IBCcfe01The Curriculum for Excellence is now at the core of Scottish education and we, at Irvine Burns Club, hope to make a small contribution to success in the application of some of the principles laid out below.

Curriculum for Excellence - Experiences and Outcomes
The languages, dialects and literature of Scotland provide a rich resource for children and young people to learn about Scotland’s culture, identity and language.  Through engaging with a wide range of texts they will develop an appreciation of Scotland’s vibrant literary and linguistic heritage and its indigenous languages and dialects.  This principle suffuses the experiences and outcomes and it is expected that practitioners will build upon the diversity of language represented within the communities of Scotland, valuing the languages which children and young people bring to school.
(1) I can recognise how the features of spoken language can help in communication and I can use what I learn. I can recognise different features of my own and others’ spoken language. ENG 2-03a
(2) Having explored and analysed the features of spoken language, I can use these, adopting an appropriate register to suit my purpose and audience. ENG 3-03a
(3) I enhance my learning by applying my ICT skills in different learning contexts across the curriculum. TCH 3-04a
(4) By considering ways to protect technological devices, I can act safely and responsibly when selecting and using different technologies to communicate and collaborate. TCH 3-08a
(5) I can build a digital solution which includes some aspects of multimedia to communicate information to others. TCH 3-08b

Literacy ActionIBCcfe02 Plan Priorities
Ensuring young people progress successfully from basic to advanced literacy skills.  We will work with our partners to identify and share good practice around literacy and encourage practitioners to learn from this, work collegiately, and develop new and innovative approaches.
How we have arrived at our project
Like many Burns Clubs, Irvine Burns Club has organised Scottish verse speaking competitions for primary schools for many years.  In our case these competitions took place during the Marymass festival, in August of each year. The cooperation of schools has always been vital to the success of these events throughout Scotland, but this became very difficult for us to maintain, as schools return from the summer holidays less than a week before the festival starts.

Sadly, our competitions ceased to exist towards the Millennium.  However, many of the Club’s directors continued to be involved as judges of the various district heats of the North Ayrshire schools’ competitions, as well as the final event.  Because of the timing and success of these events we agreed to restart our competitions at a time when it was likely to be more convenient to schools.  March (at the end of the “Burns’ season”) was chosen, as most of the local NAC competitions were completed and children were well prepared.  In 2004 all fourteen Irvine primary schools were invited to take part and only two have not participated in the competitions over the ten years since then.  We have 14 competitions each year, one for boys and one for girls in each of the primary levels P1 to P7.  The winner of each competition is presented with a permanent prize, from plaques for the infants to quaichs for the P7 children.  Members of Irvine Lasses Burns Club and directors of Irvine Burns Club have given much time to judge the competitions.


This programme has worked well since 2004 and in 2009 some of the winners were invited to recite their poetry at Irvine Burns Club’s Annual Celebration.  This has been repeated each year since and has been very well received. Indeed the local press made special feature of last year’s event because of the thunderous applause that greeted eight year old Leyla Turk’s performance of “The Ballad of Janitor McKay”. (Pupils from P1 to P4 can recite any Scots poem and P5 to P7 must recite Burns poetry in our competitions).  In 2013 a 13 year old “veteran” of this programme, Evan Rush, took part in the formal part of the Celebration by “addressing the Haggis” to great acclaim.  Evan later read a beautiful version of “To a Mouse”.  Therefore, we believe that our verse speaking competitions have been very successful.  However, one aspect has consistently given the judges more food for thought than others and this is pronunciation of Scots words. We decided to go further than our annual offer to help with this in individual schools.  After discussing ideas with fellow directors, I met with Melanie West of North Ayrshire Council (Children’s Services). I put forward our proposal to record poems, on request from schools, so that the proper pronunciation of Scots words would be clear and available to classes on a daily basis. Melanie liked the general idea but came up with improvements, matching our proposal to some of the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence, which are noted above. What came out of our discussion is as follows:-

(1) A pilot scheme, involving four schools, which have been heavily involved in our verse speaking competitions over the last ten years, will start in September 2013.  These four schools are Annick PS, Glebe PS, Lawthorn PS and St Mark’s PS and the Head Teachers in each of them has agreed to take part. They are all very enthusiastic about the possibilities for the project.

(2) The poem for each level (P1 to P7), in each of the four schools, will be chosen by the schools by the end of September. Hopefully we at Irvine Burns Club will be informed of each choice as soon as it is made.  A group of directors of the club will discuss each poem and volunteers will go to the various classes to start the learning process with the children. It is hoped that this part of the project will be completed by the end of October.

(3) Arrangements will then be made for children to record the poems at North Ayrshire Council’s recording facility in Stevenston. There may be opportunities for groups to visit this facility to rehearse recitation of their poems.

(4) CDs of each school’s recordings will be made available to all schools in North Ayrshire and the recordings will also be available on our club web site. Decisions have yet to made on how widely available these recordings will be to other schools.  Our offer to help all other Irvine schools with pronunciation of Scots words in their chosen poems will, of course, still be available.

IBCcfe04Post script: The Club has already had a tape of Burns poetry, which was recorded in 1995 by Bob Shankland (for St Conval’s High School, Cumnock), and transferred to CD by North Ayrshire Council technicians. Copies of these are to be delivered to all of our schools in the 2013/2014 session. Those Burnsians who remember Bob will know that this native of New Cumnock was one of the finest readers of the Bard’s work and his everyday pronunciation was “pure Burns”.
Michael Murray
August 2013