SLF 2014: Get ready for Glasgow


The theme for this year’s Scottish Learning Festival is ‘Raising Achievement and Attainment for All’. We take a look at some of the main attractions to be found at this year’s show.

In a year when Scotland hosts numerous high profile events, the Scottish Learning Festival 2014 (SLF), Scotland’s leading educational event, returns to the SECC in Glasgow on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 September.

During the event, there will be more than 100 professional learning seminars, professional discussions and keynote addresses, all running alongside the largest education exhibition in the country.

The theme of this year’s event is “Raising Achievement and Attainment For All and focuses on maximising educational outcomes through early intervention and prevention, health and wellbeing and developing employability skills.

Each year, Education Scotland, the organisers of the SLF, aim to ensure there is something of interest at the event for everyone who contributes to the learning and development of Scotland’s children and young people. This means the attractions cater for a wide range of professionals, whether they be based in schools, community learning, health, social work or the voluntary sector.

The keynote addresses

Attendees this year will once again have the opportunity to hear Michael Russell MSP, the cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, deliver the opening keynote address. He will speak at 10:30am on the Wednesday, September 24. In addition three world-renowned educationalists will deliver keynote speeches during the event’s two days:

  • Dr Frank Dick, former director of coaching of the British Athletics Federation.

  • Alma Harris, professor and pro-director (leadership) at the Institute of Education, London.

  • John Carnochan, a consultant in knowledge exchange.

The first of these, Dr Dick, will speak at 12:30pm on the Wednesday in the Lomond Auditorium, when, drawing on his experiences from the world of sport, he will talk about the importance of leadership, the balance between challenge and support, and how getting this right equips young people with relevant skills and experience.

The keynote programme on Wednesday concludes at 1:45pm with Prof Harris, who is well known for her commitment to working with schools and school systems to raise achievement and to secure effective learning for all children and young people in all settings.

In her keynote, Prof Harris will focus on what high performance actually is. She will ask what type of leadership is needed to secure and sustain exceptional performance and will argue that an education system has to be pre-occupied with far more than its position on international league tables if it is to be truly world-leading.

Finally, on the Thursday, September 25, at 2:30pm, Mr Carnochan, an advocate of early years and parenting support and someone who has spoken widely on the benefits of prevention, will close the SLF 2014.

In his keynote, Mr Carnochan will discuss whether we over-value technical skills and professionalism, whether it is the responsibility of schools to improve resilience and wellbeing, and how schools can work better with others to deliver education. He will discuss how we can help prepare children and young people to be “ready for anything”.

Professional discussions

As well as the keynote speeches, three interactive professional discussions are taking place on the Thursday of the event led by:

  • Sir Ian Wood, chair of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

  • Sir Bill Gammell, chairman and co-founder of the Winning Scotland Foundation.

  • Kenneth Muir, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

These sessions will provide delegates with the opportunity to engage in conversation and debate with leading experts and colleagues.

Opening the discussion programme at 9:30am on the Thursday is Sir Ian, a businessman best known for his work in the North Sea oil industry. He will be talking about developing skills for life and work and this session will include an update on the work of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce. 

As chair of the Commission, Sir Ian will provide an insight into how practitioners can engage with the Commission and the principles and purposes of the Wood Report produced by the Commission, which outlines strategies to cut youth unemployment.

Next up will be Sir Bill, a former Scottish international rugby union player who moved into the business world in the oil and gas exploration sector. He will lead a discussion from 11:15am on the Thursday on the topic of “We all need good role-models”. The discussion will focus on the impact that good role-models can have on children and young people’s learning and development.

Mr Muir then brings the discussion sessions to a close at 1pm with a session on GTCS Scotland Professional Update, which became a requirement for all teachers this month. Mr Muir is well known in Scottish education as GTCS chief executive and leads this discussion where teachers will have the opportunity to engage with GTCS to discuss the principles of Professional Update and how it is intended to have an impact on the professional learning and the professional review and development process.

New for 2014: Spotlight seminars

A new addition to this year’s programme is the spotlight seminars focusing on the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and the Early Year’s Collaborative.

On the Wednesday at 12:30pm, Gillian Hamilton, the newly appointed chief executive of SCEL, and members of the SCEL team and board will discuss the role that the College will play in supporting leadership development at all levels in Scottish education.

Meanwhile, at 10:45am on the Thursday, Bill Maxwell, chief executive of Education Scotland, Judith Ainsley, head of the Early Years Quality Improvement Unit at the Scottish government, and contributors from a Community Planning Partnership, will explore the “strategic opportunities and challenges associated with the innovative approach to improving outcomes for children and families in Scotland”.

Professional learning seminars

In addition to keynotes and discussions, the SLF seminar programme features more than 100 professional learning sessions. Seminars will be presented by practitioners, pupils and key national figures from across Scotland. From the mystery of the primary curriculum to learning through intergenerational practice, there is an SLF seminar for everyone involved in education at every level. A full conference programme is available to view on the SLF website.

The exhibition

The SLF experience also includes the exhibition with a range of features all designed to discover innovative practice, new resources and proven strategies to enhance teaching and learning.

The exhibition at SLF will showcase more than 100 educational suppliers covering all levels of education. Suppliers include well established companies and organisations such as the British Council, LEGO, RM Education, Digital Nursery, Pearson, Community Play, Leckie and Leckie, Glasgow Science Centre, and Number Gym to name a few. There are also a host of new companies exhibiting for the first time including MyCognition, QubizM, Sweet Counter, Thinking Child, Schoolcardshop, and Thistle Education Solutions.

A new feature at this year’s exhibition will be Parents Connect, hosted by the National Parent Forum for Scotland and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. Parents Connect is a dedicated area for visitors to find out more information to encourage parents to be more proactive in their child’s learning.

The exhibition will also host the following features:

  • The Education Scotland stand – where Education Scotland staff will be on hand to have a chat and talk about the work of the organisation.

  • The Education Showcase – with a wide variety of performances and presentations from practitioners and young people making big differences across Scottish education.

  • Exhibitor Seminars – a dedicated theatre exclusively for exhibitors talking about the benefits of their products and services.

  • The Local Authority Village – meet the authorities to see and hear the new ideas that they are using in education today.

  • The Cultural Village – find out more about the learning resources available to help young people develop an understanding of Scotland’s culture.

The exhibition and all these feature are free to attend, to find out more about the exhibition and the features visit the website.

SLF Extra 

As well as the activities taking place at the SLF in September, the professional learning opportunities will continue beyond the two-day event in Glasgow with the introduction of SLF Extra. The idea is that Education Scotland will work in partnership with local authorities, professional associations and others to deliver a range of new events to extend the professional learning opportunities to practitioners around Scotland. Visit the SLF website for more information.

Further information

To book your place at the SLF, free of charge, visit the website at It has a range of information about this year’s festival including a downloadable conference programme, an exhibition floorplan, and exhibitor list.


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