Published on 23 Aug 2023

Slimmed down SLF back next month

The Scottish Learning Festival’s focus this year is on after-school keynote addresses, with the traditional programme of shorter seminars to be spread throughout the year

The Scottish Learning Festival (SLF) is back in September but this year, the focus is on international speakers, whose keynotes will take place online only and after school.

The programme of more than 100 short seminars - which in the past has run alongside the keynote addresses - will not take place during the headline festival days this year. Instead, organiser Education Scotland plans to run “more structured and coherent” professional development throughout the school year, under the SLF banner.

Until Covid, the Scottish Learning Festival had been established over many years as a big in-person gathering in Glasgow at one of Scotland’s largest venues, now called the Scottish Event Campus. There were exhibitors trying to promote their work and sell their wares to delegates, as well as keynote addresses in the main auditorium and numerous seminars in the warren of smaller rooms.

Then in 2020, because of the pandemic, the event was cancelled before moving online in 2021. Last year a hybrid festival was put in place with some in-person events but everything streamed online. Now, SLF has evolved once again.

This year’s SLF - which takes place initially from 26 to 28 September - will comprise online keynote addresses from international speakers from 4-6pm each day. The exception is an online address from the education secretary, Jenny Gilruth, on Wednesday 27 September, at 2.15pm.

The international keynotes are being billed as “SLF Conversations” and the theme for this year’s festival is “liberating learning” - which is taken from the book of the same name by one of the speakers, education expert Santiago Rincón-Gallardo.

The keynotes will focus on approaches to educational reform from around the world, but will also look at the Scottish context. Ongoing reform in Scotland has seen the government promise to transform the way senior students are assessed and to overhaul the key education agencies Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Other speakers include Ng Pak Tee from the National Institute of Education in Singapore, and Allison Skerrett from the University of Texas in the US, both members of the Scottish government’s International Council of Education Advisers.

Seminars - which formed part of the traditional SLF programme and of which there used to be many dozens - will still run, said Education Scotland strategic director Ollie Bray. However, instead of squeezing them all into a few days in September, these will take place throughout the school year and be “more structured and coherent”.

He added: “For instance, there will be a national professional learning programme on curriculum design - or curriculum making, as [University of Stirling academic] Mark Priestley calls it - from January. That will run over nine months and people can follow that as a cohort or opt in and out of different sessions.”

From October, there will also be sessions running under the umbrella of inclusion, equalities and wellbeing, on topics including differentiation and dyslexia support. Mr Bray said that some would be subject specific and go into the detail of different curriculum areas, while others would be “more generic” and broader in scope.

Education Scotland will reveal its programme of online events for the rest of the school year on the first day of the festival, Tuesday 26 September.

Registration is open for SLF Conversations 2023. Find out more here.