where teachers are looking for reliable salary payments, decent facilities, and quality education for allFinland, where teachers are concerned about a sharp increase in violent student behavior in the classroom; and Greece, where teachers are fighting for the right to protest in the midst of austerity measures that threaten the country’s education system itself. Additionally, in Scotland teachers are protesting a new curriculum and an unmanageable workload.

Reports of concerns about teachers include Lithuania, where students recently outperformed teachers on an exam created by the European Union; Israel, where teachers’ lack of expertise in mathematics has been blamed for student difficulties with the subject; and Malaysia, where the Education Ministry plans to conduct diagnostic exercises to benchmark Science teachers in terms of their content knowledge and pedagogical skills in the field.


Analysis: from concept to classroom
Denholm, A.  The Herald (11 April 2012)

New research by Stirling University highlights that “there is still significant uncertainty over [Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellent (CfE)], even as 54,000 secondary pupils move towards the first exams in 2014.”  CfE’s purpose was to move education from the regurgitation of facts to “a new style of learning, better suited to the fast-changing modern economy which relies on creative thinking and resourcefulness.”  Focus has been on the early CfE curricular materials, which have been labeled “vague and confusing.”  (A summary of the Stirling University research can be found here; additional news about the study can be found here.)


Why we are wrong to rush children into reading
Lambert, M.  The Herald (1 April 2012)

This commentary asserts that “teaching someone how to read does not make them a reader. In fact, it’s Pavlovian: teaching a young child to read before they are ready might put them off altogether, because they experience this process as intense difficulty, and it takes at least two years before they begin to master the skills, by which time they have hardly associated reading and writing with pleasure and profit, quite apart from having their confidence severely battered.”  The author insists that students should not be forced to learn reading and writing until the second or third year of primary schools, insisting that younger children should be engaged in play.  He cites findings from PISA, including that only 46% of Scottish children only read when they had to and only 26% described reading as a hobby.  (See Scotland’s 2006 PISA performance here; see 2009 results here).  He advocates a system where the early primary years will be a time to instill “curiosity about the world, verbal dexterity and reasoning in describing it, storytelling in being imaginative with it, and a familiarity with the alphabet and different language forms, registers and modes.”  He believes this will help Scottish students gain the confidence and skills that would help them with reading and writing.


More powers for newly independent teaching regulator
Marshall, C.  Scotsman.com.  (27 March 2012)

Scotland instituted an “independent, self-regulating professional body for teaching after the decision to bring it into line with organisations such as the General Medical Council.”  The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) will have greater flexibility and power when dealing with teachers who have “have fallen short of the standards of conduct or professional competence,” according to the UK edition of the Huffington Post.  The Chief Executive of the GTCS, quoted in Scotsman.com, said, “We now have full responsibility for current and future professional standards; we determine the qualifications for entry to teaching; we accredit courses of teacher education; we determine the ‘fitness to teach’ of teachers and applicants for registration; and we have a duty to bring forward a system of Professional Update for registered teachers.”  Also, see the video below from the Press Association: