Recipients of Excellence in Professional Learning Award
Recipients of Excellence in Professional Learning Award for Schools and Learning Communities
Argyll and Bute Early Years Team
Bracoden Primary School is a small, coastal school in the Northeast of Scotland. The whole school lives out its motto of ‘Strive, believe, achieve,’ in all that it does. This is supported by a strategic vision of professional learning whereby we ‘provide learning experiences for all our pupils, which allow them to recognise their individual potential and achieve their goals.’
At Bracoden we strive to be an excellent school. We set high standards which are non-negotiable, and this has embedded the learning culture for the school. The ethos of commitment and improvement is palpable in every learning context. We ‘develop self-evaluation to promote improvement for all through sharing expertise and good practice.’
The school values of: Respect, Enthusiasm, Working together, Aspiration, Responsibility and Determined (REWARD) are discussed and reinforced daily. They are celebrated every week in pupil led assemblies. At Bracoden we, ‘promote an ethos which values and supports all individuals, celebrates success and develops respect for all.’ Alongside these, the Getting it Right for Every Child – wellbeing indicators (SHANARRI) – are woven into our school ethos which allow pupils to thrive.
Time to reflect on professional learning is allocated and prioritised each term with the most effective practice disseminated. Teachers are reflective practitioners which leads to profound learning. GIRFEC directs their self-evaluative questioning. Whole school targets drive the key areas for improvement forward and lead to an increase year on year on standards. The quality improvement calendar is set out to prioritise meetings focused on the impact of teaching and learning on all pupils across the school. The school uses Local Authority targets to set their own aspirational targets. We focus on percentages of pupils achieving above the expected levels. Tracking progress and attainment is regularly completed as a whole staff activity. From this, decisions can be made as to where any gaps are and how to close them further.
Pupils’ passions and interests are listened to in order to maximise the impact on learning – data is collated, and the strategic direction of improvement is made. Staff work very closely with the headteacher to shape the direction of school improvement plan. Views from pupils/parents and community members are then fed into this. The learners are central to all strategic decisions made within school. Reflecting on what made the most significant impact and why and how to emulate this across another curricular area e.g. Learning Ambassadors meet with the Head Teacher and discuss findings.
Staff interests and strengths are shared and utilised across the school. Everyone’s achievements are celebrated in school including three members of staff who have worked for Aberdeenshire council for 40 years and 25 years. Any courses/degrees taken amongst staff are shared with the children to show that learning is life-long. A quarter of Bracoden pupils have been involved in Children’s University Scotland where they had the opportunity to attend a graduation at Aberdeen University. Links with schools that are excelling in their practice have been made. Adapting exemplary practice from other countries and sharing it has developed pedagogy – e.g. portfolios from an outstanding primary school in England.
Community members, Parent Council and families play an active role at Bracoden, ‘involves parents and the community as active partners in the education of our pupils.’ A particularly successful example was during the Great War Centenary when a history booklet was researched and made about local veterans. Bracoden pupils worked alongside local community members and young adults from the Boyndie Trust. The proceeds made, bought a Tommy Statue for Gardenstown Village – proceeds to Help for Heroes. Meaningful links and purposeful learning make the bonds between the school and community stronger.
The staff collaborate and enjoy learning from each other. Team teaching/coaching enables teachers from differing age groups to plan/teach/assess and reflect over practice. This has been warmly received as a personal development tool and is having a positive impact on the teaching across the school. Digital professional learning has also been taken forward significantly during the pandemic through the upskilling of staff in the use of Glow and Google Classroom. We remain focused on Health and wellbeing with our well-established Forest School sessions – we won our Eco-flag and the gold Woodland trust award since the pandemic began.
As we continue journeying towards excellence, we look forward to all the learning opportunities we meet, whilst navigating our way.
“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
At the heart of our school vision and philosophy are two core beliefs; firstly, that our approach as educators should be shaped by the voices of learners, and secondly, that the single most important driver of a high quality pupil learning experience lies within teacher efficacy and a commitment to lifelong learning. We are firm believers in the capacity we hold within our learning community and the strength that lies within peer led CLPL.
What did we do?
Braes High School runs an extensive programme of in-house CLPL sessions. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic we moved our provision so that programmes were delivered online. Staff have led sessions virtually offering their expertise on a range of teaching strategies. Each programme we deliver includes between 5-10 sessions within a particular theme relevant to our ongoing improvement planning or as a result of our self-evaluation feedback. These sessions are recorded and uploaded to our whole staff Team page to reach a larger number of practitioners. This gives staff the flexibility to engage with the learning at their own pace. Furthermore, as part of our reflective practices, we have uploaded snippets of some sessions to our website with the aim of sharing good practice throughout our school community including partners, pupils and parents. (https://www.braeshigh.com/clpl—professional-development-at-braes-high).
Cluster CPEGs (Cluster Practitioner Enquiry Groups)
At Braes High School we have used Teacher Learning Communities as part of our ongoing improvement model for the past decade. The focus for these learning communities has shifted over the past few years to concentrate on individual Practitioner Enquiries the progress of which is shared with colleagues within Practitioner Enquiry Groups. These groups operate as critical learning communities where staff can share their progress with regards to their enquiry and where quality reflective conversations can take place. The natural progression for this enquiry approach was to share this with our primary cluster colleagues as a way to further develop the strong working links already in place. (In the preceding three sessions cluster colleagues had worked together as firstly Working Groups and then as Professional Reading Groups). Cluster Practitioner Enquiry Groups or C-PEGs were created under the broad Cluster Improvement Plan drivers.
As a cluster, we appreciate and understand the importance of career-long professional learning as a cornerstone of an improvement methodology which has a positive impact on pupils from both an achievement and attainment perspective. We have been immersed in methodologies which engage and motivate learners with a strong focus on what makes the difference in a classroom setting. In the secondary sector we have observed the impact this approach has had on our pupil achievement over a number of years. We have held a long-standing research approach which includes research from experts such as Dylan Wiliams and John Hattie which have helped to focus our approaches to improving learning and teaching methodologies. As a cluster, we have used this research alongside national policy including the NIF, HGIOS4 and the updated Professional Standards (2021) to highlight the importance of ongoing professional learning including the importance of professional reading which has helped to embed this approach as an ethos and culture across the cluster.
TLCs, PEGs and now C-PEGs have long been a standing focus in our school-based working time agreements.
Due to these strong working relationships, we believe the following has been achieved:
- Staff are engaged in personally identified, self-motivated approaches to CLPL
- Staff are given the opportunity to self-evaluate, share and critically converse around their practice and any methodologies they have tried within the classroom
- Staff have built strong connections with cluster staff with the shared aim of improving outcomes for pupils within our shred community
- Pupils are reaping the benefits of this professional development through the service they receive in the classroom
At Braes High School we will continue to strive to fulfil our vision philosophy and core beliefs to further improve the outcomes of all of our learners through critical self-evaluation measures, consideration and implementation of pupil voice findings and teacher efficacy through a rigorous approach to lifelong learning.
Professional learning is a key focus of the Broad General Education team (BGE team) in Stirling Council, which has an ethos of trust, self-evaluation, self-reflection and mutual respect. We are committed to providing professional learning which empowers staff to lead learning individually, collegiately and through collaboration and enquiry ensuring positive outcomes for learners.
Since 2020 we have continued to provide high-quality professional learning. This has included a sustained focus on pedagogy, leadership and equity. Our offer has been developed through the use of digital technology. For example, we held regular online ‘drop in’ sessions where headteachers set the agenda working in collaboration with colleagues and BGE team members. During the pandemic, there were increased opportunities for colleagues to be involved in online forums shaping learning relevant to their communities but also participating in activities across the authority ensuring a broadening of knowledge and connectivity. Our sustainable model is responsive to community needs in the ever-changing landscape of Scottish education.
We are committed to professional learning opportunities which are collaborative and promote critical enquiry. The BGE team create an empowered culture where school leaders ask critical questions of themselves throughout their leadership journey. This is evidenced by the high number of school leaders who undertake professional learning and reflect on the impact of professional enquiry at Professional Review and Development (PRD) and collaborative meetings. Lead On is a bespoke senior leadership programme devised by the BGE team empowering participants to commit to their own professional learning as drivers of change for improvement in their own schools. Aspiring Principal Teachers can participate in Lead Next (a bespoke middle leadership programme designed by the BGE team) where practitioners are key enactors of change in their own settings, developing their own practitioner enquiries and collaborating with fellow participants in a culture of trust.
Self-evaluation and ongoing reflection to identify next steps are embedded within our practice. The Professional Standards for teachers support ongoing rich, reflective dialogue leading to practitioner improvement. PRD in Stirling Council is embedded in self-evaluation, learning and reflection. Information on PRD Guidelines is shared and refreshed on the intranet and links to GTC Scotland materials ensure all staff have access to current documentation. Authority PRD Guidelines are detailed and clear, ensuring participants are aware of their entitlements, roles and responsibilities. A robust programme to mentor probationer teachers is founded on the Professional Standards.
PRD is established as a coaching and mentoring model to support ongoing discussion. Many establishments across the authority use the GTC Scotland self-evaluation wheel to support self-evaluation. School leaders learn coaching approaches as a result of professional learning sessions including an ‘Introduction to Leadership Coaching’ and ‘Columba 1400’. These have been delivered in partnership with other professional learning organisations. Coaching tools and techniques were created collaboratively with school practitioners as part of our approaches to professional learning for moderation. There is planned regular professional learning for supply teachers and within collaborative School Improvement Partnerships for headteachers.
Professional Learning is founded upon the best outcomes for learners. Our ‘Pupils Leading Learning Event’ for school leaders was planned, organised and led by children using ‘How Good is OUR School’. Enterprising Schools Scotland commended this as an example of excellent practice. The needs of learners are fundamental to professional learning opportunities e.g. Raising Attainment Champions’ Professional Enquiry commenced with a needs analysis of the learners in the practitioners’ settings informed by data. Professional learning opportunities such as Data Champions develop systemic perspectives and strategies with a focus on improving outcomes for children. Our local professional learning offer mirrors the national opportunities to provide rich professional learning in tandem which impacts directly on our children.
A sustainable system leadership approach is embedded within our team. School Leaders are empowered agents of change. Teachers informing change through Primary 1 Practitioner Enquiry Group; Curriculum Review Groups; Raising Attainment Strategic Leaders. We revise our professional learning to meet the needs of learners and their learning communities ensuring that our approaches are sustainable by encouraging system leadership e.g. next session our P1 Practitioner Enquiry Group will be led by teachers from this year’s cohort and our BGE offer will be amended to focus on creative pedagogy P1-P7.
Headteachers have a range of professional learning opportunities through system leadership. These include Regional Improvement Collaborative Literacy Lead; Headteacher Mentoring Programme; School Improvement Partnership Group. This is empowering, as they are collectively seen as life-long learners, setting positive examples for others. There is a strong, supportive culture where collective professionalism and collaboration pervade all that we do.
Drumchapel High School
Edenside Primary School
The Edinburgh Learns Teaching and Learning Team was established in 2018. Our aims are to improve both the quality of learners’ experiences and the knowledge, skills and confidence of practitioners, leading to improved progress and achievement in learning for our children and young people. Our professional learning offer is clearly informed by the National Model of Professional Learning. We provide training which deepens knowledge and understanding of strategies to deliver high-quality learning and teaching, along with supporting establishments and educators to use enquiry to explore what works for their own learners.
Our focus is largely informed by our city’s Teaching and Learning framework which identifies 4 key areas – formative assessment, differentiation, skills and leadership of learning – to support high-quality learning, teaching and assessment. These 4 areas have been branded under our Teachers’ Charter which forms a core part of our authority and schools’ priorities.
Initially, we delivered professional learning face to face, but we have adapted this greatly since 2020. We now offer a hybrid model of live and self-led learning. Our live webinars, delivered online, allow staff to engage with interactive training without the need for travel. Our self-led training enables our professional learning offer to be differentiated for staff; they can move through learning as quickly/slowly as they would like, they can revisit learning over and over again and they can focus specifically on the parts they have identified they need to work on.
The impact of professional learning on learners’ progress and attainment is critical for us. We have a relentless focus throughout our professional learning on enquiry as a stance to challenge and inform practice. In addition, we have established lesson study as a tool for collaborative enquiry in a number of our schools and clusters. We offer support to establishments and educators on the use of data and self-evaluation which, along with our training and enquiry focus, help them plan and evaluate impactful improvement.
This session has seen the establishment of a new learning, teaching and assessment leads network across the city. These practitioners are keen to lead improvement in their local context in collaboration with the Teaching and Learning Team. A rich professional learning offer, along with regular network meetings, is helping develop their skills in leading impactful professional learning and in pedagogy. In the long term, it will be powerful to have professional learning co-delivered by these leads and the Teaching and Learning Team to give a perfect mix of research, practice and local context.
We have an ongoing, strong commitment to our own professional learning as a team. We engage regularly in professional reading and professional learning ourselves and often plan opportunities for professional dialogue around this. This helps ensure that our professional learning offer is up to date and well-informed.
Going forward, we are excited about the future and continuing collaboration with colleagues and establishments across Edinburgh. We will continue to adapt our offer to meet the needs of our educators and maximise our impact on learners. Covid forced us to change many of our practices and, coming out of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to move forward with a blend of best practice. An enduring online element within our offer will continue to give us the option to deliver shorter live sessions which would not have been worth travelling for, along with self-led training that staff can access where and when they want. We will re-introduce face to face work when possible for longer sessions to help build strong relationships and provide rich opportunities for dialogue and collaboration.
It is essential that as a team we address the learning needs of all education professionals and we ensure that our programmes and networks are informed by feedback from Professional Review and Development (PRD) reviews, engagements with Senior Leadership Team (SLT) members, School Improvement Plan priorities and Summary of Inspection Findings reports. All of these are taken into consideration when developing the Professional Learning and Leadership Framework. Within all professional learning programmes within the Professional Learning and Leadership Framework course evaluations and informal feedback from participants are gathered and used to inform the next steps in programme development.
All programmes within the Professional Learning and Leadership Framework are underpinned by the Professional Standards for teachers or relevant standards (e.g. SSSC or How We Work Matters (Fife)) and participants are expected to self-evaluate using the appropriate standard for their career stage. All programmes within the Professional Learning and Leadership Framework encourage, support and challenge individuals to work collaboratively with a focus being on learning with and from others. Participants are asked to reflect on their own practice and to use coaching approaches to support and challenge others. This ensures that our programme participants are engaging in reflective professional dialogue within a culture and climate of trust and openness.
Our Coaching Model has been adapted to take into account the needs of all across Fife schools and education establishments. We have developed the Coaching for Success programme to allow engagement with different groups of professionals including a specific programme for our school leaders. As part of our successful Headteacher Induction programme, there is an opportunity for all of those on this to engage in the Coaching for Success programme. Tutors from across Fife support the delivery of the programme to ensure sustainability and that the voice of the profession is leading in this area. Through the embedding of coaching approaches across our school communities, we have enabled others to challenge beliefs and assumptions and to deepen their knowledge and understanding of what it means to be an education professional in Fife and Scotland.
A coaching approach to PRD is encouraged and supported through PRD Reviewer training sessions and guidance support materials. Our PRD process is fully supported by self-evaluation against the Professional Standards and professional learning discussions are based on each professional’s evaluation against these. The discussion informs the next steps for professional learning identified. Our PRD/PU Policy (2021) supports self-evaluation and professional learning dialogue through an ongoing narrative with professionals across Fife as well as through an annual PRD meeting. All resources to support the PRD process are accessible to all professionals and in line with national guidance materials. Our Reviewer/Reviewee PRD/PU Guidance supports the PRD process and ensures that the National Model, MyPL Cycle and GTCS guidance underpin the process within schools and education establishments.
All programmes are underpinned by a programme of professional reading with many programmes having a core text associated with the programme. Participants are asked throughout to engage with intersessional reading and reflect on how this links to practice. Our Practitioner Enquiry, Teacher Leadership, Change Leadership and Middle Leadership programmes have a strong focus on individual and collaborative enquiry with a clear rationale for change. Participants are asked to continually reflect throughout on the impact on self, peers, and learners. All of these programmes have GTCs Professional Recognition attached to them for all participants who successfully complete the programme.
We actively encourage those across our learning communities to share good practice with clusters, showcase events, local improvement forums, engagement day events, SEIC events and national events. All professional dialogue is shaped around the key features of the session or event being attended so as to give our educators the opportunity to focus on particular areas for development or to share key strengths. We frequently engage in self-evaluation for self-improvement dialogue through the use of HGIOS4/HGIOELC quality indicator challenge questions. Our Professional Learning Strategy is informed by the needs of the whole education community in Fife and takes into account both national and local policy.
Following a review of Learning and Teaching in secondary Broad General Education (BGE) in Glasgow, it was clear that improvement and related investment in Learning and Teaching across the City was both essential and a priority. As the largest local authority, Glasgow has 30 mainstream secondary schools, all of which differ in terms of size, staffing and profile, and it was recognised at an early stage in this professional learning journey, that no single approach to improvement would be desirable or appropriate. Headteachers in Glasgow value the autonomy they have in making the best decisions and implementing the change that will have the greatest impact on their young people. To achieve this, it was acknowledged that a supportive framework which promotes collaboration and joint learning, as well as robust challenge, would help individual schools to realise lasting improvement, and so a learning network for Depute Head Teachers (DHT) who hold the remit for Learning and Teaching was established.
This group was led by two secondary Headteachers who, over a three year period, planned a comprehensive programme of investment in their DHT colleagues designed to develop their thinking around best practice in learning and teaching approaches, whilst giving them a framework to take forward this work in their individual establishments. Regular meetings allowed the group to build relationships, form connections, promote professional reading and increase understanding of current educational research.
Through workshops, external wisdom sessions and reading, the Deputes group explored the work of a range of educational professionals to develop an understanding in systems leadership and collaborative professionalism. Developing an ego-free approach to collaboration was an important feature of this work; if we wanted to improve the experience and outcomes for Glasgow’s young people, it was important that the whole system had a genuine desire to improve, without fear of highlighting what was not working well.
Schools in Glasgow are familiar with working in different groupings to support improvement, usually on a geographical basis. The DHT group were placed in trios, but in this case, the rationale was to ensure the schools were from across different areas of the City and had a range of profiles. Validated Self-Evaluation (VSE) visits took place and so the inclusion of Coaching as a tool to support deeper reflection was an intrinsic aspect of the DHT network programme. The VSE visits involved staff at all levels from each establishment and so the reflection and rich discussion on learning and teaching, leading to evaluation was shared amongst headteachers and senior leaders, middle leaders and classroom practitioners. Increasingly, young people across the trio schools became part of this evaluative approach, using the How Good Is OUR School framework to explore improvement.
Staff in Glasgow are well-versed in using the Professional Standards for reflection and to identify professional learning targets. Our Professional Review process is approached from a coaching context and is designed to focus the attention of the reviewee on the strands of their current and aspirational standards.
Training in coaching has made a significant contribution to our success across the city. All learning and teaching Leads had Coaching training to support them in their role of having forward-thinking self-evaluation conversations with regard to learning and teaching. A number of schools across the city have continued with this training across their school in light of the impact it has had to improve the quality of conversation.
The impact of our professional learning regarding learning and teaching is felt directly in the classroom as teachers across the city further develop their pedagogy to ensure they are meeting the needs of Glasgow’s learners. Our young people are at the centre of our thinking and will continue to be involved in lesson observations and discussions, having already contributed to detailed discussions about their VSE observations. Their voice is central to our continued development, learning and improvement.
We are very keen to continue to build on the success of the Depute Head Teacher Learning and Teaching group – both specifically related to learning and teaching, but also across other areas of a Senior Leaders remit – e.g. curriculum development. Our focus moving forward is to build on the positives that have come from COVID – examples would include the increased confidence and skill of staff with regards to moderation work and to take learning and teaching forward with a focal point being on the effective use of digital technology within the classroom. We are also very mindful of ensuring we maintain our city focus on Nurture and the importance of supporting staff and young people as we work towards recovery. We have opened discussions to bring our Additional Support Needs colleagues on board with the planning and delivery of professional learning and to ensure we are meeting the needs of all establishments in our planning. We plan to continue to invest in collaborative working across schools to support professional learning and also looking to work with other authorities to undertake reciprocal visits. This will be further supported by the use of key speakers, when appropriate and further professional reading for critical discussions.
Gleniffer High School
Professional learning is at the heart of all that we do in Inverclyde to secure the best possible outcomes for our children and young people. The success of this is down to our models and frameworks which are all evidence-based and continually reviewed to equip professionals with maximum learning opportunities. We pride ourselves that all programmes are underpinned by the Professional Standards for teachers, Scottish Social Services Council standards or and other relevant standards and are also based on the National Model of Professional Learning including learning by enquiring, learning as a collaborative and learning that deepens knowledge and understanding.
Our Leadership Pathways continue to evolve as we introduce more opportunities and programmes. These were initially developed across a 4 Pathway Framework for Primary and Secondary practitioners whereby teachers place themselves on the appropriate pathway, register their interest and participate in a variety of self-led opportunities and specific leadership sessions. These leadership sessions include: masters study; Education Scotland programmes; Improving Our Classrooms; Uplifting Leadership; Cross-authority Coaching for Success; Pathway Networks and training courses. Not only do the programmes develop leadership skills through their content, but they also open up leadership opportunities as we strongly believe in a self-sustaining model whereby our more experienced leaders play a major role in developing others. This year we have developed Leadership Pathways for Early Years and are in the process of rolling out a similar model to upskill our Early Years’ practitioners, supported by the SSSC standards.
To meet the demands of the rapidly changing world of education and to support succession planning, we are responsive to needs and plan accordingly. This year we recognised that there was the need to upskill our Primary DHTs in a number of key areas, therefore in partnership with Education Scotland we have delivered a new programme, ‘Building the Connections’. Such was the success of this that we then adapted it as necessary and delivered it to our Early Years’ Deputes. These programmes are based on the development of knowledge and skills, working collaboratively and re-engaging at a later date to share the progress and impact of learning. Our next step is the delivery of ‘Making the Connections’ for Early Years’ Seniors to close the knowledge gap in our Early Years management structure, taking a similar approach.
Inverclyde has continued to further develop the use of data to support professional dialogue regarding pupil progress. The evolution of the data dashboard has provided opportunities for all staff across all establishments in Inverclyde to engage in quality professional learning targeted at effective interrogation of the data to inform and improve the decision-making process, leading to improved outcomes for children and families. The link between quality career-long professional learning (CLPL) and embedding informed practice continues to be the focus of building sustainable models of improvement. To further support and challenge establishments, the role of the Recovery Associate was established to enhance the professional learning of Senior Managers. Peer support encourages participation and leads to robust professional dialogue in rigorous, evidence-informed self-evaluation of practice.
To further support practitioners, Coaching & Modelling Officers funded via the Attainment Challenge Scotland fund (CMOs) deliver quality evidence-based CLPL on interventions that we know work. The CMOs provide two streams of quality support and professional development for all staff. The primary aim of the CMO is to support and improve quality first teaching and learning through targeted coaching and modelling sessions with teaching staff. A specific area for development is identified either by the teachers as part of their PRD process or by the SMT as part of the school self-evaluation processes. The CMO would discuss the needs with individuals/groups/whole establishments and then begin the modelling sessions, supported by ongoing professional dialogue. The coaching sessions would then follow, supporting the teachers and or establishment to reflect critically on the observed practice. The CMO would return after three weeks to discuss progress and reflect if the practice was now embedded. The process contributes to a learning culture that supports and facilitates professional dialogue, and debate and encourages constructive feedback. The second approach focuses on ensuring the delivery of quality, sustainable CLPL to all staff across the Local Authority. All CLPL sessions focusing on evidence-based interventions have been recorded and stored allowing all staff access to continually review and reflect on their own practice. Recently, all Inverclyde staff updated their training records allowing the creation of a training Dashboard for every school. This ensures that training can be targeted and linked to school improvement priorities.
Kinross High School is a proud learning community with a vision for Learning Together and Achieving Together. Young people and staff work together on a wide variety of activities to improve our learners’ experiences. We live by the values of being ambitious, compassionate, responsible and resilient. Overall, we want to improve our work through a focus on staff professional learning.
As a school, we have invested significant resources into professional learning. This includes external opportunities, online learning and our own internal professional learning opportunities. Professional learning is regularly reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of the staff involved and to ensure that there is a positive impact on young people. Our highly successful annual Professional Learning Conference continues to deliver high quality, outward-looking professional learning opportunities. This has included local and national partners supporting our work.
All staff engage in an annual entitlement to Employee Review and Development using self-evaluation wheels provided by GTC Scotland to support engagement with the Professional Standards for teachers. Coaching conversations with line managers support staff to plan their own professional learning which links to a personal, faculty or whole school priority. The introduction of collaborative trios at middle leadership level has encouraged peer coaching opportunities for improvement through our work on self-evaluation for school improvement.
Senior leaders meet with middle leaders individually on a monthly basis for a remit meeting. Some middle leaders have replicated this with their own staff. This provides opportunities for professional dialogue and support through a coaching approach. Senior and middle leaders are trained in coaching techniques as part of the Collaborative Middle Leadership programme (Education Scotland PLL). Targets agreed always consider the impact on the young people as part of the learning and teaching process.
Furthermore, all teachers engage in a school improvement group that supports the leadership of change for an aspect linked to the school improvement plan. Staff can lead the group or an aspect of the group’s work. In addition, all middle leaders and senior leaders are linked to a school improvement priority as part of their whole school remit.
Coaching opportunities are provided as part of regular support for all group leaders, development post holders and middle leaders. Colleagues from across the learning community regularly share their own practice as part of in-service days and staff meetings.
Leadership development has played a key part of our school improvement plan over the past five years. This includes the development of an in-house programme for aspiring leaders. In addition, we were a pilot school for the Collaborative Middle Leadership programme which has supported the capacity building of our entire middle and senior leadership teams.
Digital professional learning has been taken forward significantly during the pandemic through the upskilling of staff in the use of glow, specifically Office 365 and Google Classroom. This was out of necessity that we led the change so quickly.
We have a culture where learning from our experience is encouraged. This includes a regular review of the feedback received from parents and other stakeholders to ensure we review our policies, procedures and practice. In addition, our staff look outwards at practice from other schools to support our knowledge and understanding of national, regional and local priorities.
As a school learning community, we continue to develop our practice and understanding. At the moment, our main focus is on recovery through re-engaging with high-quality learning.
John Mullen is Senior Depute Headteacher at Larkhall Academy. Here he reflects on the development of their Professional LEarning Programme.
My exact reaction when in March 2018, my Headteacher, during our 1-1 session, said enthusiastically ‘Why don’t we create our own Professional Learning Programme?’ Pregnant pause…. ‘We could get Tony to launch it!’ Tony McDaid is the Executive Director of South Lanarkshire Council Education Resources).
Eyes slightly wider this time, mouth open.
And that was it. The beginning of our Professional Learning journey at Larkhall Academy. I remember leaving the meeting, my usual scepticism in place, thinking ‘How on earth are we going to pull this off for the beginning of the 2018-2019 session?’ Followed by my usual process of questioning, acceptance, engagement and excitement.
We got to work.
From the outset, we needed a reason for doing this. A clear rationale which would run like a thread through the whole programme, connecting all of our activity, session upon session. We settled on the theme of School Improvement. Everything in the programme had to have a positive impact, in terms of increasing the capacity and capability of staff to deliver improved outcomes for young people. Ultimately, we were looking to invest heavily in the development of our people, increasing their professional knowledge and skills, enhancing their confidence and sense of purpose. This in turn leading to enhanced levels of engagement in our young people, greater enjoyment of learning, improved relationships and ultimately better outcomes for our pupils.
It was clear from the outset that our colleagues were invested in this. A wide range of staff at every level committed their time and energy. Staff engaged in learning with enthusiasm and commitment with high quality professional interactions evident. The sessions employed coaching approaches to encourage colleagues to think deeply and reflect on their current practice and how we might do things differently. And Tony did come along to kick of the formal programme as well.
In total during that first year, we delivered a programme of 22 events, some scheduled during In-Service Days and focussed on clear and agreed Improvement Priorities with others taking place regularly after school. From the outset, we focussed on things that would make a real difference to young people in their day to day learning, such as taking account of pupil voice to affect positive change in the classroom, delivering highly effective feedback focussed on improvement, using Google Classroom to improve outcomes and sharing proven strategies to help raise attainment.
A large part of our programmes also focussed on developing leadership and improving the quality of our collaborative working. To this end, we invited prominent guest speakers to share their insights with our colleagues, including Sir John Jones and Sir Harry Burns. Programmes of development were introduced for those aspiring to middle leadership, either through Pupil Support or the curricular route. We also began working with colleagues in Education Scotland to develop our Collaborative Middle Leadership Programme. During the following session 2019-2020, we built on these themes and sharpened our focus around improvements in learning and teaching, in line with the key components of our learning and teaching framework. Our Education Scotland report arising from the March 2020 inspection commended our commitment to professional learning and growth. And then, the week after, the world changed. And through necessity, did our approach.
From a programme largely driven by school leaders, our professional learning during the pandemic and subsequent periods of lockdown was driven by our staff. Through the help of key colleagues across several Departments, we developed our online teaching skills at pace and always with the same goal in mind – achieving the best possible outcomes for the young people of our community and supporting them as effectively as we could. This ground level development in adversity could only have happened if the correct culture was in place. A culture where stakeholders are valued and supported to improve.
So what comes next for Larkhall Academy’s Professional Learning Programme? Well, in the current session, we have considered carefully the recommendations in our Inspection report and developed Teacher Learning Communities to facilitate specific improvements in the classroom. We have engaged with the new GTC Scotland Professional Standards at senior and middle leadership levels and commenced further work with our faculty colleagues. And we’ll look to evaluate fully the impact of our professional improvement activity on young people and how this affects their progress and development. We look forward as a staff to the session ahead, committed to this improvement journey.
In Children’s Services, we have a relentless focus on improving outcomes for all children and young people while closing the poverty-related attainment gap. We are delivering this through high-quality professional learning and through our service vision:
“Working together to get it right for children, families and communities— protecting learning, achieving and nurturing”
For a number of years, we have developed and delivered professional learning in collaboration with a range of partners. However, we have steadily built internal capacity and expertise to be less reliant on external partners which underpins our sustainable approach to career-long PL.
In 2019, the local authority was inspected by Education Scotland and was the first authority recognised for making excellent progress towards improving learning, raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap. This success was underpinned “by a sector-leading approach to professional learning” (Education Scotland, 2019).
An extensive offer of online and face-to-face professional learning is available at all levels in order to develop a positive collaborative learning culture. For example, specialised training for classroom assistants in the Renfrewshire literacy and numeracy approach has improved their understanding, enhanced their roles and increased their job satisfaction. The approach has had a very positive effect on the ethos of schools and as a collective group of staff.
There is an expectation that professional learning extends beyond the acquisition of knowledge. Practitioners are supported in taking an enquiry stance and are encouraged to collaborate to develop a whole school approach ensuring sustainability.
Our professional learning offer is aligned with the Standard for Career-long Professional Learning framework recognising the importance of enhancing professionalism and career-long professional growth, self-evaluation and reflection.
There is an expectation in Renfrewshire that coaching and supervision are embedded in all professional learning. For example, Modelling and Coaching Officers develop the professional knowledge of class teachers directly in the class by modelling and coaching numeracy approaches. Literacy and Numeracy Champions are ambassadors for professional learning and guide colleagues in their practice, as evidenced in our Primary Literacy Coaching Programme.
For over five years, we have worked in partnership with Barnardos to implement Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS). Fundamental to this approach is coaching and modelling where PATHS coaches work alongside class teachers to promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing in school. Schools are now in a position to deliver PATHS as a sustainable model.
This approach is mirrored by our primary Transition Teachers who team teach in secondary schools to ensure targeted children are supported through their curricular transition.
Transition teachers share pedagogy and a knowledge and understanding of children they have worked within primary.
Professional learning in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing has had a direct impact on children and young people. There has been an improving trend in relation to BGE and senior phase literacy and numeracy attainment. Pupil engagement surveys demonstrate increased engagement and enjoyment in literacy and numeracy and highlight the direct success of specific interventions. Prior to the pandemic, the attainment gap in Renfrewshire had reduced.
We are able to demonstrate improvements in social and emotional literacy and attendance. Referral data from our counselling service is woven into health and wellbeing PL and used to target training content ensuring it is responsive to the wellbeing needs of our children and young people.
The impact of our PL does not stop at children and young people. Through our leadership PL programme, we have “grown our own” promoted staff by providing appropriate training opportunities. Staff report enhanced self-evaluation and reflective skills and an understanding of distributed leadership.
The authority will continue to build on our sector-leading approaches recognising that recovery will be an important part of the professional learning journey. Through rigorous self-evaluation and improvement planning, our authority-wide offer will be responsive to local and national priorities but always focused on improving outcomes for all children and young people.
Roslin Primary School is incredibly proud of the professional learning culture that has been fostered here. The school is driven by its core values of support, learning through play, individuals, trust and relationships and respect.
A culture and ethos of prioritising learning for all staff and children forms the bedrock of what you see at Roslin Primary. This is supported and nurtured by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), but also by a strong sense of distributed leadership across the school. The teamwork and trust between these are vital to learning and its impact on children.
Professional learning is deeply embedded in the culture of the school where conversations about learning are frequent and valued. Risk-taking and innovative learning and teaching are encouraged, supported and shared. In line with school policy and the Professional Standards for teachers (2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 2.1.4), there is an expectation that staff apply current educational research to their practice and understand its impact. Whilst this was already part of the learning environment at Roslin PS, we formalised this approach most recently in our work on Practitioner Enquiry. SLT allocate professional development time throughout the whole academic session to teachers being able to select, research and carry out their own projects. These are then shared at the end of the year, with impact on learners being the main focus. Practitioner Enquiry projects are also embedded into the Professional Review and Development process and discussion.
The dynamic relationship between learners and the educator’s professional learning has been best showcased through our work in flexible seating, science and play-based learning. Collaboration with colleagues both within and beyond our school has been pivotal to the positive effect on learning.
Throughout the pandemic, as with many schools, we focused on three core areas – literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. However, staff also continued to engage with practitioner enquiry projects and time was allocated for this. In spite of the challenges, staff were still able to discuss how research and professional learning had impacted their learning and teaching in that session.
As we move forward, collegiality, shared leadership and evidence-based practice will be at the heart of what we do.
As a school of faith and learning our mission is to do the best for our children, developing their God-given talents and helping them to reach their full potential.
Recognising that high-quality learning and teaching are fundamental to achieving this mission, we set out to ensure that the professional development needs of staff across the school were appropriately supported and enhanced, in a strategic, flexible and creative way. Establishing a voluntary programme of monthly, in-house, Planned Learning Activities (PLAs) and termly Professional Reading Group (PRG) meetings, has allowed us to explore, discuss and debate the latest educational enquiry, thinking and initiatives, helping to ensure that teacher practice is critically informed and up to date, and that our annual programme is both sustainable and responsive.
Remembering that we are a ‘learning school’, has been key to this process, focussing our attention on current issues that are not only relevant to the school but vital to the school’s development now and into the future. Utilising expertise within the school, as well as experts from across South Lanarkshire Council, the West Partnership (our Regional Improvement Collaborative) and beyond, we try to make sure that all training is based on the latest research, best practice and effective pedagogies, empowering and building the capacity and capabilities of our staff as we try to meet the learning needs of our pupils. While some of these topics come from the National Improvement Framework and the school’s improvement plan, many topics are proposed by the staff themselves. At Professional, Review and Development (PRD) meetings, the Professional Standards for Teachers are used to highlight examples of good practice and identify further areas for development, which in turn help inform the focus for some of the PLAs.
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, this flexible and organic approach to our provision for professional learning has proven to be more crucial than ever. Recognising that the school community extends beyond the four walls of the building, the programme moved to an online format, becoming more reactive and adaptable to the changing needs of our educational provision and support for staff. For example, improving digital literacy had to become a priority; introducing and upskilling the remote learning practice of staff and helping to reassure and build confidence. This was also key to ensuring that staff did not feel isolated when having to work from home. Partnership working through professional conversations could continue.
Approaching professional learning in this way has allowed the school to develop a collaborative learning culture across the school. All colleagues, from experienced practitioners to newly qualified teachers (NQTs), support staff and student teachers, have open access to all learning activities. All PLAs and PRGs are supported by the St Andrew’s and St Bride’s Professional Reading Resource, accessible through GLOW, and is updated regularly.
To date, 96% of our teaching staff have volunteered their time after school, either in person or online, to engage in these meetings. Many attend multiple activities each session with Support Staff engaging in sessions they feel are appropriate to their roles. Specifically for student teachers and NQTs, we offer a weekly, in-house, programme of support and additional training that complements and enhances the Local Authority and University training provided.
Each of these learning opportunities is evaluated with all feedback shared, not only to ensure that they match professional learning requirements and expectations but also to inform classroom practice and have a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning. Continued high levels of staff engagement have not only highlighted the commitment of staff and belief in continued professional learning but that the quality of the programme is an appropriate and effective use of their time.
The Professional Standards for teachers form a fundamental role within our Professional Learning Programme. They act as a focus for Professional, Review and Development meetings that all staff participate in, helping to ensure that a culture of high standards and expectations are maintained and developed. These Professional Standards are used in a variety of ways during these meetings to coach and support, commend and highlight examples of good practice and sometimes challenge staff on their professional development journey. Using the evidence that these meetings provide, development priorities are then identified and used to help inform the focus of the PLA programme for the coming year. Our teachers go on to use the Professional Standards throughout the year as they regularly record their own professional learning via the Professional Update process.
To ensure high-quality and supportive professional conversations take place, all Middle and Senior managers have been trained in coaching and mentoring techniques. We have set up a number of different ‘shadowing’ programmes for teachers aspiring to become middle leaders and middle leaders aspiring to senior posts. At the start of this journey, staff are supported using a ‘coaching wheel’ to identify their professional development needs. This coaching technique is also utilised during PRD meetings and Stewardship meetings to help develop the self-reflective and critical thinking skills of all staff.
From the word go we wanted our school to be described as a ‘learning school’, highlighting to pupils, staff and parents that we are all constantly learning and trying to enhance the skills we have. It is important that children see that we are not asking them to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.
In the past four years alone, 48% of staff across the school have succeeded in gaining enhanced accredited qualifications, such as: MSc in Leadership and Management; Into Headship; Towards Headship; Masters in Education; Post Graduate Middle Management; SCEL Teacher Leadership and Middle Management; Diploma and Certificate in Inclusion; Nurture Accreditation and Additional Teacher Qualifications in Religious Education, as well as GTC Scotland Professional Recognition for Supporting Teacher Learning and Reading for Pleasure Pedagogy.
A number of staff members act as Lead teachers across the Authority in subject areas such as Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Technology and Physical Education. Most recently, members of our staff were invited to lead South Lanarkshire’s and indeed Scotland’s first secondary OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Group, which provides free evidence-based CPD for teachers, support assistants, librarians, reading volunteers and others to enrich their understanding of children and young people’s reading for pleasure and how to support it. Our Local Authority’s wider primary and secondary Teachers’ Reading Group programme is a GTC Scotland accredited professional learning programme.
Through this learning culture, pupils see that teachers are committed to their own learning and willing to invest time and effort for the benefit of pupil learning within the classroom. We are a successful school in terms of academic attainment and wider achievement, which is a reflection of the high quality of learning and teaching that pupils experience.
At a strategic level, the introduction of our PLA and PRG programmes was seen as having an important role in stimulating, supporting and driving effective change across the school, giving an opportunity for more intimate, less formal professional conversations and debates that are relevant to the needs of the school as a whole. Evidence strongly suggests that this model works for our community, so we plan to continue on this journey, enhancing our provision as we go, anticipating and reacting to the needs of our community.
We are a community of faith and learning in St Ninian’s High School and Professional Learning is understood by our staff as a continuous cycle throughout their career and is wide-reaching. Our in-house Career-Long Professional Learning (CLPL) programme offers rich opportunities to build teacher capacity and share best practices and is promoted through a weekly newsletter.
Staff at every level are leading and delivering CLPL sessions, sharing their expertise in a collaborative, creative and strategic approach. Our Professional Learning Programme offers an extensive programme of in-house CLPL available for all staff to attend, thus promoting the leadership and empowerment of every member of staff. We aim to rebuild this programme as we emerge from the constraints of covid.
This comprehensive CLPL programme offered to all staff is based on requests generated through the PRD process and is published on a weekly basis in school and across our Cluster. Staff are signposted to Professional Reading on the latest Educational pedagogy and thinking through links in the Head Teacher bulletins as well as online external CLPL sessions. In addition, there are tailored CLPL sessions offered to NQTs and Student Teachers.
The CLPL programme is relevant and reactive to our school community. It includes high-quality professional learning opportunities linked to improving teaching and learning, support for learning, health and wellbeing, digital technologies, faith matters and sustainable development which, in turn, lead to high-quality learning experiences for our pupils.
Our digital evaluation is an essential tool to inform our review, planning and enhancement of the programme.
Professional Review and Development
We look to identify the professional learning needs of our teachers arising through the PRD process which then shape the CLPL programme. Teachers can identify areas of desired professional learning with a clear focus on excellent outcomes for our pupils.
During the formalised PRD process, staff are encouraged to identify, plan and reflect on their own professional learning needs to ensure that they continue to develop their professional practice. Coaching and quality conversations are encouraged and there is a clear focus on self-evaluation where staff are supported in a safe environment to have professional dialogue and challenging discussions. Guidelines presented to all staff ensure PRD meetings are valuable, supportive and meaningful for every member of staff.
The Professional Standards for Teachers are linked to staff areas of development and are used to self-evaluate staff knowledge, values, skills and practice and recorded on the CPD Manager platform.
Staff are encouraged and supported through Masters level learning, and some staff are accredited with GTC Scotland Professional Recognition.
Shadowing / Coaching Programme
Our shadowing programmes offer staff the opportunity to be supported in preparation for positions of responsibility.
E.g. Aspiring to middle leadership, Pastoral Shadowing, and Probationer Teacher/ Student Teacher CLPL are offered as a series of sessions where staff can share their experience and expertise.
A mentoring and professional learning programme for Pupil Support Assistants has included sessions on Together Better Readers and Supporting Mental and Emotional Well Being of Young People.
We have cultivated strong collaboration with our Primary colleagues and have built Cross-sector CLPL opportunities. There is highly effective primary-secondary STEM working – where staff visit our local Primaries delivering numeracy, science and computing lessons.
The needs of our learners are fundamental to and inform our Professional Learning Opportunities;
Our curriculum offer for our young people has evolved and diversified where we have harnessed the interests and agency of our teachers to offer more bespoke pathways and curricular options;
For example, we have introduced a Beekeeping course led by a Biology Teacher who through her own professional learning and enquiry now delivers this NPA course in a local outdoor setting to a diverse group of pupils, including some of our ASN pupils and S6 pupils thus enhancing their skill set.
In addition, the following courses will be delivered by our own staff through our existing curricular departments this coming session;
Construction, Baking & Barista skills, Health Service and Customer Service.
Our Support for Learning team has trained staff and introduced innovative initiatives to offer bespoke groups to support our children with Additional Support Needs e.g. Mindful Art, Communication Comics, Achieve Team, Dyslexia Strategies and Resilience.
Pupil voice is gathered through the HGIOURS framework. Our Development Team have ensured that our pupils are leaders of learning and are at the forefront of our most recent initiatives for example S3 DYW Ambassadors, Rights and Equalities Group, Rights Respecting School Group, Eco Group, S3 Climate Conference
Health and wellbeing focus
HWB/ Positive Mental Health has been identified as a whole school focus. Staff are leading numerous initiatives to promote the positive wellbeing of pupils. The extended Pastoral team includes a PT with a specific remit for Mental Health and Well Being, a member of staff trained in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy who offers 1 to 1 counselling as part of her timetable and staff who are trained in Mental Health First Aid, Assist suicide prevention and Mentors in Violence Prevention.
Protected Time on Inset Days for Professional Learning
Whole-school professional learning sessions on inset days where staff can opt-in to their chosen session selecting from Health and Well Being, Learning for Sustainability, Laudato Si, Rights Respecting School, Positive Mental Health, Learning and Teaching and Developing the Young Workforce.
Learning & Teaching
Our Focus on establishing a Learning Community to enhance the high-quality learning and teaching provision for every young person in our school is a key priority.
A whole school workshop took place to produce agreed models of an excellent lesson and statements of excellent practice using the Professional Standards for teachers.
Innovative timetabling and staffing allow for cooperative teaching which fosters sharing of good practice and collaborative professional learning.
Introduction of Participation and Engagement measures and Well Being tracking for all pupils based on the Leuven Scale. This pupil online survey is now a key tool to gather data, track pupil progress and identify where support is required following every reporting period.
Digital Professional Learning
Our Digital committee throughout the periods of lockdown ensured that staff were fully supported in their rapid skill acquisition to deliver a high-quality online learning offer for our learners. A measure of our staff’s commitment during a very challenging and unforeseen period was the resounding endeavour to acquire the necessary digital skills to support our pupils’ continued learning. We have embraced this digital era and continue to embed digital literacy into the curriculum.
Laudato Si and Learning for Sustainability
Laudato Si and Learning for Sustainability have been amplified to a whole staff level through staff drive and passion to highlight as whole school priorities. They have shared their research and insight through a variety of Professional Learning presentations and activities and challenged staff to make direct links to the learning and teaching in their classroom. Every classroom has a visual display of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Departments/Faculties’ involvement in Local Authority collaborative Improvement visits has allowed for areas of development to be identified and for existing practice to be challenged and shared as good practice across the authority.
We intend to shape and rebuild our Professional Learning offer towards a full and immersive programme that all staff can access and will meet the development needs of our dedicated staff. We wish to harness the new Professional Standards as a self-evaluation tool where staff regularly ask critical questions of themselves and use them effectively to inform their practice.
Our renewed focus on Learning and Teaching will be at the centre of our Professional Learning strategic planning as we look to offer the best we can for our pupils, supporting them as effectively as we can. We intend to introduce a series of Planned Learning sessions for our staff to support enquiry-based learning. We hope to invite visionary and inspirational speakers to support staff on this journey as leaders of change. We are eager to continue to learn, progress and reach the heights of further excellence in our professional learning.
STEM Glasgow is part of Education Services at Glasgow City Council. They work in partnership with a number of organisations including Education Scotland, DYW Glasgow and Glasgow Science Centre. STEM Glasgow provides support for practitioners from across the city in raising awareness and attainment in STEM. Our vision is that our young people, practitioners and partners work collaboratively to support the development of STEM-based knowledge, skills and opportunities, increasing the skills for life, learning and work of our young people and supporting Glasgow’s economic development.
The 3 key priorities of STEM Glasgow’s strategy are; learner experience, staff development and partnerships. We aim to build confidence and understanding in STEM through high-quality career-long professional learning. This has taken the form of establishing a number of networks across the city and then providing bespoke professional learning to suit their needs. One of our programmes, the Primary STEM Leaders programme, consisted of a number of professional learning sessions spanning the school year. The commitment for this programme was required both from the school, in releasing staff, but also by the individual as this would form the focus of their professional record of development. The Primary STEM Leaders programme took place over 2 full days and 8 twilights, this allowed practitioners to meet up frequently with their colleagues to discuss and share learning. In 2020 professional learning sessions moved on to Microsoft Teams, allowing for the networks to be supported and sustained during the lockdown. Teams has continued to be used for a number of purposes including TeachMeets, curricular development and interactive professional learning.
The professional learning sessions delivered were developed based on a needs analysis from the Primary STEM Leaders. Each session was mapped against the Professional Standards for teachers and the standards featured throughout the programme. The Primary STEM Leaders also completed the STEM Self-Evaluation and Improvement Framework, which is aligned with HGIOS, and provided areas for development for both themselves and their establishments. Having a common vision of increasing confidence and awareness of STEM has allowed a positive learning culture to develop and has provided practitioners with an open environment in which they can work together and learn from each other.
All participants in the Primary STEM Leaders programme participated in a coaching session where they had the opportunity to try out different scenarios, this then allowed them to adopt this method back in their own establishment. This aided them in supporting their staff team in progressing along their STEM journey.
Each and every learner has an entitlement to high-quality STEM learning experiences throughout their education. By having a supportive network many of the practitioners gave ‘things a go’ that they would normally not have had the confidence to try. They also were upskilled in a number of areas and able to deliver exciting and challenging lessons that gave pupils opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills from across the curriculum. By developing these skills, which are set at the heart of the development of Scotland’s young workforce, it is hoped that children go on to select STEM subjects within secondary school and potentially go on to a STEM career.
A large number of the practitioners that participated in the Primary STEM Leaders programme are now leading their own professional learning programmes both in their own establishment, within their learning community and across the city. Professional learning will continue to be provided by a central team as well as using the wealth of resources that are the programme participants. This provides practitioners across the city with lots of opportunities to become involved in both attending and delivering professional learning. All whilst keeping the 3 key priorities of learner experience, staff development and partnerships at the heart of all activity. Therefore, ensuring high-quality learning experiences for our children and young people and excellent professional learning opportunities for all practitioners.
The aim of North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning Hub, which is part of our Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) programme is to raise attainment and close the poverty-related attainment gap for learners through research-based pedagogical approaches. Education Support Officers (ESOs) lead the literacy and numeracy curricular workstreams within the Learning Hub.
A coaching model was established to build staff capacity and empower staff through creating a professional learning community for literacy and numeracy. The model ensures that every Primary, Additional Support Needs and Secondary school has a ‘Literacy Coach’ and a ‘Numeracy Coach’ to support and grow professional knowledge and understanding from early through to the third level. Coaches have opportunities to engage in a variety of core professional learning, as well as research-based pedagogical approaches and interventions.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the coaches met every 4 to 6 weeks with ESOs. During the past two years, the coaches have continued to meet online, which has allowed the coaching model to be maintained and developed.
The ESO team continually self-evaluate the coaching model against the Professional Standards for teachers for CLPL alongside other core opportunities. This ensures that the Professional Standards underpin training delivered across NLC, including the coaching model, thereby facilitating opportunities for Literacy and Numeracy coaches to self-evaluate across the Professional Standards within their own establishments.
This model enables coaches to lead developments within their own schools and feedback to staff through collaborative meetings, present to staff and engage in professional dialogue. In addition to coaching and mentoring staff, the model supports coaches to further professional knowledge and understanding of literacy and numeracy pedagogical approaches to enhance learning, teaching and assessment within their establishments. Research undertaken shows that by using the coaching sessions to deepen knowledge and understanding, there has been an improvement in confidence in planning and teaching, and staff feel more informed regarding current guidelines and initiatives.
The culture of professional learning developed through the coaching model contributes to positive outcomes in attainment for children and young people. Through self-evaluation, Numeracy Coaches identified that learning and teaching practices within numeracy and maths lacked consistency. Therefore, the focus from the outset has been on sound pedagogical practices, the culture and mindset around maths and increasing pupil engagement. Literacy Coaches, while satisfied with the core Active Literacy approach, were concerned about those learners not experiencing success through the core programme. This led to a focus on assessment and identification of literacy difficulties, as well as what appropriate adjustments, supports or interventions to use in response to findings.
The Learning Hub team analyse a variety of data that has been gathered at national and local levels alongside coaches to identify professional learning to support the closing of any gaps that have been identified. Feedback from coaches has shown that the impact on learners has led to:
- increased consistency in the teaching across individual establishments.
- improved pupil confidence.
- pupils benefitting from more targeted programmes of work as learning is more appropriate and targeted appropriately.
- improved attainment as a result of implementing improved pedagogical approaches.
Focusing on this coaching model and improving pedagogical approaches based on developmental progress has made a significant difference to the knowledge and understanding of our coaches and to the pupils and staff that they lead and work with on a daily basis. The Learning Hub will continue to build on the coaching model as part of our Scottish Attainment Challenge programme and continue to raise attainment and close the poverty-related gap.
The Waid Academy
Key to the work of Alloa Academy is caring for its young people and ensuring that they are fully prepared for life now and in the future.
Alloa Academy has a strong culture of formal and informal learning supported through activities across the school. Learning is there for everyone irrespective of their role, level of experience or responsibility.
Staff are empowered to make decisions about their learning through the school’s culture of leadership at all levels. The voice of the staff and the young people in the school is respected, valued and recognised resulting in a real belief that everyone can contribute to shaping the school.
The school’s young people recognise the impact that staff professional learning has on their experience. As one young person said, “it is the little things they change and then like a ripple you can see it happening across the school.”
Angus Virtual School exemplifies professional courage. A huge leap of faith has been taken by the Local Authority, transforming the professional development across Angus schools.
Angus Virtual School (AVS) holds teacher agency and professional growth at the heart of what it does, ensuring schools that request engagement and advice are supported through coaching conversations to empower and motivate.
AVS acknowledge they ‘may not always have the right answers, but they will always ask the right questions’.
Collaboration is central to the success of AVS, with the key to success being the trust that has been built by this team across Angus. Their approach is authentic, honest and credible, and they have established a strong ‘no-blame’ culture where they sensitively identify school improvement needs and seek ways to support improvement.
One key strength of AVS is how they exemplify the GTCS Professional Standards, specifically the Professional Values and Personal Commitment.
Bankton Primary School actively live their values of respect, perseverance, inclusion, cooperation and kindness.
Through learning experiences that have a strong focus on visible thinking, they provide real, relevant contexts for learning to ensure that learners develop confidence and resilience.
Professional learning is a key focus of the school, which has an ethos of trust, self-evaluation, self-reflection and mutual respect. Staff are empowered to lead learning individually, collegiately and through collaboration and enquiry.
There is strong and authentic teacher leadership with a profound effect on teachers as learners and subsequently on the children as learners. One pupil commented, “We are all learners and teachers at Bankton”.
The teachers are empowered to undertake practitioner enquiry through excellent modelling by the leadership team and lead teachers. This sustainable model of enquiry is responsive to community needs in the ever-changing landscape of Scottish education.
Capshard and Torbain are part of a joint headship arrangement with staff across both schools engaging positively and collaboratively.
There is a deep-rooted culture of leadership of and for learning at the schools and all learners thrived on the opportunity to develop. They saw clear links with their Professional Review and Development conversations and were empowered by the trust shown in them.
At the centre of this culture are teachers-as- learners who are highly ambitious for one another and the young people in their care. There is real faith in individuals to contribute and drive learning forward. Staff feel valued and known, relishing their roles as real leaders of learning.
The children clearly articulated how teachers’ learning impacted positively on them: “When I know my teacher is learning, I know I can ask her anything!”
Leadership is genuinely distributive and evident across the Earlston High School community.
All staff have opportunities to lead learning in their own classroom. This is demonstrated through an expectation to complete pedagogical enquiry plans. Colleagues feel empowered to take professional risks and demonstrate professional courage.
They feel valued and heard and point to the supportive leadership of the Senior Leadership Team, and this team’s belief in their professional growth. Coaching approaches are used extensively and are valued by staff.
There is a strong vision and values are dynamic, regularly referenced in regard to change and improvement, and underpin all professional learning opportunities.
Learning by enquiry is a major strength of Earlston High School. The enquiries of both Teacher and Pupil Support Assistants are shared in an open and supportive way. This allows colleagues to make connections across their own learning and learn with, and from, each other in collaborative ways.
Eyemouth High School are rightly proud of their journey to develop a professional learning culture focussed on excellence in teaching and learning.
At the heart of this learning journey has been a culture change with a vision of creating a ‘warm, right and challenging’ school. This change has been steered by the leadership team who remain humble about their own achievements in creating a positive learning culture.
Professional learning and a drive towards continuous improvement pervade the learning community.
The learning culture is clearly underpinned by the professional courage of staff who are empowered to ask critical questions. This builds an authentic community of learning where teachers work with, and for, each other in a culture of trust.
Professional dialogue is privileged; and space and time has been created for professional learning. All teachers are now in a position where they willingly share, provide and undertake in professional learning opportunities.
Hillhead High School is supported by a staff who are fully committed to providing the best possible experiences for young people.
These staff members show an outstanding commitment to professional reflection on, and discussion of, learning and teaching. Good practice is shared and research is used to support improvement.
The GTCS team who visited Hillhead heard a strong professional voice. Staff spoke with passion about their learning and the impact it could haveon the children they support.
Staff recognised and appreciated the investment that had been made in them to build on their professionalism through the school’s supportive culture. They welcomed the challenge to continually develop and grow within their chosen career pathway.
The culture and the ethos of Hillhead High School make it difficult not to engage in the learning community. The school community isn’t driven by egos and feels like a family of learners.
There is a very strong strategic drive in Kirkintilloch Learning Community.
The link Quality Improvement Officer, Educational Psychologist and Headteachers across five associated primaries work together to support the mprofessional learning of all colleagues.
A culture of trust is very evident, with colleagues openly talking about how this has positively impacted on their professional learning experiences.
Staff support one another in their professional learning: modelling, observing, sharing and reflecting together to improve and develop.
Staff are more empowered as a result of the model of professional learning embraced in Kirkintilloch.
They are encouraged to ask questions and think creatively to develop their own learning to enhance the learning experiences of the young people in their care.
Collaborative learning is a key strength of the Kirkintilloch community and the GTCS team experienced an excellent level of engagement from all staff.
North Berwick High School is a learning community that prioritises professional learning and leadership at all levels. The school is outward looking and forward thinking, and the implicit curiosity of learning to learn is nourished.
There are many opportunities at North Berwick for all to be leaders of change, not only within their classrooms but across the wider school, through Professional Learning Communities and Strategy Groups. Value and commitment are given to the importance of developing individual and collective knowledge.
During the visit made by GTCS, it was clear that North Berwick High has an embedded culture of trust that allows for innovation and risk-taking. Teachers see themselves as learners and use enquiring approaches to support the improvement agenda in context.
Teachers have identified that sharing learning and practice is the way of ‘being’ at North Berwick High, with opinions from all learners being listened to and valued.
The GTCS Professional Values were active at the heart of the learning community at Smithycroft Secondary School.
These values are shared through professional relationships and collaboration based on trust and commitment to learners and learning.
Teachers described the school culture as empowering. Leadership of learning is strongly supported and encouraged, regardless of post or experience. Nurture and restorative practices are central principles for all learners and are at the forefront of all learning and teaching.
Professional reading groups and teacher learning communities engage with literature, which they use to critically inform practice and support ongoing professional dialogue across the school community.
The GTCS panel found a strong culture of professional learning across the school and with community partners. This is based on authentic relationships built through a culture where openness, trust, risk-taking and empowerment thrive. All members of the learning community feel valued and included.
There is strong strategic leadership of learning at St Ninians Primary School, which is exemplified enthusiastically by the Senior Leadership Team.
All staff see themselves as learners within a strong culture of learning.
Staff are supported to engage in research and enquiry based on the needs of the young people and in support of their own professional learning.
There is an innovative and enterprising attitude at St Ninians. Risks are encouraged, and there is an openness to change.
Staff in all roles across the school show a true commitment to their professional learning. They reflect on what they are learning and why, making links to professional reading and then measuring impact.
Professional learning conversations are frequent, productive and focused and are very much part of the way things are in St Ninians.
St Ninians has collaboration and consultation at its heart.
There is an authentic culture of kindness in Strathclyde’s PGDE learning community based on trust and honesty.
There is a strong, supportive culture where collective professionalism and collaboration pervades all that they do.
Colleagues are involved in learning opportunities relevant to their own specialism, but also take part in activities that cross the boundaries of specialism, ensuring a broadening of knowledge and connectivity.
Staff embrace opportunities and take risks to ensure they are at the ‘sharp edge’ of new initiatives. They use this knowledge to enrich and shape the learning experiences of student teachers.
This is extremely empowering, as they are collectively seen by others as life-long learners, setting very positive examples to all those with whom they work.
The GTCS heard a narrative which conveyed a picture of Strathclyde’s PGDE community as being a genuinely caring, supportive and inclusive learning community which is inspiring the next generation of world class teachers.
Dunbar Primary School is the largest Primary School in East Lothian with a role of 1237. There clearly is a strong strategic and holistic vision of professional learning and the ‘school community strives to provide a happy, secure and stimulating environment where children are motivated to learn, are valued as individuals and are encouraged to reach their full potential’.
The GTCS team who visited the school were very appreciative of the open, honest and reflective nature of the school community. All staff, pupils, parents and partners spoke of their pride in the school as a learning community and a place to learn. Across the day it was clear that the professional trust placed in staff created a dynamic attitude to professional learning, and that this is a dynamic learning environment.
The Headteacher and School Leadership Team act as strong professional learning role models and there is real evidence that professional learning is collaborative with staff encouraged and supported to ask questions, critically engage with policy and take risks in their own learning. There is a culture of creating space and time for staff to engage fully in professional learning which is supported by an embedded culture of coaching. The promotion of, and support for, teacher agency to build capacity and ensure a strong focus on learning and teaching was clearly evident.
Glasgow’s Leaders of Learning was imagineered through a strong strategic vision from Glasgow City Council to provide the very best learning opportunities to positively impact on the lives of all young people across Glasgow. The Scottish Attainment Challenge funding allowed primary school practitioners to be released as ‘Challenge Leaders of Learning’ to take forward targeted interventions and in turn build capacity within their own establishments.
The development of a range of sustainable programmes of learning form part of the work that Glasgow’s Leaders of Learning lead across the city in schools and this strategic focus has significantly shifted teaching practice and has helped to build professional capital. There was a strong sense that teachers felt empowered and part of a culture which establishes the teacher-as-learner through sharing research and high quality learning and teaching and resources. This in turn has that encouraged teachers to contextualise the learning for their own settings and the needs of their learners. During the course of the one day visit the GTCS panel witnessed the strong developing leadership culture as a result of the quality of leadership of and for learning fostered by the Glasgow’s Leaders of Learning, and described this as “true collaborative professionalism in action”.
Kelso High School in the Scottish Borders is an outward looking school that seeks opportunities beyond the learning campus to engage young people in real world life experiences to help raise attainment and achievement for all young people.
The Headteacher and Senior Leadership Team strongly believe that creating a culture for learning for all is vital to the success of the school and this is well supported with significant investment of time and resources. The learning culture puts teacher agency at the core of improvement, underpinned by a clear vision that supports growth for all learners. All staff were encouraged to take leadership roles and be innovative and creative to improve the life chances of all the young people.The GTCS Team who visited the school were impressed by the positive culture and ethos that promotes and supports Professional Learning and felt that this was reflected in the positive relationships between all members of the learning community and, in particular, the peer support staff offered to each other as staff learn about their learning together.
The model of Professional Learning and enquiry was demonstrated to support teachers as learners and there are excellent opportunities for collaborative learning across the learning community and beyond. Young people in this learning community benefited from their teachers undertaking practitioner enquiry and the young people feel their voices are heard and actioned.
The Leadership Learning Community involves all Primary Headteachers in North Lanarkshire Council organised into “Family Groups” based on similar characteristics with each group supported by a lead Headteacher as well as local authority personnel. At the heart of this Leadership Learning Community is the deeply interconnected relationship between the Headteacher-as-learner and the learning that is enabled within their schools.
There is real clarity of vision and professional trust in schools from the Authority to empower school leaders to find their own solutions through a self-improving school system.
The climate and conditions are facilitated but not imposed by the Authority, allowing Headteachers to learn together, grow and authentically build capacity. Learning by enquiring is central to the Family Group meetings with Headteachers asking critical questions about themselves as leaders, their school, pupils and the systems they operate in. Reflection, research and reading are the catalyst for learning, with a range of resources used to provide real opportunities to critically examine knowledge and impact. Professional discussion is focused on leadership of and for learning with Headteachers enacting collaborative and enquiring approaches to their practice.
The objective of a ‘self-improving school’ system to facilitate effective practice transfer, leading to ongoing improvement across all establishments’ is at the core of the Professional Learning support, giving clear ownership of this to Headteachers.
There is a very strong strategic vision for learning across the St Andrew’s Secondary School with high quality leadership clearly evident and well developed at all levels. There is a vibrant, culture of learning and this learning takes place in the context of a school community where over 75% of the young people live in SIMD 1 and 2, with another 10% in SIMD 3. The whole school vision aligns with this focus on leadership and learning and professional learning is at the heart of making this school a successful, caring place to learn for all.
There is real investment in time for professional learning with close care paid to sustainability of the initiatives. Coaching is very real and present as part of the culture of learning and is central to the ethos of learning, with professional dialogue making a real difference to promoting the growth of professional capital. Teachers are actively encouraged to understand the impact of their learning through critically examining a wide range of sources of information and are encouraged to develop their professional voice and act as leaders of change.
The Panel commended the motivation of staff and their willingness to really embrace professional learning; there is evidence of meaningful engagement because teachers described it as ‘worth it’. As professionals, staff were supported to excel and to find their passion for learning.
Creating the culture for Nurturing North Ayrshire to thrive is underpinned by systems and a deeply held belief that long-term, sustainable impact and change are achieved by investing in staff and their professional learning.
Leadership and vison are wrapped around all Nurture and Restorative approaches with Quality Improvement Frameworks underpinning the focus and helping drive this work forward. There is a targeted focus on building the capacity of leaders and teachers by giving them the professional currency and knowledge to support the cultural change required. There is clear modelling of expectations at every level which is central to creating Nurturing cultures for children and staff.
The whole school approach to developing a Nurturing Culture ensures that this work is not solely about Nurture bases but applies to all children and young people. There is evidence of the impact at whole school level in terms of a greater awareness of the well-being of children and young people through understanding nurture principles and their application.
The Nurture team’s commitment to their own professional learning influences change and improvements across the professional learning provision for all staff, which was described as ‘we teach best as learners and learn best as teachers’.
Riverside Primary School’s vision of ‘Be the best you can! (Dèan do dhìcheall)’ is shared and enacted by the wider school community and is supported by a clear strategic vision where professional learning supports the school on its continuing journey of change.
There is a very strong sense of collegiality within the school community, with collaborative learning embedded at all levels and a clear focus on the intended impact on children and young people. There are many opportunities for rich professional dialogue, which is often linked to professional reading, and for staff to share learning and practice. Staff are supported to take leadership roles and innovation and creativity are actively encouraged.
There is a commitment from the Senior Leadership Team that all significant changes adopted as part of the School Improvement Process will be based on research, with teachers supported to undertake enquiry which is relevant to the context of their class or stage. Staff refer to the ethos of trust and support which empowers their commitment to this approach which may involve ‘stepping out with their comfort zone.’
The supportive ethos, which is evident through the positive relationships between the Senior Leadership and wider staff team, encourages staff to engage fully in professional learning. This is acknowledged and valued by staff who feel that they are actively encouraged to take ownership of their own learning and to be reflective practitioners.
The community that St Mungo’s Academy serves is one of the most deprived in Scotland. The GTCS team who visited the school felt that teachers and young people were empowered through strong professional values and that these were demonstrated in action. Leadership of and for learning which establishes the teacher-as-learner was evident through the energy and strategic vision of the school leadership.
There is a genuine sense of a strong moral imperative from teachers about their own learning and the importance of the impact of this on pupil learning and achievement. Teachers described how they have the power to actively respond to the needs of each and every young person in the school because the young people need them to reach their full potential through learning. Coaching conversations formally and informally challenge teachers to really examine their professional identity though the values. They are able to critically reflect on their regularly because of the daily challenges that the young people face, and are able to use these reflections as a catalyst for their professional learning.
There is a real sense of collective responsibility from teaching staff and collaborative professionalism is nurtured through frequent and focussed professional dialogue across participants in the whole learning community. Pupils, teachers, university partners and college partners connect through different professional learning activities. It was clear that teachers seem to have such infectious enthusiasm as leaders of learning across the school.
The Fife Pedagogy Team was established in 2013 and consists of 10 teachers and three pupil assistants who have been seconded to work full-time on the project.
Their aim is to go into schools serving the most disadvantaged communities and help to build support and capacity for teaching and support staff to enable them and their school leaders to reduce the attainment gap across the region. The team has developed professional learning training in literacy, numeracy and nurturing. The foundation stone of all this work is nurture.
The Fife Pedagogy Team approach is unique in Scotland, and is a powerful agent for change because of the one-to-one training and support teachers and other school staff receive. This approach enables them to support teachers to understand the progress of children and young people and the relationship between and impact of teachers’ professional learning on outcomes for children. The GTCS panel who visited the school found The Fife Pedagogy Team to be a great example of a learning community that has been established to support and lead the learning of other teachers.
“Learning as collaborative is a critical strand of the success of the Pedagogy Team and it is evident the principles of collaboration and partnership are key:
- The collaborative, co-teaching and ‘learning partner’ approach is exemplary. The Pedagogy Team are able to develop significant credibility, trust and create meaningful space to support and promote participants to take risks in their learning and practice. The team really ‘walk in the shoes’ of participant teachers and learn with them allowing for meaningful and genuine collaborative learning.
- Rich dialogue about learning, both the learning of participants and learning of children, is prioritised and central.” (extract from GTCS panel report 2017)
The North Ayrshire Professional Learning Academy evolved from council’s Attainment Challenge bid. Inspired by how the world’s best schools improve, the council wanted to close the poverty-related attainment gap by investing in practitioners. The Professional Learning Academy team undertook considerable research into how the best schools improve.
Ultimately, they felt that investing in the education workforce and teachers was important as it ensured that whatever they did and continue to do was sustainable and would improve the quality of learning and teaching, as well as attainment and achievement. The academy supports early years practitioners, primary and secondary teachers, speech and language therapists, and educational psychologists, to work and learn together to support and improve their skills.
It is clear that The North Ayrshire Professional Learning Academy is committed to and develops a collective responsibility for ‘learning of and for’ all and actively engage in professional dialogue about their own learning and learn with and from each other. The North Ayrshire Professional Learning Academy Captures the spirit of professional learning and collaborative professionalism.
“There is an outstanding culture of ‘Leadership of and for Learning’. This is evident from the bold, clear and aspirational vision for the quality of provision and importance of professional learning for all staff and the impact of this for all children and young people in North Ayrshire. The Professional Learning Academy is the physical manifestation of this vision and exemplifies the commitment to and value placed on professional learning.’” (Extract from GTCS panel report 2017)
Key to the work of St Ninian’s is striving to ensure that its young people are fully prepared for life in the 21st century.
The young people who attend the school are encouraged by all of the staff to be ambitious in their achievements, confident in their abilities, responsible within their community and effective in their learning by developing the talents of each individual.
St Ninian’s values are deeply embedded within the school culture at all levels where they can be observed both living and breathing across the school. Trust, respect, integrity, awareness and creativity were all clearly demonstrated across the school and learning community and were clearly a catalyst for learning.
During the course of the GTCS one day visit to the school it was clear that there is a real sense of equity and deep respect for each other. There is clear belief that in St Ninian’s “anything is possible” for ‘teacher & student learning’.
“The strength of the culture and practice of ‘leadership of and for learning’ is clearly evident. Across the day it was clear that learning is what St Ninian’s is all about. Social, human and decisional capital was significantly evident through a real sense of collective responsibility through what was described as an “open culture” where collaborative professionalism is nurtured through frequent and focussed professional dialogue between participants in the whole learning community. Parents and pupils, teachers and colleagues through different professional learning activities and forums and significant inherent involvement in the life of the whole school, both participate in teaching and shape their own learning. The unity of the leadership, demonstrating being both valued based and values driven, a shared culture of fearlessness and risk taking was a model of distributive leadership in action.” (extract from GTCS panel report 2017)
Windygoul Primary School currently has a roll of 815 pupils including a Nursery and Behaviour Base. As a school community it strives to develop its vision as a centre of excellence through inclusion, collaboration and community spirit. They are a learning community where achievements are celebrated and steps for improvement built on through shared dialogue and understanding. The voice of parents and the community is a strong feature and there is real belief in the impact of each person in the school being able to contribute and drive the learning forward. As part of this the children across the school community have developed the idea of ‘learning heroes’. There is no doubt the school is clearly having a significant impact on the learning culture of the cluster and Local Authority by sharing the ‘Windygoul way’.
“There is an outstanding culture of ‘Leadership of and for Learning’. The senior leadership team provide the framework and strategic direction for learning to be central in every way and model this though their own engagement in learning and commitment to developing collective knowledge. In summary the panel saw the following formula was abundantly evident: Strategic vison + Culture + Focus = Learning.” (Extract from GTCS panel report 2017)