I can’t believe that five and a half thousand folk have read my blog since January. Like me, you must have too much time on your hands on rainy Sunday afternoons. If you don’t mind, just for once, I’m going to cheat a little and combine this blog with the welcome letter I shall send to all parents in the morning. The info within will still serve the purpose of my blog which is to let those interested see a little of what a Heidie gets up to; whilst also allowing me to share my views on current educational matters along the way. It’s a personal blog, the views are all my own but of course it’s about being a Heidie so there’s stuff about the schools I lead.
For those of you who had a holiday, I hope you all had a lovely time. Of course many of you are not teachers and so you may not have had a holiday yet and are still to jet off into the sun (in which case I am unjustifiably jealous).
There’s a huge misconception that schools close down for six weeks and that all teachers (and Heidies) get six weeks holiday. They don’t. Large schools like Oban High stay open throughout the period as we let out our facilities, have maintenance matters to attend to and on-going IT and Office work that needs to carry on through the period. Tiree High and Primary schools were also very busy as work continued to install new IT, corridor paneling, redecoration and the establishment of a new fitness suite.
So, I must begin with my thanks to all the staff and community partners who continued to work through the holiday period, supporting our community in a variety of ways: Office staff, Technicians, Janitors, teachers; and sports development staff were all in making sure the school was in good shape for us coming back and that our youngsters had events to attend, that they received pastoral and career support and in the case of the Oban Summer Sensations staff, ensuring the new S1s had the opportunity to enjoy bonding together before they joined their new classmates from across all 19 of our partner primaries last Thursday.
I would be also remiss not to mention all my colleagues in the Education Department, Special Projects Team; Legal Services and HR, all of whom work all year round and support Heidies like me, even in the holidays. Thank you.
In Tiree, I led the Seniors Assembly on Thursday. I led the OHS S1 Assembly on Friday… more next week.
Across the assemblies, not only did everyone get a warm welcome but I also took the opportunity to celebrate the success of our youngsters who have just received a whole range of qualifications; qualifications they can add to the wealth of wider experiences on offer last session. These qualifications and experiences combine to lead to what we believe will be another successful year where our school leavers go onto positive destinations in the workplace, college and university.
As noted widely on social media, for those who missed out on the results they hoped for there is help available on the SQA and SDS websites. However, the first port of call is of course our Principal Teachers of Guidance; supported by our in-school SDS careers expert, Colin McLeod.
Some pupils miss out on a subject and some get passes they were not expecting. In both cases this leads to a significant period of change across the subjects / classes in the first few days back. My thanks to Nan Johnstone in Oban and Aine Cooney in Tiree who are busy re-writing the timetables to accommodate the course change desires of our youngsters.
Timetable changes are also necessary at this time of year because of staffing changes. The summer term is when most teachers retire, get promoted or move schools closer to their preferred locality. Some of these vacancies are known in advance, for example a retirement; others come late in the day, like a promotion in another school. As soon as we are aware of a vacancy an advert is placed in My Job Scotland and we begin to use Social Media, professional journals and word of mouth to attract new staff.
Often we are successful and this year I welcomed to Oban:
Maria Wilkes (English); Hanna Douglas (Home Economics); Lesley Lyon (Maths); Jodie Dairon (Science); Jan Evetts (Technical Support); Ciaran Bateman, Lynsey MacDonald and Anna Knasiecka (Support Department).
And in Tiree I was pleased to welcome Sheldon McGhee (Socials)
Despite the interviews I led in the last week of term / during the holidays and the number of adverts placed both before and during the holidays – which included enticements such as the provision of staff accommodation as well as the obvious appeal of working in successful, vibrant schools with supportive communities, and set across the most beautiful parts of the country, there were no suitable applicants; indeed no applicants at all in the case of Home Economics. We also have vacancies in Oban for English, Art and Technical.
We have enough English specialists to cover all the English classes. All Art classes with the exception of a single period of S1 Art will be covered by an Art specialist. The single period will be covered internally, supported by an Art specialist.
S2 Home Economics is more difficult to cover and so rather than have multiple classes covered by a qualified teacher but non-specialist, S2 classes will be temporarily relocated to another subject for a meaningful short course delivered by subject specialists in those areas. Conversational Spanish and Sport Science will be delivered to S2 until we are able to appoint a Home Economics teacher.
In Tiree, again despite a number of adverts we are still to receive any suitably qualified PE teachers. This will lead us to use internal cover teachers to teach PE until we find someone suitable. I would note however the benefit of having partnered up with Oban in that the lessons will all be prepared by Murray Hamilton, the Head of PE; we will send PE staff to Tiree to help support cover staff; and we intend to use the new VC facility to teach the practical elements of the certificated course by a qualified teacher. Some practical work can be supervised in person by non-specialists but technically by a PE specialist watching the activity via VC to help ensure quality.
It is important to remind our communities that we are well looked after by the Council (both in Oban and Tiree) and have the resources and the finance to teach every one of the extensive courses on offer in both schools, including Home Economics but this subject in particular has a national shortage of qualified teachers and many schools have had to remove Home Economics from their timetables.
Quite often people wish to criticise the Council or the school for not having teachers. However, as a former Head of Education used to say, every year: “We can’t knit teachers.” In short, if there are no teachers applying and we have offered all kinds of extra incentives and they still don’t apply (often because they don’t exist) then there is little we can do except change the timetable and teach whatever classes we can with the quality staff we have whilst we wait to appoint.
On this same subject I would mention a myth I have heard from a few HTs across the land. Folk sit on Social Media and just make stuff up. It doesn’t matter if it’s linked to football, politics, health care or schools: amongst many other topics ranging from the secrets of a celebrity to moon landings. One such example is that Local Authorities are telling Head Teachers not to appoint staff so they can save money. No Director or Head of Education I know have anything less than high aspirations for all pupils and are well aware that to help achieve this, we need as many top quality teachers as we can employ. The Council give us money, provide the advertising opportunities and regularly send us lists of supply teachers to help get teachers in the door. All education staff across all local authorities, especially in Argyll and Bute, care about our children’s futures in my experience. That doesn’t mean we can knit teachers though.
Congratulations to Oban High’s Grade 3B Pipe Band who played in the World Championships on Saturday. They secured second place in a very demanding group full of adult bands. Due to their magnificent performances and success across the competing season, they were also crowned Champion of Champions.
Our Novice/Juvenile B Band also competed in their first World Championships and were placed 13 out of 21 competing bands. A remarkable achievement for such a young band and great platform for next session.
I am pleased by the interest shown by the Tiree High School Pipe Band members who wish to work more closely with the OHS band. It’s just a matter of tying up dates and accommodation. I’m looking forward to seeing them together as I was very impressed after watching their performance at the Tiree Prize-giving on the last day of term. Superb!!
I’d also like to say well done to all our OHS youngsters who played so well in the McCauley Cup Final on Saturday. Although, they were defeated at the end of the day; their passion and skill were still very evident. More news on the Shinty front is that thanks to the support of the MacAuley Association and the Oban Common Good Fund, our new School of Shinty will be established imminently. Thanks to Colin Carswell, Euan McMurdo, Les Kinvig, Stephen Campbell and Murray Hamilton for getting this up and running.
Celebrating success is something we should all strive to support and contribute to. Being proud of all our children’s achievements, indeed all the achievements of our staff members and local community partners is something to smile about. Please take the time to log onto the Tiree and Oban Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Much of the promotion of success actually comes from the pupils themselves, and this year the Oban Seniors have decided to use the promotional tag of #ohsmakeseverydayheroes. They have chosen this theme because they came together to discuss the level of success and wealth of opportunity across our community and concluded that this success is down to individuals commitment to our school. Throughout the year, they will do a short biography of a whole range of people, young and old, in and out of school, who help make Oban High School a fantastic school to work and learn in.
In Tiree, the theme adopted for promoting success this year was inspired by the wonderful Derek Campbell. His speech at the Prize-giving urged our youngsters to be amazing. I think that is a wonderful ambition to have and something all our pupils, no matter their age can really relate to.
I began and will end by mentioning assemblies. Every assembly I lead has a link to our school Vision and a reiteration of our values. We aspire to promote these values and in doing so hope to achieve our vison for every youngster. Regardless of size of school, many individuals interact with each other daily; all of whom have different interests, skills, views, talents and learning needs (both social and academic). We are supported by many dedicated and generous partners: local, national and international.
As we try to ensure the successful development of all our youngsters within this complex web of provision and support, we find challenges and development opportunities. The path to success, in any walk of life, is not easy and is often hard won through commitment and hard work. Thank you very much to everyone who has supported our school over the last twelve months and thank you for your continuing support for the forthcoming year. It is very much appreciated.
The rains aff’ so I’m out to walk my dogs. I hope you all have a good week coming.