Brave New World

I would guess this is by far the most significant post I have written since I started the blog, as today I announce to the world that I will be leaving Learning and Teaching Scotland in early July and stepping out into the world on my own as an independent learning consultant. Finally, I will actually be The Literacy Adviser, and the title of the blog will be a reality rather than a statement of intent. I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and while it’s too early to establish whether I have finally grown up or not, the prospect of being completely independent is at once daunting and hugely exciting.

Having been an English teacher, a Principal Teacher, Staff Tutor, Depute Headteacher, and latterly an Education Manager at LTS, the time has come for me to really put myself to the test and see whether I actually have the knowledge and skills which I have been claiming all that time. Again, after working for just over thirty years in the public sector, for the first time in my life I will be selling my wares in the educational market place, but to paraphrase Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, we’re all selling ourselves in one way or another. The market is depressed at the moment of course, but it is something of a paradox that only by investing in teacher training and education generally will the country be able to move out of recession. And just in case I forget what the education business is all about, I’m planning to do some supply teaching as well.

If one or more of the following statements applies to you, then you need to contact me as soon as possible to discuss what I can do for you (see, I’m warming to it already):-

  • I have just taken on a responsibility for developing literacy in my area of work
  • My staff need to have a better awareness of Curriculum for Excellence
  • I would like to explore Moving Image Education but don’t know where to start
  • We need to improve our literacy results in P6/ P7/ S1/ S2
  • Our school cluster would like to develop reading strategies to improve transition from primary to secondary
  • I would like to explore the use of new technologies but I don’t have the time and I’m a bit scared of it all
  • I know we should involve our parents more but we never seem to get to it
  • I need to develop a better understanding of literacy as “the responsibilty of all” within my school
  • I am organising an event and I need a first-class presenter/facilitator/chairperson
  • In preparation for the new literacy qualification, we want to look at how to develop e-portfolios


I hope that gives you a flavour of what I am about. Over the coming weeks and months I will be using the blog to upload resources, advertise events and share what insights I have gained into the vision of Curriculum for Excellence. In the meantime, here is a brief summary of some of the areas I will be working in, and where I can offer support and advice to teachers, schools, local authorities and others:-

Reading Strategies to Improve Literacy

Improving literacy is a key feature of most education improvement plans, yet there is often a lack of clarity about how it can be achieved. Motivation, and understanding the key strategies involved in developing higher order reading skills, are the route to success. Over the past couple of years I have been looking at what some of the world’s leading thinkers have been saying about reading development and at the key strategies we employ as we move from acquiring basic reading skills to becoming sophisticated readers. These strategies are often regarded as “instinctive” but in order to be effective they need to be made explicit to learners, and before they can be made explicit, teachers need to be aware of what they are and how they can be developed.

 Improving the Transition from Primary to Secondary

HMIE’s Improving Scottish Education report in January 2009 had some fairly damning comments about the primary-secondary transition, confirming that in the first year of secondary school young people are still too often “passive observers in lessons”, and going on to say that “while many schools recognise that improving links with primary schools helps progression in learning, too many do not build on what has been achieved in P7.” While we are now very good at the social aspects of transition from primary to secondary, we are failing to build on prior learning when young people enter secondary school. Developing a common pedagogy, especially around literacy, can change all that.

 Improving Literacy through Moving Image Education

I have recently joined Scottish Screen’s core group of Lead Practitioners in Moving Image Education. This is an area which has huge potential for teachers as they come to terms with the re-definition of “texts” in Curriculum for Excellence – using the kind of texts which most of us engage with on a daily basis viz., short films. Through an understanding of the film-making process and through working collaboratively, young people develop the “traditional” literacy skills of talking and listening, reading and writing, while at the same time developing critical thinking skills and a better awareness of modern media.                                           

 Using Web 2.0 technologies to Improve Learning and Teaching

Working in Learning and Teaching Scotland has given me the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and knowledge of new technologies, internet and networking tools – such as Blogging, Wikis, Twitter, Delicious and a host of others – which can make learning and teaching much more fun and effective, and at no extra cost! Finding the right resources for the modern-day classroom need not be an issue if you know where to look, and with a few simple lessons teachers and learners can become part of a global learning network.

 From Inputs to Outcomes – Making Sense of the Literacy and English Framework

As one of the original writing team for the Literacy and English Framework, I have a comprehensive understanding of the thinking behind the Experiences and Outcomes, and of Curriculum for Excellence generally. I have presented extensively on various aspects of Curriculum for Excellence over the past couple of years to a wide range of audiences. Whether you are looking at specific outcomes, beginning to look at interdisciplinary approaches, or trying to ensure that literacy is at the centre of learning and teaching in your area of responsibility, I can offer you unrivalled support and advice.


21 thoughts on “Brave New World

  1. Best of luck Bill! Now that your younger and better looking brother Brian has retired the market should be wide open! 😎

    But seriously…all the best. If we ever get the funding for CPD they promised us three years ago but spent on biscuits for the ‘management at Council HQ’ then we’ll be booking you.

    • Dave,
      Really enjoying the correspondence. You are one funny guy and obviously committed to your kids. Thanks for the comments and I look forward to sharing the journey with you in the months to come.

  2. Congratulations on making this big leap forward Bill. You really are THE man to take the title of literacy adviser 😉 Nearly all of those statement are relevant to what I’m doing on Islay so will definitely be in touch soon.

    The very best of luck to you, and I look forward to working with you in the near future (but you already knew that!).


  3. Thanks Andy – top man. It’s through meeting people like yourself that I’ve realised those who are actually pushing education forward in this country aren’t usually those with “manager” in their title (I presently include myself in that category). Looking forward to sharing and working with you in the future and the best of luck with the event this coming weekend. Still hoping to see Islay this summer.

  4. Great stuff Bill – But why is it when I join LTS everyone else leaves? anyway, you have reminded me about your business cards – I’ll have a think about that now. See you next week and well done again! OB

  5. Hi Bill,

    I’ll miss our morning train conversations, but I’m sure we’ll still be in contact. Having mysellf previously resigned from our shared LA with no fixed abode, I understand the step you’ve taken, but I’m sure it’s the right one for you.

    One tiny query: bulletpoint 4 – why not change “…in S1 and S2” to “…across all stages”?


  6. Congratulations Bill! A big step into the brave new world, but I for one know you’ll be brilliant at it. No one makes changes in towers – it’s through direct involvement and action that we make a difference. All the best, Bill 🙂

  7. Thanks Joe,
    I’ll certainly check Tom out and I hope we can link up in the future. Might make that coffee before I go – leaving on 7 July.

  8. Hi Gordon,
    I’m sure we’ll stay in touch – I’ve enjoyed your company over the past few months. Fair point about the reference to “all levels” but my focus will be on the years 10-14 – ie upper primary, lower secondary – which I think are critical in terms of progress in literacy. Kids often succeed or fail in that period. You know my reservations about the exam system so I will follow developments in that area with interest.

  9. Andrew,
    Much appreciated. I’ve certainly enjoyed working with you over the past few months, and I’ve picked your brains on more than a few occasions. By the way, I don’t plan to stop doing that, wherever you are. You cannot escape.

  10. Ollie,
    Thanks for comments. I think I’ve got business cards sorted but I need to talk to you about developing an app fo English grammar before I go – or after I go – who cares. Catch up with you soon.


  11. All the best in your new venture Bill, I know you’ll make it a success – and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege working with you. Will miss our discussions, debates and general musings, whether they be intellectual, political, literary, whimsical or downright nonsensical. However, I am sure that our Friday afternoon seminars will continue to be the cultural apogee of West of Scotland life for some time to come!

  12. Cheers Alan,
    Haven’t heard the word “apogee” since Charlie Nicholas described somebody as “an apogee of a defender”. You certainly haven’t seen the last of me and I will definitely take up the offer of a hospitality package at Firhill next season as Ayr United prepare to teach Thistle a lesson in total football.

  13. Great news, Bill. I forgot to mention there’s a 15% commission on every job you get through the blog we set up together 😉 Only kidding. I wish you all the best and will send you some of the work I still get sent that might be relevant for you. Go forth!

  14. Ewan, I’ll be eternally grateful for that initial push you gave me and for the help in setting up the blog, not to mention infecting me with some of that natural exuberance of yours. I follow your exploits on Twitter with great interest (along with many others of course). All job offers seriously considered.

  15. Hi Bill,

    Sorry to be late to the party ( i was on my hols when you announced this nerws) but congratulations and best fo luck! Not that you’ll need it as I’m sure the work offers will be flooding in.

    We’ll certainly miss you at LTS – especially your cheeky comments in the kitchen and your natty suits!!


  16. Or should that be my natty comments and cheeky suits? Many thanks for the comments Lucy. There are many good, intelligent and creative people in LTS whom I will miss dearly, and I have no hesitation in including you on that list. Keep smiling!

  17. Gosh, what an enormous step to take. Is it bravery or midsummer madness? It must have taken a lot of thought and planning to step away from security at this uncertain time.
    I wish you every success with your new endeavour.

  18. Probably both I would say! It’s taken years of thought and quite a bit of planning but as someone famously said life is not a rehearsal – this is it. Thanks for the good wishes.


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