Thursday, 23 September 2010

Chinese studies at Liberton High

This afternoon I was privileged to accompany a group of pupils (Alex, Kelly, Austin and Colin) with Mrs McKerrecher (Principal Teacher of Languages) to our local Confucius hub at St Georges School for girls in Edinburgh. Our pupils had been invited to participate in making a short film illustrating how Chinese Studies is developing in curricula in schools in Scotland. I was so proud of how incredibly well our pupils presented their new found knowledge of Manadarin and Chinese Culture! I am reliably informed that Alex Salmond (First Minister) will be using this film as part of his official visit to China in the near future!

I am delighted to share that we are making excellent progress in developing Chinese Studies as part of our curriculum at Liberton High. Mrs Mckerrecher has been doing some fantastic work in sharing her enthusiasm for learning languages with pupils and colleagues. This session, in addition, to French, German and Spanish we are alos offering Mandarin and Chinese Studies to pupils across the school. There are also plans to Link with with our Chinese Community School to offer Chinese studies to our local primary children as part of out transition work. Watch this space for details of our progress!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Visit to no.10 Downing Street

Thursday 18 March began like any other day. I arrived at school at around 8.10 am and signed in as usual. Following a brief chat with a few colleagues I then returned to my office to read the day's correspondence. On my desk was a telephone message which said ''Are you available to go to number 10 Downing street on Monday afternoon, please call 0131....''! My initial thought was that this must be an early April fool prank from one of my colleagues. I 'phoned the number to discover that this was indeed a genuine call. My local MP, Nigel Griffiths had been asked to nominate someone in education who had made a positive impact on their school and community, and had invited me to go. I was delighted to accept the invitation and, having made the travel arrangements, i was looking forward to visiting London.

Anticipating travel delays, resulting BA strikes, i chose to travel down on Sunday arriving at Heathrow at around 5 pm. It was lovely to stay with great friends in the north of London who I hadn't seen for over a year.

On the Monday morning, I set off from Cockfosters station at around 10.30 am, arriving at Embankment station at 11.15 am. As it was a lovely day I walked along the Thames to Westminster Palace in plenty of time. As I wasn't meeting Nigel until 1230 I had time to do a bit of sightseeing.

After passing through security at the House of Commons I made my way to the central lobby where I met Nigel. We had a superb lunch in the Commons restaurant followed by coffee in an adjacent lounge. Seared scallops on a bed of salad, followed by roast loin of pork was quite a contrast to my typical Monday school lunch!

At around 2.00 we made the short walk to Downing Street. Passing through another security checkpoint I found myself standing outside that famous door. Once inside we made our way up the spiral staircase, past the portraits of former prime ministers. During the next hour I had opportunity to meet with other educationalists and MPs from all over the country. When a hush went round the room I became aware that Ed Balls (Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families) was addressing the assembly. An inspiring presentation from him led to his introducing Gordon Brown. Mr Brown spoke warmly of his school days, and, thanked everyone present for their contributions to making a difference to young people's lives. Afterwards, Mr Brown mingled among us to shake hands and to thank us.

Before leaving number 10, I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to visit the cabinet room.

On reflection, I really enjoyed what was a fantastic day. Meeting others from across the UK, and, of course, the Prime Minister, made for a day I will never forget.

Another highlight of the day for me was the time I spent in the company of Nigel Griffiths. He was a wonderful host and font of knowledge about the various people we met and the buildings we visited. What really impressed me about Nigel, was that he never spoke ill of anyone. We met people from all the different parties and reminisced about many others. Not once did he adversely criticise anyone. For me that was as memorable as it was unexpected. Perhaps the media should focus less on the adversarial side of politics.

On returning to school it was great to be greeted by kids who were excited to hear that I had been to meet the Prime Minister. When one young lad remarked, 'It's great to know we attend a good school', it made me feel proud of what we have achieved at Liberton High. As those who know the school will know, we have made considerable progress in the past few years, but much remains to be done. In particular, we must continue to improve attainment across the school and make further inroads to ensuring that all of our leavers progress to positive destinations.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

When things are getting too fast in the fast lane ...

A friend recently sent me this email which made me think about our priorities.

A professor stood before his philosophy class
and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,
he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students, if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured
them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively
filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided,
'I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things - family,
children, health, Friends, and Favorite passions –
Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, Your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else --The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' He continued,
'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for the things that are important to you.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play With your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

'Take care of the golf balls first --
The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.
'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'


This week at Liberton High we aim to raise lots of money for a variety of worthy causes by participating in Readathon. Here is a link to a really inspiring clip (from Ocoee Middle School) of another school's efforts to make reading fun for pupils!

Thanks to our librarians Mrs Babbs and Mrs Brown for sharing their enthusiasm with the entire school community.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Teachers from Malawai

It has been ages since I last blogged; it's too easy to get out of the routine!

Today we had the pleasure to welcome two colleagues from Malawi to our school. Both were on an exchange visit with colleagues at Gilmerton Primary School and chose to spend a morning with us at the high school. In the brief opportunity I had to chat with them, I was amazed at some of their life experiences. Imagine teaching classes with up to 400 pupils in the. The school they teach in has 1320 pupils and only 8 teachers. I wonder if they are 'meeting learners' needs'?