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)