Andrew Bailey, a physics teacher in Angus who has discussed his ideas for the Scottish Learning Festival (SLF) with Education Scotland, offers his view
The Scottish Learning Festival needs to change, for several reasons. For a start, it’s always held in Glasgow, which sends a message to people in places such as Aberdeen, Inverness or Dundee. An SLF that travelled to different venues across the country would be more inclusive and truly national.
Many colleagues have difficulty being released from school, so extending the SLF operating hours to the evening and to Saturday – it’s currently held on a Wednesday and Thursday – would also help teachers to attend. And how about recording and streaming sessions? Teachers aren’t concerned about production values – we just want to hear and see what’s going on.
To an outsider, the SLF appears driven by a top-down approach. It needs a teacher-led approach with activists leading system improvement from within. A more inclusive SLF would accept a wider range of voices and those with differing, even challenging, opinions about Scottish education.
Many people believe there is a need for debate about the broader purposes of Scottish education and the future of Curriculum for Excellence. A revised, inclusive SLF could be at the heart of this debate – and would demonstrate a willingness to listen to teachers. In recent years, there has been a growth in teacher leadership, thanks to the Scottish College for Educational Leadership, and an increase in the adoption of a “practitioner enquiry” approach to professional learning.
I believe that the SLF should be more visibly evidence-informed and that, by suggesting ideas to implement in the classroom and including next steps for professional development in each talk or seminar, it could have more impact. Space is needed for grassroots professional learning – look at initiatives such as Pedagoo, a teacher-run, not-for-profit way of sharing practice. I also believe there to be a lack of good-quality, subject-specific professional learning in Scotland, particularly for secondary teachers outwith the Central Belt. This, too, could be an opportunity for the SLF.
Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland’s professional learning and leadership director, has met with Bailey and said the SLF management board is discussing how to make the festival more accessible, with a focus on “digital solutions”. The idea of weekend sessions is also being explored.