Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Strike day

It's been a while since I wrote about 'a day at the office' so here goes. Today was the second of two days of strike action by several non-teaching unions. Following a risk assessment and discussion with my senior leadership team, I decided that the school would open for pupils in S4, 5 and 6 only.

I got up at around 6 am, and following a hearty breakfast, I got into school for 7.30 to open the school building along with our senior depute, Drew Macrae. The task of opening the building is usually carried out by our Janitors but as they were all on strike this task falls to the headteacher as an official 'keyholder' for the building. As usual, some staff were already in the car park raring to get in and prepare lessons for the day.

The day ran as smoothly as I would have hoped. In the afternoon, we even managed to interview and appoint a PT of mathematics. All the students throughout the day were brilliant; I am really impressed at how they have matured into such responsible young adults. On a day such as this you really appreciate the support of all your pupils and staff, particularly the principal teachers. We are fortunate to have a superb group of staff at Liberton High.

At the end of the day, assisted by my hardworking and loyal SLT, we ensured that the building was secure before setting the alarm and locking the building.

Reflecting on the day, I was once again, reminded of how important our non-teaching colleagues are in the smooth running of the school. It's often said that you don't appreciate someone until they're not there. Without their input many really important services just don't happen. We coped with one day, but I would not like to be without key staff for longer. I hope that a resolution to the dispute on pay can be found quickly; all staff deserve to draw salaries that reflect today's cost of living. Importantly, all of our pupils need to be in school, taking advantage of the first class education on offer.

Monday, 15 September 2008

A fascinating day out

On Saturday I did something I haven't done for at least 10 years. Along with my wee brother and nephew I visited Ibrox to see Rangers take on the mighty Kilmarnock. From my point of view, things looked very rosy indeed at the halfway stage. Thanks to an uncharacteristic blunder by MacGregor, Killie reached half-time with a fragile, but slender lead. Thanks however to their striking talisman, aka Boyd, Rangers came through comfortably in the end to secure the three points and retain pole position in the league. Thereafter it was onto the underground and off to the centre of Glasgow in a 'Rangers pub' to join the post-match revelries. In order to protect my real allegiances I found myself listening intently whilst one very animated little man clad in red, white and blue, recounted with (disheartening) glee how much he had enjoyed his plundering visit to Parkhead only two weeks ago. My out-of-tune accompaniment of Simply The Best could easily have blown my cover. At one stage I found myself clapping a a flute band from a local lodge as they were escorted up and down past our hostelry by Strathclyde's finest. When, at one point in the conversation, mention was made of Larrson, something about his legitimacy, I found it difficult not to suggest who was the finest player to play in Glasgow in the past decade.

Following a superb curry, the latter part of the Saturday evening was spent in the Park Bar. There I met several who I went to school with many years ago. The most famous of these was Malcolm Jones (Runrig guitarist), who, along with Callum Iain MacCorquodale (also from North Uist) kept a packed venue singing, tapping and dancing until the wee small hours.

As I watched the game on Saturday, mesmerised by the touchline antics of the managers on view, I reflected on what I, as a school leader, could learn from these icons. I will come back to this in a later post!

Thursday, 11 September 2008


I am delighted to note that attendance rates and punctuality have been much improved since we resumed this term. In addition to an increased focus across the entire school on the importance of perfect attendance we also restructured our tutor groups when we resumed after the summer. After some resistance from pupils this change appears to have gone down well. It is really encouraging to see older pupils looking after our younger charges. In some instances I have witnessed younger pupils showing senior pupils what our standards should be!

I received an email yesterday from Iain Hutchison (PT Guidance) to tell me that we are currently processing 53 university applications for S6 pupils. This compares rather favourably with the 8 we were processing at the same stage in 2004. Well done to pupils parents and staff, who working together, have shown what can be achieved if we all raise our expectations!

Friday, 5 September 2008

New Term and a new year ahead.

New year is always a time for reflection and making resolutions about things we want to improve on. This is also true of the new term which began in August.

As always, it's been a very busy and hectic start to another term. Two days in-service gave us the perfect opportunity to ease ourselves in and make the necessary arrangement for the term ahead. After a seven week break, staff and pupils are refreshed and ready. Given the superb results achieved by many of our students it was great to start to term on such a positive note.
In the year ahead a continuing focus for us will be raising expectations for all our pupils. I am convinced that we need to keep raising the bar as our school continues to go from strength to strength.

A main focus for us will be in improving attendance across the school. During the summer all parents had a chance to respond to a questionnaire I sent out seeking their views on setting targets for pupil attendance. Though some parents baulked at setting a threshold for all pupils at 95%, below which, repeating the year or, in the case of senior pupils, not being presented for some exams, will, I am convinced, change many people's views on the importance of attending school. In the next few weeks, following discussion with pupils and colleagues I will firm up our plans in this area.