Informed Scotland October 2018 – Skills: untapped, mismatched & ‘meta’


October was a busy month for meaty, fascinating reports on a range of learning & skills themes.

Word of the month was ‘meta-skills’ – or should that be ‘meta skills’ or ‘metaskills’? Spelling isn’t the main bone of contention here, so it’s good to see that defining these higher-order skills is an action in the Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board’s Strategic Plan, published last month. (Anyone else reminded of extensive debates about the definition of core/key skills…?)

As well as the usual annual studies, evaluations, outcome agreements and statistics, other reports worth exploring in detail include:

Among several developments, a new Skills & Employability Leadership Group is being set up by SCDI, chaired by Skills Development Scotland, and a new Scottish Government Learner Panel of 30 young people will help to shape educational policy and practice. There’s a new Men in Childcare Challenge Fund, aiming to increase the number of men in early learning & childcare; a new SQA Mental Health & Wellbeing Award; and YouthLink Scotland is launching a new Youth Work & Schools partnership programme.

This is the tip of the information iceberg: become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.

Check out our latest guest blog post, Powerful professional learning by Sarah Philp, Director of Learning Scotland for Osiris Educational.

Powerful professional learning

by Sarah Philp, Director of Learning Scotland, Osiris Educational. Continuing our guest blog series featuring Informed Scotland subscribers writing on the theme Making connections across the learning & skills landscape.

‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.’  – Aristotle

We are all on a journey seeking ‘Excellence and Equity’, and while there are few who would deny these are worth striving for, this certainly does not make them easy to achieve.

In the context of education, we know that what happens in the classroom matters and we have a good history of supporting teacher professional learning in Scotland. That said, we still have some work to do. We need to make sure that we don’t get distracted and lose our focus on learning and teaching, and on ensuring that teachers have access to the highest quality professional learning.

Common barriers to changing our practice or engaging in learning, whatever line of work we might be in, are:

  • Cognitive overload – I’m sure we can all recognise this feeling, that we can’t take on board new or additional information because we are overwhelmed.
  • Relational trust – the glue that holds an organisation together. Having high relational trust allows us to take risks, to say we don’t know and to be open to engaging in learning.
  • Accurate self-perception – the difference between our own assessment of our performance or impact and our actual performance or impact.

We need to be aware of these potential barriers and actively build a culture of learning with these in mind.

Before joining Osiris Educational, I was Principal Educational Psychologist with Midlothian Council. One of the core functions of an educational psychologist is to provide professional learning. It has been many years since we moved away from the tendency for this to be delivered as a ‘twilight’ session on a particular ‘topic’. We know this does not work, and we know it doesn’t work for the reasons above.

Professional learning has shifted away from a focus on one-off events as the main delivery mechanism, to a much more dynamic model which aims to reflect and meet the needs of all learners at different stages in the learning process.

Professional learning is only as good as the impact it leads to for the learners in our classrooms. I guess it’s the ‘So what?’ and ‘What now?’ questions – if we don’t create opportunities for teachers to engage with these questions alongside their learning experience then we will fail to see the impact for our learners.

There is no short cut to powerful professional learning.

It needs time and energy from those providing it, those engaging in it and those supporting it at the system level.

The Osiris Teacher Intervention (OTI), one of our professional learning programmes, works with teachers to build the habit of excellence in learning and teaching through the following processes:

  • Building clarity – understanding what excellence really looks like
  • Reflexivity – reflecting on practice using video (it might be scary at first but it is incredibly powerful)
  • Levelling up – being clear about the incremental steps needed to ensure improvement and develop new habits and norms.

We also support school leaders through a leadership programme to develop a culture of effective professional learning across their school, using the key principles of what makes OTI so impactful.

Both of these programmes work well alongside the national model of professional learning launched by Education Scotland at the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2018.

According to the model, professional learning should be:

  • Challenging, and develop thinking, knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Underpinned by developing skills of enquiry and criticality
  • Interactive, reflective and involve learning with others.

We couldn’t agree more and we look forward to using this model more in the future.

For further information contact Sarah at
Twitter: @sphilp2 and @OsirisEduScot  Facebook: @osiriseducational
Osiris Educational  YouTube: Osiris Educational

Read previous guest blogs in the series, including those from Young Enterprise Scotland, Children’s University Scotland, GTC Scotland, SCEL, Clyde Gateway and EDT Scotland.

Informed Scotland September 2018 – Looking beyond the headlines


The new academic session began relatively calmly for learning & skills after a long, hectic summer.

The Scottish Government continues to refer to its commitment to education as its ‘defining mission’ in its 2018–19 annual programme, Delivering for today, investing for tomorrow.

The hottest topic in September, however, was the continuing debate over the future of Scottish National Standardised Assessments in Primary 1. MSPs voted to halt them, but Cabinet Secretary John Swinney advised schools to continue with existing plans.

As well as the usual statistical reports and annual reviews, other items to look out for include:

There’s a new Fintech Skills Academy in Fife, a new national Developing the Young Workforce website. And Scotland’s new design museum, V&A Dundee, opened to much acclaim, offering learning opportunities galore.

Favourite feedback last month came from Natalie Phillips, Education, Business & Community Growth Project Manager at Clyde Gateway: ‘Excellent publication which enables us to keep well briefed and informed on all important education, business and skills updates! I can’t recommend it enough!

Become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.

Who’s where? Making sense of the learning & skills landscape


The sixth annual Informed Scotland Organisations & People Special has been published.

It’s a snapshot of a busy and ever-changing learning & skills landscape, helping our subscribers to quickly locate the key organisations and make sense of where they fit into the bigger picture.

This year there are links to over 360 organisations, up from 330 in 2017 and more than twice as many as in the first edition in 2013.

Informed Scotland subscribers find it a useful directory of the main bodies and institutions operating across business, education, community & adult learning, government and wider society, including:

  • Sector-specific skills bodies
  • Local authority education departments
  • Colleges & universities
  • Teacher education institutions
  • Developing the Young Workforce regional groups
  • Knowledge exchange & innovation centres

There have been many changes since last year’s edition, including new organisations, mergers and closures, promotions, moves and retirements. We’ve added a new section of the six regional improvement collaboratives – regional alliances of the 32 local authority education departments – and a new section covering research & development organisations in community & adult learning.

All new subscribers receive a copy – join the growing list and stay well informed.

This is the tip of the information iceberg: become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.

You can also keep up to date via Twitter @InformedScot and Instagram informedscot

Informed Scotland July/August 2018 – Plans, pilots, policy & practice


It was pretty much business as usual throughout the summer, with little respite from policy developments, plans, pilots, research studies, surveys and statistics.

The Scottish Government’s first national action plan for parental involvement and family learning was one of the big items. Learning Together is not a quick read, however, with 13 goals and 52 (yes, 52!) actions spread over 51 pages. We’ve provided our subscribers with a helpful Annex containing the full list of goals and actions for ease of reference.

One of the most hotly debated issues over recent months has been the Scottish National Standardised Assessments, with the campaign to drop them in primary 1, led by Upstart, continuing to grow. The Scottish Government published a User Review of the assessments a year after they were introduced, including detail of some changes for 2018/19.

There are numerous other publications worth delving into

The word ‘new’ appears over 60 times in our latest issue

Creative Scotland launched Screen Scotland, with its focus including skills & talent development and film education.

A new Google Digital Garage was opened in Edinburgh’s West End offering digital skills training and advice. Marks & Spencer is creating a new data skills academy for its staff with the help of Decoded. Young Enterprise Scotland launched a new Circular Economy Challenge for primary and secondary pupils.

SCEL created a new Evolving Systems Thinking teacher leadership programme with the Ontario Principals Council. And several new courses were created, including for teacher education.

Feedback that made us smile this month from Ken Muir, Chief Executive of GTCS: Another really excellent edition. This is such a great publication – one to which every organisation and public body in Scotland should subscribe. It provides such a helpful summary of all the ‘goings on’ across Scotland. A real one-stop read for busy people.
Become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.