Covering all the salient topics

15th September 2006 at 01:00
SETT is the biggest learning festival of its kind in Britain, with technology and seminars galore. Gillian Macdonald picks some highlights - and it's all free

There was a time when the SETT show was for technology buffs.

Now it seems the Scottish Learning Festival - as it has been rebranded - is a requirement for anyone wanting to keep up to date with the latest developments in Scottish education.

"People are talking about it when you go into schools," says Margaret Alcorn, the national co-ordinator for continuing professional development. "It's certainly got the right topics this year."

Bookings would appear to endorse that, with more than 5,500 registered in advance, of which more than 2,000 are newcomers.

The Scottish Learning Festival is the only show of its kind in Britain - and it's free. Organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland, with a clear steer and funding from the Scottish Executive, the conference reflects the best of what is happening in schools around the country and brings in international speakers to inspire and enthuse teachers with new ideas from abroad.

Edward de Bono, whose term "lateral thinking" is part of the English language, is studied in every school in Venezuela. He has been asked to train 55,000 schools in India and China is piloting his work with a view to putting it into four million schools (see News, page 6). He is coming from the United States to make his first professional appearance in Scotland at the learning festival on Thursday.

Lady Marie Stubbs was born in Glasgow but made her name when London headteacher Philip Lawrence was killed outside St George's RC Secondary in Maida Vale and she was brought in to lead the team that was to bring order to the downward spiralling school. She will be at the festival on Wednesday to talk about how new teachers - and experienced teachers - can ensure that every child matters (see page 3).

With five keynote lecturers of this calibre, eight spotlight sessions featuring national and OECD speakers, 130 seminars and the "fastest growing UK exhibition", according to organisers Emap Education, the difficulty for teachers will be how to get the best out of their visit.

"The important thing is to make time to reflect on what you've picked up at the sessions," advises Martin Jack, the head of professional development at Learning and Teaching Scotland.

"Come along, select two or three sessions to go to, but make sure you have spare time for some dialogue, networking, reflecting on the impact the information could have in your classroom.

"Pick up snippets to take back and discuss with colleagues at school or in your authority, and discuss them in a local context.

"It's not just about spending six hours listening over the two days. It's important to analyse. What does this mean for me and the way I work?

"It's about transforming professional practice. That's the key."

The over-arching theme of this year's conference is A Curriculum for Excellence. A series of seminars will address how it can work in early years, primary education, secondary, additional support needs and the role of the teacher.

A spotlight session on Wednesday at 9.30am by Maggi Allan, the chair of the CfE programme board, and May Sweeney, the national co-ordinator, will focus on the most recent developments and demonstrate how schools are putting them into action.

Then a special extended discussion at 12.15pm will allow delegates to debate key issues for A Curriculum for Excellence, such as how professional development needs may be addressed and common links with the Assessment is for Learning and Determined to Succeed programmes.

Extended discussions are a new feature at this year's conference, designed to give teachers a platform to engage with the speakers more and debate the topics further. Other extended discussions will focus on Gaelic, literacy, numeracy, Glow (the new name for the Scottish Schools Digital Network, see page 6) and health.

Thursday is Assessment is for Learning day, kicking off with a spotlight session by Norman Emerson, who leads the team of AiFL development officers at Learning and Teaching Scotland. He will talk about how strategies such as "traffic lighting" in the classroom and sharing learning intentions can link to other aspects of AiFL to create the successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors that the Scottish Executive would like to produce.

That, too, will be followed by an extended discussion and there will be an AiFL "village", where visitors can go to find out more.

Also new is a drive to attract new and aspiring teachers to the learning festival. In addition to Lady Stubbs's keynote session, The TESS, as media sponsor, is mounting its own TES Scotland lecture, aimed at student teachers, probationers and newly qualified teachers (see page 3).

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