Visit to James Gillespie’s High School

By Ms. Lancy Tam Suk Yin and Mr. Allen Li Lei, Law Ting Pong Secondary School

26/4/2016 Tuesday


  • Meeting the Principal
  • Classroom Observation
Class Subject
S1 Science
S3 Design and Technology
S2 Mathematics
S3 German
S2 Geography
S2 History
  • Meeting the Principal and the Leadership Team
  1. Points noted
    1. High student engagement in class
    2. Lots of questions by students. Very outspoken
    3. Each subject has an ex-book/notebook. Where students copied the notes and did exercise or drew pictures (Learning book).
    4. No text books. All materials kept in a plastic bag
    5. Lots of articulation opportunities
    6. Great depth in reasoning in Humanities lesson
    7. Clear learning targets for the unit/module. Student have a copy on their ex book.
    8. High expectation on Students.
    9. Mind maps used very often.
    10. Both Principals DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Having the Opening Ceremony in James Gillespie made things so much easier for us, and it was always enjoyable to walk pass the beautiful Bruntsfield Links.

In the morning, we had a quick meeting with Donald, the head teacher, and received the schedule for that day, 6 lesson observations in total and a meeting with leadership team.

The first lesson was Science, a student-centered and question-based style of teaching and learning. All learning targets were well displayed and students were aware of those. Students were very engaged and willing to ask and answer questions. There was no textbook and therefore students wrote down notes on their own books. Teacher walked around the class and joined the conversation in order to make sure everyone reach the targets.

Design and Technology lesson impressed me the most by how advanced and complicated the project that students were working on. Their final product is a 3D design of a house under certain building theme, which required students to do research first, take photos later, draw a draft on paper, and then use software to show the work in a mature and accurate way. The teacher offered very clear instruction and detailed guides for each step and was a facilitator and advisor through the whole project. Students were in charge of their own design, and their problems and difficulties will be solved soon by asking and discussing with teacher.  I am strongly believe that these students would become a capable designer after school with the skills they master now in high school.

Maths lesson content was comparatively easier than the one in our level in HK. But the students generally were very on-task.

German is a second language lesson with a very small class size of 6. Students worked in two groups and prepared for a task using textbook and dictionary. All of them were motivated and engaged. Teacher monitored the whole class, answered questions immediately and gave a quick oral assessment at the end of the lessons.

Geography was another fascinating lesson that day which was organised into a role play. It was the last lesson of that semester, so a comprehensive topic became the issue student would talk about. Each student received a handout with a task and information that only he/she knew. And they had to finish their task by knowledge they learnt and information they heard from others, and of course their reasoning skills. What a well designed lesson that engaged the students!

The history lessons used a poster and mind map to facilitate learning. They were learning the history of Edinburgh, and needed to design a poster using mind map to cover different aspects of that history. This again was a student-centered learning and successfully drew the attention of the students.

After all six lessons, several keywords came to my mind: student-centered, high engagement, outspoken, self learning, note taking, challenge learning, all of which proves how well the learning and teaching is conducted in James Gillespie.

After a quick lunch, we had a long meeting with the Head Teacher Both schools introduced their school, education systems, educational mission, students, individual department, learning and teaching, extra curriculum, etc. Surprisingly, we found more similarities than differences, which might be because of the influence from education in UK. And both school leaders want to do things different, and share a lot of ideas in common. We can confidently predict that we would have a wonderful partnership in the future.

We also discussed about what we can do next to actually make this partnership happen. On school level, we would like to construct an online platform to visualize the process, and publish prospectus of both schools on the websites. In terms of teachers, we want to line up the heads of departments of both schools to explore opportunities of collaborations, sharing and visiting. And for students, we were thinking of have a Chinese second language lesson together via skype each week to help the Chinese teaching in James Gillespie. We can also have some research topics as projects to students, and they can share and communicate after they finish it. Other exchange opportunities like campus visit, broadcasting concerts, art work galleries, and video conferences, etc.

All the information about this trip will be introduced in the staff meeting after we go back to HK, and we would like all our staff to get involved in this partnership and contribute their ideas as well.

James Gillespie is indeed an outstanding school, and we do learn a lot from them, and at the same time, we understand our school better from another perspective after this visit. We look forward to maintaining this partnership and really making the students benefit from this program.

Summary of action points with James Gillespie’s High School, Edinburgh


  1. Brief the school on what the Principal and teacher participants have observed during the trip/week.
  2. Conduct brainstorm session with teachers and students on how to kick off the partnership.
  3. Construct an online platform/website so that all stakeholders could visualize the process.
  4. Publish prospectus of both schools on the school websites.


  1. Line up the Heads of departments of both schools to explore opportunities of collaboration(Liberal Studies, Performing Arts, Music, Visual Arts, Science, Chinese, Mathematics)
  2. Share curriculum and good practices on teaching and instructions on learning.


  1. Set up classrooms so that they could have regular lessons together (every month), e.g. Chinese lesson.
  2. Set up identical research topics and start exploration. Sharing to be done periodically.
  3. Do exchange visits to the other countries.
  4. Share learning outcome, e.g. broadcasting concerts.
  5. Share acts and photographs on online galleries.
  6. Make movies or short clips on global issues, e.g. rights, equity.
  7. Set up online learning walls with relevance to o and k, or ,video diary (A day in the life of …)
  8. Share the festivals of both countries online


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