A RENFREW headteacher is to write a book on how education needs to change as the country emerges from the Covid pandemic.

Billy Burke, who has been in charge at Renfrew High School for eight years, aims to spark debate around moving away from traditional methods of teaching to allow youngsters to discover more about themselves and the way they learn best.

At the start of the virus crisis, pupils had to spend a lengthy period away from the classroom and, instead, study at home.

And while home learning did not suit everyone, Billy insists many children enjoyed a different approach to their schoolwork as they figured out for themselves what worked best for them.

Although his book is as yet untitled, he said he will be making a case for headteachers to move away from a major focus on assessment and turn their attention to each pupil’s needs and goals.

“If we don’t reflect on the pandemic experience and start educating young people differently, then we will continue to get what we’ve always got,” added Billy.

“School just doesn’t suit some young people and some have benefitted from a different style of learning and doing individual stuff at home, rather than sitting in a classroom and the whole thing being very teacher-led.

“We’ve seen a lot more of teachers posting a task, maybe a video of how to do something in maths, so the learning stimulus is there before they’ve come into a lesson.

“They’ve done a bit of preparation at home, so the teacher can then focus more on where that young person is in their learning process.

“We need to move beyond teachers simply imparting knowledge. What I’m going to be writing about is leadership in schools, which I feel needs to be more about how young people feel about the environment they are learning in and how staff feel about the place they’re working in.”

Over the last two years, secondary school pupils have not sat exams and have instead been given grades through teacher estimates and a “quality assurance” procedure by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), based on their work throughout the year.

The process has led to debate on how children’s learning should be assessed, with Billy hoping schools can develop new ways of acknowledging achievement.

He added: “When young people hit 15 or 16, it becomes about qualifications. 

“We’ve got to have more sophisticated ways of acknowledging people’s achievements.

“I think there will be change in this area and my hope is, as a result, we can focus more on the learning than the assessing. For a long time for young people, it’s been about learning an exam answer, rather than learning for learning’s sake.

“Maths and English, for example, are important because they could be interesting and they can open up pathways for people to specialise but we should be learning about ourselves and relationships with other people.

“How does a person aged 12 resolve conflict? How does someone who isn’t confident speak up in a discussion? Thinking about these types of things is what will stand them in good stead for life.”

The book has partly sprung from Billy launching a podcast with coach and psychologist Sarah Philp, called Changing Conversations, which now has around 40 episodes.

It sees the pair chat to fellow teachers and educators about some of the big questions the pandemic has thrown up.

To find out more, visit Changing Conversations on Anchor.