SCEN at the University of Aberdeen

23 June 2014

Elphinstone_HallDear Group Leaders, Presenters and Organisers at the SCEN National Pupil Conference at the University of Aberdeen,

Thank you! What a day that was. We must have had about 500 people in the hallowed halls of the great University of Aberdeen: we had nearly fifty wonderful volunteer students from China leading our activities, the dedicated University of Aberdeen's Events Team, and the great Star Trio of Professor Barbara Fennell-Clark, George Roberts, and Dr Isabel Seidel, who deserve our great gratitude. They are so strong in mind and heart that they are looking forward to hosting SCEN again! I have made the national decision (Scottish Government please note) that we should no longer talk about the Central Belt, as though only Edinburgh and Glasgow matter, but the Central Triangle, which of course includes the historic and hugely important City of Aberdeen.

I loved the presentations in the Elphinstone Hall. Aboyne Academy Pipe Band, led by Pipe Major Bex Morrison, made for a stunning start. The Principal of the University, Sir Ian Diamond, was so warm and friendly and really made us welcome. He must be more used to rather older audiences, even up to my sort of age, but he really engaged with the 3-18 year-olds who were the focus of our Conference. I have promised him that SCEN will give him more such opportunities! Our Guest of Honour, John Somers, the First Secretary for Scotland of the UK Embassy in Beijing, was terrific: the very Model of a Modern Diplomat, encouraging us to learn Mandarin in the most unthreatening way.

Then came the inspiring presentations from our glorious young people. Aberdeen has certainly Got Talent! Thank you, Lynnette, and all the teachers and pupils who took the stage. We also enjoyed Middleton Park Primary School's Newscast in Mandarin: it is not surprising that they were finalists for Learning and Technologies at the Scottish Education Awards recently. Moray is certainly learning Chinese, as Aberlour Nursery children and Keith Primary 1 pupils demonstrated! We did not get to hear Chinese teacher Summer teaching Scottish teacher Emma Chinese sadly, but Emma has promised to let me have video and we shall show it at a SCEN Conference this year.

How marvellous to hear Kathryn and Corey from S6 sharing their learning with primary pupils: we must certainly encourage this model. Well done to the amazing P6 DVD and to the Friockheim Primary School presentation. Angus certainly goes Beyond the Panda! Then there was the Aberdeen Chinese School, with its captivating Mandarin tongue-twister and Counting Ducks presentation. Wonderful! In the afternoon session, we were all captivated by Eleanor's singing of The Moon Represents My Heart, accompanied by Katarina on the flute. We need to hear them again. From Perth and Kinross, Arngask Primary School's play was terrific: how I loved that stripy lion and his leadership qualities! Then we had four students from Elgin Academy, demonstrating all they had learned from a clearly significant day in their school. Wow! Thank you all. Nobody looked a bit nervous, but we all know what it is like to perform, especially in the superb Elphinstone Hall - picture above right!  As you know, the very capable photographer Simon Jones was taking photographs throughout: these are on the SCEN website now.


I hope you all enjoyed your lunch, the networking, the workshops and activities. I look forward to hearing more. It would be wonderful if you could email me, when you can, about two things: (1) what you enjoyed about the day; (2) what we could do better next time. Bullet points fine! Pupil feedback would be really useful, if you have time to get some at this incredibly busy stage of the session. Thanks too to CISS and and in particular Dr Meryl James and to Ting Yang, to Peter Billington and his powerful students from Queen Anne High School, Dunfermline (unsurprisingly, finalists for the International Award at the Scottish Education Awards), and the pioneering pair from Lasswade Community High School, Rosemary Mitchell and Ruth Higginson.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone.

Very best wishes, Judith

Dr Judith McClure CBE

Convener of the Scotland China Education Network (SCEN)
Secretary of the Cross Party Group on China at the Scottish Parliament