Classroom gurus to put Scots on the mind map

David Henderson

SOME of the leading edge names in educational and personal development are being brought to Scotland to inspire and spread fresh innovation in the classroom.

Tapestry, a new Glasgow-based agency that has the backing of Learning and Teaching Scotland and the universities, is piecing together a package of conferences and follow-up seminars that will allow teachers to pick up the latest international developments on raising attainment.

Tony Buzan, famous for mind-mapping and other brain-based learning techniques, will in November launch a rolling programme of training sessions but at substantially less than normal cost in a special commitment to education in Scotland.

Others lined up include the American author Eric Jensen, who has been the lead developer worldwide in new learning approaches, and Reuven Feuerstein, the 85-year-old Israeli professor who has led the way in promoting thinking skills.

Also in the package is Leslie Kenton, the American health guru, who will advise teachers about motivation and handling stress, and Carla Hanniford, the leading researcher on kinaesthetic education.

More than 400 teachers have already expressed interest in signing up for an initial one-day conference at Jordanhill on the back of a Tapestry flier and before applications forms are issued. The agency is run by Katrina Bowes, a former primary headteacher and education officer in Strathclyde.

Its board, however, embraces the major players. It is chaired by Professor Bart McGettrick of Glasgow University and includes representatives from Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities, Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Scottish Further Education Unit and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Among others keen to be involved are the Scottish Council of Independent Schools and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Professor McGettrick, former dean of the education faculty, said the aim was simple. "We are trying to mainstream innovation. Within three years, I hope it has brought to classrooms in Scotland a confidence in the arts, a confidence in teachers' capacity to reflect on what they are doing and to innovate, and an ability to influence the lives of schools."

A pilot conference last spring on music and the mind (TESS, March 9) attracted 300 teachers from across Scotland to St Andrew's College. Mrs Bowes was inundated with requests for more information and practical workshops, and this pressure led to the expanded initiative.

Brian Boyd, the Strathclyde University trainer and lecturer, said he believed much of the raising attainment and social inclusion agenda could be tackled through the initiative. Teachers would be able to develop new classroom tools.

Mrs Bowes says the agency will not be competing with other trainers but offering alternatives. A major difference is the chance for teachers to have training accredited through support modules, run initially by Strathclyde University. Sessions are more than one-off events.

She has been negotiating for some months with internationally renowned figures who have offered their services at discount rates. Mr Buzan is keen to publish separately for the Scottish market and in January has agreed to work with North Lanarkshire teachers.

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David Henderson

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