Friday, 4 December 2009

The demise of common sense?

A friend sent this to me a few weeks ago. It made me laugh but also made me reflect on some of the changes in society, particularly schools, over the past 4o years.

Dearest colleagues,

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;

(1) I Know My Rights
(2) I Want It Now
(3) It wisnae me
(4) I'm A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on, and join me in a minute’s silence whilst you enjoy a G&T on Friday at 7 pm. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Friday, 16 October 2009

When I was a lad ...

A friend recently sent to me an email with the following reflections on childhood. It reminded me of many aspects of my upbringing!

This is too scary- I thought was still young!
Someone asked the other day, 'What was your favourite fast food when you were growing up?' 'We didn't have fast food when I was growing up,' I informed him. 'All the food was slow.' 'C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?' 'It was a place called 'at home,'' I explained. 'Mum cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.' By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table. But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it:

 My parents NEVER owned their own house or set foot on a golf course
 Travelled out of the country (Well my Dad went to Iceland and France - as a soldier in WW2) or had a credit card (- cos they didn't exist!)
 My parents never drove me to school. (We never had a car as neither ever learned to drive
 I had a bicycle (second-hand) that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow)
 We didn't have a television in our house until I was 9 - for the Coronation. It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at about 10pm, after playing the national anthem and a poem about God. It came back on the air at about 5pm with Children's Hour and then the BBC News.
 There was no locally produced news as there were no local TV stations; in fact there was only the BBC - 1 channel!
 I never had a telephone in my room. We never had a telephone! I paid for telephone installation in my parents' home when I was about 32 so they could phone for the doctor when they were ill and I could contact them from abroad easily. That was about 1976! It had a dial that you had to turn for each number.
 Pizzas were not delivered to our home... But milk was - early every morning, in glass bottles. I never saw a pizza until I was about 36!
 All newspapers were delivered by boys. They had to get up at 6AM every morning.
 Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies.
 There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or most anything offensive.
 Cinemas usually screened 2 films each sitting - a 'B' film (had minor actors and lasted about an hour) followed by 'Pathe Pictorial News'. There was then an interval of about 15 minutes when ladies would walk the aisles selling ice creams from a tray. The main 'A' film, featuring famous film stars, was them screened and lasted at least 90 minutes. If it was a 'full feature' film, there would be no B film and the interval/ice creams would come during the film itself. Throughout the showing, usherettes would walk the aisles and flash their torched to ensure there was no 'hankie-pankie'! One of our 2 cinemas has double seats in the back row!!
 If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Swine flu vaccinations to begin

The H1N1 vaccination programme will begin in Scotland next week, said Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. Ms Sturgeon revealed the majority of people will have the vaccine administered in a single dose.

But she said children under the age of ten and in the at risk group will require two doses of the vaccination. A total of 1.3 million people are in the priority groups for the first stage of the vaccination programme, which begins on 21 October.
(From BBC website)

Given that around 20% of the Scottish population is being identified as being 'priority', I am concerned that school staff are not being targeted. There is no surer way to bring the country to a standstill than to close a large number of schools. Schools will be forced to close if too many staff are ill.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Obama wins Nobel Peace prize

Much column space in the press this morning has been given over to challenging whether President Barack Obama is a worthy recipient of the highly prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Many question why Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe (survivor of several assassinations, arrests, beatings and tortures), was not given the award. In the absence of President Obama, I have no doubt that Tsvangorai would have been the winner. However, Obama is here and, to my mind, he is a worthy recipient.

Great leadership is not always about what an individual does; rather it is about the impact you have through your influence on others. Obama has been singularly successful in influencing policy and practice across the world since he took office. The most significant of these, in my view, is in regard to establishing global security on the issue of nuclear disarmament.

He has come out more forcibly than any other US president in his calls for a world free from nuclear weapons. In the months and years to come he must continue to win hearts and minds, especially in what his less than illustrious predecessor referred to as the 'war against terrorism'.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Heating repaired!

I am delighted to report that our Heating system has now been restored and is fully operational. The school will be open for everyone on Monday 12 October. Thank you for your patience over the past three days and, once again, apologies to all who were inconvenienced by us having to close the school for pupils in S1 to S4.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Partial Schol Closure

Liberton High school will remain closed for pupils in S1-S4 on Friday 9 October. Senior students should attend as normal from 8.30 am. Apologies to all for any inconvenience caused by this.

As soon as the corroded section of underground pipe is replaced and 10,000 gallons of water is back in the network of pipes the heating will be back to normal. I have every confidence that the Engineers involved will do their best to get the main heating system operational as soon as possible.

DJ Macdonald (Headteacher)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

University Applications

One of the greatest achievements Liberton High has had in the past few years is the 600% increase in university applications. In 2004 we had 8 university applications from Liberton High. In 2009 we have in excess of 50 university applications. We expect all of these to be successful.

By any reasoning this is a wonderful achievement. This shows what can be done when when parents, students and teachers all work together towards a common goal. I have every confidence and expectation that this number will continue to grow in the coming years.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Ask not what your country can do for you ..

I am grateful to Ms Arnold in RME for taking the lead in a project involving senior students working with the Institute for Philanthropy.

Over the next year the S5 classes will be working in partnership with the Institute for Philanthropy to investigate charities which are active in the local community. As part of this project each group will make a presentation on their chosen charity, the group which makes the best presentation will be given £3,000 to present to the charity that they have studied. This is a great opportunity which will help to develop skills in a wide range of areas and encourage young people to become more actively involved in their local communities.(J Arnold)

As a school we feel it is really important that our pupils have an opportunity to contribute to assisting others who may be less fortunate than themselves.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Children see. Children do

I came across this short video clip on a blog by Ewan McIntosh. Ewan suggests that If you're a loud, stressed out, unhappy teacher then you'll generally have loud, stressed out and unhappy students in your class. Its a powerful and thought provoking clip that also highlights how much a child's attitudes and behaviours are influenced by their parents. Click here to view.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Magic moments

Now and again in schools we all experience a magic moment. Earlier today I had one of these. The story begins at Lunchtime yesterday when I had lunch with a couple of S1 pupils who started with us last week. Both assured me that they were enjoying High School and were settling in well. I was further pleased to learned that one of the boys, John, described Maths as his favourite subject. Seizing the opportunity I suggested to him that I would give him a maths problem to solve and, should he provide me with a written solution the following day, that i would buy him lunch. I further added that he was not allowed to use a calculator!

At lunch time today, who was waiting for me but John. John, beaming from ear to ear with a smile as wide as the Forth, proudly presented me with an envelop addressed to me, and (diplomatically) demanded that I read his solution. This I did and, to my astonishment, he provided me with the correct answer and a neatly written solution to my maths problem. At the end of his solution he had persuaded a parent to add that he had solved the problem without a calculator, precisely as I had requested. In my 28 years of teaching, I have never had a pupil who solved this particular problem. What is really interesting is that the solution he presented is not one I've seen before. I'm not sure what I'm going to do next, but I feel sufficiently inspired to set up some kind of Maths problem solving club to find out how many other gifted mathematicians we have in our ranks!

Getting it right for every child in Edinburgh

“Everyone has a responsibility to do the right thing for each child and we must all work towards a unified approach, with less bureaucracy and more freedom to get on and respond to children.
This will mean earlier help and the child getting the right help at the right time packaged for their particular needs.”

I attended an excellent multi-agency conference this afternoon at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is Edinburgh’s multi-agency response to the Scottish Government’s programme to support every child. The main aim of the conference was to bring together the various support agencies for children with the intention of getting us all to work together in a more structured and coordinated way for the benefit of all our children. At the conference we had representation from:

 Schools - including nursery, primary, secondary special and independent
 Social work
 Police
 Voluntary sector
 Scottish Government and
 National Health Service

In my 28 years of teaching this was the first time that I had attended a conference on this scale (300 delegates) from such a wide range of public service providers. Keynote addresses were delivered by Gillian Tee (Director of Children and Families) and Boyd McAdam. Both delivered what I thought were brilliant and inspiring speeches. I left the conference feeling very positive about the future for working with and supporting young people in Edinburgh. As a Headteacher of a thriving secondary school I am absolutely committed to and excited about contributing to this exciting development.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Music for a Spring Evening

This evening I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition and musical performance at the Royal Scottish Academy on Princes Street. Along with colleagues, parents and pupils we had been invited by the Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy to join then on this special evening.

I was so proud of young musicians from Liberton High who had been invited along to entertain the guests. They played and sang magnificently!

Performing this evening were:

Ross Hunter (Clarinet)
Kellie Hunter (Saxophone)
Anne Traill (Cello)
Liam Allison (Guitar)
Mike Ainsley (Guitar)
Uni Kim (Flute and Piano)
Ian McBain (Voice)
Kirsty Evans (Voice)
Amy McVicar (voice)
Hannah Cowie (Voice)
Cecily Kingston (Piano)
Laura Klem (Flute)

Led by Scott McCorquodale, Principal Teacher of Music.

What really pleased me tonight was how well our pupils interacted with guests. They really were the most fantastic ambassadors for Liberton High School. Experiences like this will last a lifetime for these very talented youngsters.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Dress Down Day for Charity

Today, we finished off the term with a dress down day for staff and pupils. Well done to everyone who contributed to raising a magnificent £411.24!! The money raised will go to the Children in Need fund.

The term was brought to a close by having teams of pupils competing in an interhouse Quiz. On this occasion Clyde House were victorious.

Well done and thanks to Mr Russell, S6 helpers and staff for organising and staging this event. I thought the atmosphere across the school was great - a perfect way to end the term!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Early start for Liberton High

As many are now aware, following a decision taken by the Scottish Government, an additional in-service day will be arranged for all of Edinburgh's teachers on Wednesday 20 May.

In order to make sure that no teaching hours are lost, I am pleased to announce that, in session 2009/2010, all classes at Liberton High School will begin at 5.30 am.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Visit from Rudi Oppenheimer

As part of our school's continuing 'Stand up to Hatred' education programme, we had the honour this morning of welcoming Rudi Oppenheimer to Liberton High School. Rudi, born in 1931 into a Jewish family, shared with us what life was like for a young boy in those troubled times. He gave a one hour presentation to 150 S2 pupils today followed by a question and answer session about his experiences, growing up as a child in nazi occupied Europe. His presentation was absolutely spellbinding and made a lasting impression on all of us who heard him today. This is all the more incredible when one realises that Rudi is 77 years old. I don't think I have ever come across such a fit and mentally alert person of such senior years!

A highlight of the presentation for me was when he passed around the yellow star that he had to have sewn onto his coat to indicate that he was a Jew.

I extend a warm and special vote of thanks to Sharon Kean, our PT of Social Subjects. Sharon has done a magnificent job in arranging a range of first class experiences for our pupils.

Click here if you would like to read the whole of Rudi's story.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Welcome to High Commissioner to Cameroon

It's not often school pupils get the opportunity to have an audience with a high commissioner, but that's precisely what David Russell (DHT) managed to arrange for S6 pupils and invited senior pupils from other schools at Liberton High School on Friday 27 March. Syd Maddicott, is the British High Commissioner for Cameroon, Chad and Gabon, and has been in post since 2005. I was delighted to welcome him to Liberton High on Friday.

A father of five himself, it was clear that he was very comfortable addressing sixth formers. The presentation he gave, about life in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was very stimulating and, I hope, has raised an awareness of the opportunities that a university degree can present. One of the points made by Syd (this is how he indicated he wished to be addressed) was in relation to what pupils could do in order to increase their employability in the currrent, very difficult, job market. Syd was quite clear that all pupils should go to university to ride out the current economic troubles and be ready for employment, armed with some comparative advantage and a degree, in a few years time. He forecasts that jobs in both the private and public sectors will be difficult to come by in the next few years.

During his talk, Syd suggested to his audience that there are three key decisions that each of them would have to make that would have an enormous bearing on the rest of their lives. They were:
1) Whether to go to university
2) What to study at university and
3) Who to share the rest of their life with.

In regard to the latter, he wished them all the best of luck but suggested it would be wise to avoid a partner that is high maintenance. Now there's a contentious issue raised by a man better known for his ambassadorial skills!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Edinburgh's school band of the year

Warmest congratulations to Liam Allison, Lewis Allan and Callum Munro who
won Edinburgh Schools Battle of the bands Final on 19 March. The boys beat
off several great bands from all over Edinburgh to win the top prize of 2
days recording at a top studio.

Lead Vocals and Guitar: Liam Allison (S4)

Bass Guitar: Callum Munro (S3)

Drums: Lewis Allan (S3)

This really does show again the fantastic talent that we have here at

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Singing talents

Liberton High is very proud of the continuing achievements of two very talented young men.

Firstly, warmest congratulations to Anthony Garcia who won the UK Karaoke championships in October 2008. Anthony went on to achieve second place in the World Karaoke championships later in 2008. Here is a clip of Anthony performing Music of the Night in Finland.

Also, congratulations and very well done to Jack Robertson, currently in S3, and is a rising star in the singing world. Jack, at the tender age of 13, has already shared a stage with Lulu, Beyonce and the Bee Gees. Click on this to see a clip of Jack that was recorded last year on his way to winning a national talent competition at the end of 2008. I have every confidence that both of these young men will go on to become very well known!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Is there a case for a transfer window?

Whilst meeting with Karen Traill (Chairperson of our Parent Council) today, Karen suggested consideration ought to be given to teachers not being able to move from one education job to another other than at specified times in the year. This would have the obvious advantage that disruption to pupils' learning would be minimised. This would mirror the arrangement in professional football, where, for example clubs can only transfer players between each other during certain times of the year, referred to as 'transfer windows'. For example, the lead up to the examination period in May would be an obvious time to avoid. I understand that some private schools ensure that contracts always run for a whole session. If this arrangement can work in the world of professional football, could it work in the world of education? Are there examples anywhere in the world, where such a model operates successfully?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Yes we can

‘’And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words: Yes. We. Can. ‘’ (Barack Obama)

After a really relaxing holiday last week with my family in London we resumed on Monday with an in-service training day for all staff. The day focused on Raising Expectations, Developing Whiteboard Skills and an evaluation of our recent work in regard to Holocaust education as part of our developing Curriculum for Excellence. The day began with a session on expectations of pupils. In summary, what I said was that we should all expect more, especially from our pupils entering S5. At Liberton, I feel that too many of our S5 pupils take the safe route in S5 by sitting Intermediate 2 and too few Highers. I am pleased to say that most subsequently do very well in S6. An increase from 8 to 42 applications by S6 pupils for university places in the past 4 years suggests we are moving in the right direction!

Currently, pupils are returning course choice forms for next session . To assist them, teachers provide recommendations on what level of study is most appropriate for them. I suspect some staff have opted to make a recommendation based on the pupil's prelim performance rather than what they are genuinely capable of.

I am a great believer in getting others to aim high, and, when the going gets tough, to work harder. As parents and educators we have a key role in getting pupils to aim high and to support when the going gets tough. As a Headteacher I have added responsibility in getting others to aim high.

I don’t always get it right! I can recall one example from my family life that illustrates this point. Last summer Alice, my wife, asked why we were content with both girls still using stabilisers on their bikes. Jenny was 7 and Lucy 5. I didn't really think that either was ready for life beyond stabilisers, but how wrong I was. That night I got the tools out and removed the stabilisers from both bikes. Within 24 hours Jenny was cycling around the garden, and, on the following day Lucy also managed her maiden cycle. Both girls fought it difficult initially, just as they would have done when they took their first faltering steps. Knowing that we only utilise around 2% of the brain’s capacity and with continuing encouragement and support who knows what they can achieve!

In every walk of life, we sometimes need to remove the stabilisers and get out of our comfort zones if we are to achieve our potential.

‘’A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.’’ (Patricia Neal, Actress)

Friday, 27 February 2009

United we stand

Like many others who heard the news earlier this week, I was very moved by what I saw on TV of the response to young Ivan Cameron's untimely death. The death of a young child is especially moving; I'm sure there is something instinctive in all of us that motivates us to look after and protect our young and vulnerable. In addition to being moved by the death of Ivan, I was also moved by the way in which all the political players united to share their grief and extend condolences to the Cameron family.

Politics often strikes me as an unpleasant, ruthless world where friendship or even cooperation is rarely in evidence across political divides. Why should this be? Does our country run more efficiently when the decision makers attack rivals at every turn? (Should any of our pupils behave at a school assembly or a classroom as we see elected members behaving in the commons, they would have no place in mainstream education!)

Across the Atlantic, Barack Obama has shown us that you don't need to attack your opponents all of the time to win an election. With the exception of some less than flattering words that were aimed in Sarah Palin's direction, I can not recall an unkind word being attributed to President Obama in the long running election campaign. Why cannot our politicians work together for the benefit of the electorate to get us through the current downturn in the economy? Surely, by having all the political parties working together, scores of families and hard working people might be spared the pain and suffering that comes with unemployment and losing homes. In difficult times such as these we need statesmen to emerge, politics is not for now.

''A politician looks forward only to the next election. A statesman looks forward to the next generation.''(Thomas Jefferson)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Gaelic Medium Education - Edinburgh's best kept secret?

Professor Colin Baker from the University of Bangor is an expert in bilingual education, and says bilingual children have an advantage in terms of intelligence. "They actually have a higher IQ," he said. "It seems having two languages in the brain stimulates it, adds extra associations into the brain and deepens thinking."

In 1997 just 112 Scottish pupils learned Gaelic. In 2007, 2,601 students were learning it, either in an exclusively Gaelic school, or in a bi-lingual one.
(See BBC webpages for full article)

A friend of mine recently described Tollcross Primary School as Edinburgh's best kept secret. I think what he meant by this is the fact that very few people know about the existence of the Gaelic Unit within Tollcross school and how incredibly well the pupils in the Gaelic school attain academically and achieve so well generally.

Speaking as a parent of two girls who attend the school (one in P1 and another in P4), I am delighted with the education they are receiving. Our older girl is now reading, writing and speaking quite fluently in Gaelic and English, and, pleasingly, is eager to learn other languages. At school she has the opportunity to learn the clarsach (Scottish Harp) and play shinty. Lucy (P1) loves to chat away in Gaelic, especially on the phone!

What though of the future of Gaelic Medium education in Edinburgh? I suspect that as soon as more parents become aware of what is happening at Tollcross Primary school and at other similar bi-lingual schools throughout the world, the growth of Gaelic Medium Education would be incredible. Is this an opportunity to raise attainment for all of our children and to put Edinburgh Council at the forefront of Educational thinking and practice in Scotland's 'Homecoming' year? I am pleased to learn that Edinburgh Council has commissioned a research organisation to evaluate the feasibility of developing Gaelic Medium Education.

In the meantime, sssh. Let's keep it a secret. Bigger numbers being taught in Gaelic at Tollcross would make parking and dropping off the kids even more difficult.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Life beyond the belt

''Smiling approvingly to herself at the effect of only two strokes of the tawse on this persistent late-comer, Mrs Fraser raised the strap again and lashed it down vigorously to smash into the delicate flesh of Fiona's wavering right hand.

The tawse whacked into her stinging hand at full speed. It hurt even more than Fiona had been expecting. Her hand was knocked down by the force of the blow and Fiona almost fell over forward as she doubled over in an automatic reaction. Fiona stayed like that for a few seconds, crying audibly and desperately hoping that that was the end of it and that the headmistress would think that four strokes was sufficient. ''

1982 was the year I started my teaching career. This was the year the belt (known as the 'tawse' in Scotland) stopped being used in Scottish classrooms. At the time, I recall many in the profession expressing fear that this would be the end of schooling as we know it and that our Education system would go into terminal decline. In my view this could not have been further from the truth. The staff entering the profession in the past few years are products of a system that did not rely on belting young people with a piece of leather to maintain control and order. It is my view that these are young professionals who develop higher order skills to create the atmosphere in their classroom that allows learning to flourish.

By way of example,in the past two days, I have had the pleasure of observing two of our excellent younger staff (Ms Thayne in English and Ms Welsh in French)in the classroom. The lessons I saw were first class. A number of things really impressed me. Firstly, both displayed an excellent rapport with the pupils. Both had excellent classroom control; all pupils did as they were supposed to do. Anyone who stepped out of line was gently and skilfully brought back 'on task'. It was clear to me that the pupils in the classes were engaged and active learners, not because they were fearful of the consequences, but because they were sufficiently motivated and stimulated by their teachers to want to do well.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I am wholly convinced that the best teachers are the ones who develop excellent relationships with their charges. That is not to say that the best teachers are 'friends' with the pupils. What really matters is developing a professional relationship with pupils where a common set of values are shared, expectations are sky-high and where respect is always two way.

The second thing that really struck me was how comfortable and skillful both teachers were with using IT. Both showed me some great examples of how to use IT to engage and motivate pupils, in a way that simply wasn't available until quite recently.

A highlight of both the observations for me was, immediately after the lessons, when I engaged in dialogue with both staff about their lessons.

Despite the warnings of impending gloom from many in the profession, when the belt was outlawed in the early 80s, I believe that the standard of teaching on offer in classrooms, and the quality of relationships in schools are light years ahead of where we were 30 years ago.

Monday, 2 February 2009

State versus private

''Children from poorer backgrounds should receive up to £10,000 in credit to allow them to go to independent schools, a think tank has suggested.'' This is the headline that greeted me recently as I perused the BBC website. What a load of rubbish!

The article goes on to to say ''that despite a major increase in funding for education over the past decade, many children were failed by their local schools.''. What evidence is there to suggest that children who fail to take advantage of what state education has to offer would have a different experience in private education?

Given that private education education does not, in the main, add more value to a pupil's educational progress than a state school, (refer to research work undertaken by Lindsay Paterson a few years ago) is there not an overwhelming case for parents of private school pupils to be alerted to this? Imagine the savings that those families could make, particulary in such difficult times as these!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Burns Supper

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne
(Robert Burns)

On Friday 30 January 150 performers and guests at Liberton high School celebrated the 250 anniversary of the bard's birth. This event was also part of the school's 50 anniversary. The entire event was superbly organised by Mrs Norah Watson, our Principal Teacher of HE.

The evening followed the traditional format of a Burns supper. First we were treated to a lovely supper consisting of Haggis, neeps and tatties. The food was all produced by our HE department and S4 pupils and was served by senior pupils. We are grateful to the Witchery restaurant for taking the time to train senior pupils in waiting. Following the supper, the Immortal Memory was brilliantly delivered by Dick Staite, former headteacher at Beeslack High school. Dick served as an Assistant Head Teacher at Liberton High in the days when Henry Phillip was Headteacher. I worked with Dick at Beeslack in the mid 80s, when I was the APT for Science. Following Dick's presentation, we had contributions from various performers. The order of events was:

• Joanna Greig (Welcome)
• Joyce Lochrie (Grace)
• Chris Saddler (Piper)
• David Russell (Address to the Haggis)
• Julia Lawson and Joanna Greig (Dancing)
• Dick Staite (Immortal memory)
• Eleanor Graham (Singing of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’)
• Mark O'Neill (Toast to the Lassies)
• Rachel McDade (Reply from the Lassies)
• Ian McBain (Singing of ‘Ae fond kiss’)
• Cathy Ritchie (Tam O'Shanter)
• Sheila Kennedy (Kate O'Shanter)
• Joe Walker (Holy Willie's Prayer)
• Alison Steel and Alison Thayne (Singing of 'Coming through the rye')
• Rosy Fraser (Mouth Organ) accompanied by Donald MacIntosh and
• David Donoghue (Vote of thanks).

The master of ceremonies for the evening was the hugely entertaining and witty Iain Hutchison.

All in all, this was a hugely enjoyable and successful evening. Enormous thanks are due to our HE department and pupils, especially Norah Watson who has been superhuman in her efforts to stage such a stunning evening.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Stand up to hatred

On Tuesday of this week at Liberton High we decided to make our own special contribution to the city's 'Stand up to Hatred' day. As a school we decided to focus on the Holocaust. This follows a visit by two of our senior pupils (Stuart Wilson and Megan Bryant) to Auschwitz last Autumn. The main organiser for the day was Sharon Kean our PT of Social subjects.

The day went superbly well. In addition to lessons delivered by all departments that touched on some aspect of the Holocaust, we held a conference for all S2 pupils throughout the day on the theme of standing up to hatred. To close the conference we were delighted to welcome Rabbi Soetendorp to our school to deliver an address. In all my years as a teacher I have never been as moved as I was by Rabbi Soetendorp's presentation. Rabbi Soetendorp shared with us how, being born in 1943 into a Jewish family in Nazi occupied Arnhem he would not have been expected to have survived beyond a few days. That he did so is because of the humanity of others and a great deal of good fortune. Reading about many of the events of that period in occupied countries, as I have done through the years, is one thing, but actually meeting a man who has survived and subsequently dedicated his life to promoting world peace was truly inspiring. Selecting one pupil at random in the audience Rabbi Soetendorp made the point that everyone in the world is special and unique. He made a point of emphasising that we are all special and unique whether we live in Palestine, Israel, Scotland or Darfur. He told us that that he wished for a world where there was no hatred and, in particular, a world where no children would suffer.

''Mans inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn'' (Robert Burns)