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Morale booster with goals in view

A soccer stadium is hosting an in-service day for 600 primary teachers next month. Jackie Cockburn reports on the 'unique' initiative.

Celtic Park will provide the unlikely venue for an in-service day on a scale never seen before in the west of Scotland.

More than 600 primary teaching staff from one of the smallest local education authorities will converge on the Parkhead stadium on October 9 for a programme that aims to help them re-evaluate their approaches to teaching writing.

The event run by East Dunbartonshire Council is unique, according to Christine Symington, head of educational development for the authority.

And for any teachers concerned about football favouritism, she says that the choice of venue was not through allegiance to the bhoys in green but solely because of the conference capacity offered (Ibrox holds a mere 400 in comparison).

"Parkhead has recently improved and expanded its conference facilities and we will be one of the first to use them although I have a sneaking suspicion that one of our key speakers, Dr Brian Boyd, is rather pleased at the choice of venue," she said.

Rumour has it that staff will enter into the spirit of the day with decorated buses. This sense of fun is being encouraged and is good for staff morale, as Christine Symington points out. "The teaching profession is jaded right now and we want to give them a quality experience.

"Our whole programme has been organised with one thing in mind - to raise enthusiasm. You get better quality in the classroom if you can enthuse staff."

Speakers for the in-service event include Nigel Hall, reader in literacy education at Manchester University, Ian Smith, director of learning systems at the Scottish Council of Educational Technology, and Ray Barker of the National Literacy Association.

Among the workshops are familiar topics such as teaching spelling, writing towards national testing, diagnostic procedures in assessment and developing literacy in the middle primary. But teachers can also learn ghost writing for Christmas or language development through shadow puppetry.

The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum plans to use the event to launch its new publication on writing.

Jan Rushworth of East Dunbartonshire's curriculum support unit has been instrumental in organising the programme. "We hope to re-inspire staff and update them on what is current in educational research but in a practical way."

The authority plans a follow-up day in February. A questionnaire asking how staff feel the October day has gone will help in deciding what will be covered then.

"We are determined that these in-service days will not be viewed as a novelty. They are part of our ongoing commitment to staff development," said Ms Rushworth.

Invitations have also gone to every education authority in Scotland offering the chance to send a representative.

Christine Symington said: "We are a small authority and we don't have an advisory service but we do try to ensure that the pace of development is slow but good."

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