“What! More? Never before has a boy asked for more.”

It may not be snowing just now but the other effects of Winter are very much in evidence as the storms batter our shores and the wee flu bugs batter our immune systems. The impact on schools and our communities can be significant. The numbers of children absent from school can be measured clearly by our attendance statistics, as can the number of teachers bed-bound – both affecting how our youngsters move forward with their lessons.

“Flu season” is of course not unique, it occurs in every school to lesser or more degree each year across the land. This is what happens when you put so many people in a room / school together.  No matter the precautions, germs spread and one by one, family members, then friends, then school mates, then teachers succumb to the coughing and spluttering. Indeed, this blog has been delayed by a week as I myself was suffering from ‘Man Flu’ last week.

How do schools cope? Well, because this happens every year we have plans in place to lessen the impact of pupil and staff absence. In the case of pupils being absent, staff use Google Classroom more and more to share lessons so that even if a pupil is confined to home they can, should they choose to, follow the basics of each lesson. They should be able to see the learning intentions of a lesson, perhaps a summary sheet of what was achieved, copies of the pages of a book used or web link to a video shown. Not all teachers utilise Google Classroom as fully as others but we have been continually delivering IT training to staff throughout the year to help. We delivered ‘Google-training’ to all Oban staff at the recent in-service day; and we hosted more advanced training, delivered by our excellent Education IT Team led by Gary Clark to staff from all schools across Argyll and Bute who attended OHS this week. Staff from both Oban and Tiree were part of those learning about the wealth of possibilities for the future.

In terms of planning for staff absence, we endeavour to bring in as many Supply teachers as we can to cover lessons left without their normal teacher. This often gives parents cause for concern because they remember what supply often looked like “back in the day”, when quite often Supply teachers were left to babysit classes. These days, our PTs have all the courses well planned and so when a member of staff goes off, the PT starts an absent teacher’s lesson bearing in mind the lesson planned. They then leave the Supply or Cover teacher work to take the pupils learning forward. All our teachers are fully qualified, and whilst they may be covering a lesson in a subject they are unfamiliar with, they still know how to support youngsters with tasks left for them – and if any difficulty, they can nip next door and ask the PT subject specialist.

Additionally, we bear in mind the subject specialism of the Supply/Cover teacher and try as far as possible to link them to a similar discipline. For example, a Physics teacher is more likely to cover a Maths lesson; a History teacher is more likely to cover a Modern Studies lesson.

There are unfortunately times when we do not have enough Supply teachers on tap or enough internal Cover teachers to cover all the lessons during Flu season. And of course, it’s not just illness that keeps staff out of school. The week before last saw us with teachers in short supply because the Supply teachers themselves were ill; we had staff already out doing compulsory training; two others suffered bereavement in their families: and this led us to having to merge classes. This also causes some concern amongst parents. However, all schools plan for this too as it will almost certainly happen during at least one week in a year.

Classes that are merged still have lesson plans to progress with, still have teachers to help pupils and still have subject specialists on hand if required. These merged classes often are put together in a games hall or gym. In our case we can use the Atrium. Our Atrium is split in two sections and has teaching screens in both areas. When we merge classes to this extent, the classes are supervised by Depute Heads. The merged classes in an Atrium are also restricted to Junior classes. As Flu season is close to the exams we re-jig the staffing to ensure our Senior classes get access to subject specialist as a priority.

Timetabling issues were not solely restricted to dealing with staff absence this week. As well as this period being referred to as Flu Season; it is also referred to as the Course Options term. It is this time of year that sees our Guidance and teaching staff sitting down with pupils and parents discussing how they have been getting on with their courses and what subjects and experiences they should engage with next year as they pursue their career choices. These discussions begin with class teachers following the Prelim results being shared, then the pupils meet with their Guidance teacher. To help pupils and parents have a greater understanding what is on offer in the school, in college, at university and in the work place, we also hold an open evening where school departments; Argyll College and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) provide information and offer support and guidance.

We are also very lucky to benefit from SDS committing to send a careers advisor to every S2 Guidance / pupil interview – and with all our Guidance careers interviews, all parents are welcome to attend and learn about what is on offer. We strongly encourage this as careers, qualifications and university entrance requirements are significantly different to when parents attended school.

The information gleaned from school reports, Prelims, Guidance interviews and SDS careers discussions help pupils to get a better idea of what they may choose. When this is a little clearer we then ask pupils what they are likely to choose when the final course option form goes live. This exercise allows us to create column structures that are likely to meet the choices of most pupils. Parents often ask why we restrict pupil’s choices in columns. The answer is simple; and equally true for all schools. If we have 450 pupils choosing 5/6 subjects from a choice of up to 88 different courses the possible individual combinations run into thousands. No school could match every combination, which is why our columns represent “best fit” in any given year. What is important to note is that across the three years of the Senior Phase, pupils should be able to access their full choice of subjects. For example, if they can’t do Modern Studies in S5 because of a column clash; they could pick that subject up in S6.

Our column structure is almost complete for Oban and the “real” options forms will go out in the next couple of weeks. I am also hoping that we will be able to add further to the choice of courses on offer as we continue to try and firm up the ability for us to offer more Foundation Apprenticeships.

I should warn everyone, again, that although we offer at least 88 course across S4-6, we will not run them all. We offer a wealth of choice each year because different pupils wish to undertake different subjects. One year many pupils may wish to undertake Hospitality and less in Physics; the following year, we may see a spike in Physics and only one pupil wanting to do Chemistry. Every cohort is different. We always issue a warning on our course option sheets (as every school does) that subjects are offered “subject to uptake and staff availability”.

The new partnership with Tiree and the new Skype for Business IT facilities we are installing will allow us to ensure that we are able to offer more subjects in both schools. If one or two pupils opt to take an Advanced Higher, and normally this would not be enough to run the course; then it could be that we would combine the small numbers in both schools and run the course with more viable numbers; using Skype to deliver one way or the other.

Schools and colleges across the country have been using VC to great effect over the last few years. We currently use a VC facility called Vscene just now to teach Gaelic. It works very well. It will work even better I believe as the new technology just delivered to Oban and Tiree by the Education IT team is the best available at the current time.

The only problem with such fantastic equipment is sometimes those who operate it, as I found out during three Skype test sessions recently. We have been using staff meetings and parent meetings to test the new equipment before we use it in June with classes. Obviously this is a sensible approach as evidenced by the recent trials. Firstly, we had a very good shared in-service day between Tiree and Oban using Skype, though in one session we learned a lot about the importance of staff positioning in the class. The next trial was between the OHS Parent Council and myself and DHT, Jemma Playfair in Tiree. It showed the system worked and that such meetings could successfully take place but it also taught us about problems of linking additional hardware to the laptops. Once that issue was addressed and we had all the equipment and settings fine-tuned and tested we tried to use the record function during a parent information evening in Tiree and I ended up recording an empty room! Problem now solved – and no harm done.

Why am I sharing all these errors with you? Because it is an important life lesson for everyone, adult and child alike. We need to be innovative, be brave, not shirk from change, development and improvement just because we might make mistakes or even fail completely. Society and life thrives on innovation and requires trial and error before we can be as successful. My examples show there is nothing wrong with such an approach. Trial, error, then learning in test environments ensures we can push the boundaries of the learning experience we can provide, thus ensuring every pupil has a greater chance to achieve their dreams.

Other highlights of the last fortnight include my visit to the P7 pupils of St’ Columba’s and Rockfield Primary schools. Each year as part of the P7-S1 Transition stage I try to visit as many P7s as I can across our 19 Partner Primary schools. I thoroughly enjoy these visits as I am always met by keen youngsters, eager to hear all about what it is like in Oban High School; and of course this year sees me deliver the description of life in the new OHS for the first time.

This is now the 11th year of such meetings and as such I am well aware of three common concerns faced by most P7s every year. Firstly, they worry about getting lost in the big school. Remember, although we have schools with primaries of over 300, we also have wee schools where perhaps there is only one or two coming from a particular primary. No wonder they are daunted by the change, even although we have endeavoured to get them along to the High School throughout the year and they’ve caught a glimpse of life in OHS, whether through taking part in a P7 project, a sporting event or an event like Maths Fest.

My answer to those worried by getting lost is that they shouldn’t worry. There are about 150 adults around the school they can approach; and our seniors are very friendly too. They are all given a senior Prefect buddy, a map and extra time to get around, so they’ll all be fine.

The second fear is that the work will be too hard. My reply focuses on getting them to recall the difference between moving between P6 and P7. I tell them that we work closely with their Primary teacher, who tell us what they have been learning and that just as the work got a little harder between P6 and P7, so it is between P7 and S1. All we do is build on the work done by their Primary teacher and make it a little harder to achieve natural progression. The same is true between S1 and S2.

Finally, the third worry is about bullying. My reply is in line with the guidance given by all teachers. If a pupil is being bullied, then they or a friend need to tell someone. As soon as we know someone is being bullied we can step in to help repair the relationships that are causing the bullying to take place. If we don’t know about it, we can’t act.

As well as working away in OHS on timetabling, course options, negotiating staff contracts, holding interviews (I have just secured a new Home Economics teacher for Oban and Janitor for Tiree), meeting contractors about the new school (completion date this Wednesday), discussing finances as we get close to the end of the financial year and holding whole staff meetings or one-to-one management meetings, I was on my travels to Tiree.

Last week I was in Tiree with our Head Janitor (Lynne) to work on harmonising the role of the janitorial roles between both schools and to drop off new tools and technical equipment necessary to make sure building work, as well as lessons take place with the right tools for the jobs. Also in attendance was Jemma Playfair who has been working with Aine on listening to the views of pupils about things important to them. As a result of their views we have worked with the catering service to improve choice in the canteen and the pupils report they have seen a change to their liking. These discussions will continue as we hope to improve choice yet further.

The pupils were equally pleased to learn that their desire to have a new uniform is taking shape. Jemma is currently working with them on choosing a new uniform, new badge and perhaps a change to the school name. Pupils and staff clearly indicated they want a separate Tiree Primary School and Tiree High School identification. The school badge art work is on about version 6 or 7 and is being mocked up with Digital Kangaroo in Oban.

Of course with all changes affecting a school community, we need to seek the views of all parties and the uniform, badge and name consultation will shift to parents soon. This is similar in nature to the change to the school day consultation, though we started with parents, then staff. The consultation has now shifted to the catering service and transport sector.

This week saw me in Tiree with Councillors Roddy McCuish and Jim Lynch. Both were keen to learn about the progress we were making with taking forward the recommendations in the School Review and in meeting pupils and staff. They also took the opportunity to seek the view of members of the Tiree Community over the provision of flights: flights we used ourselves to get to and from Tiree, ably assisted by one of our pupils Cameron Allan who has been doing long-term work experience at Oban Airport. A job he loves. He has lots of great people to work with there, especially Dixie, who looks after me and my staff as we come and go. It is much appreciated… as is the pilot, Wolfgang keeping us alive in the shoogly plane.

Much of the School Review developments so far have focused on developing the partnership between staff in OHS and THS. These partnerships will ensure that the curriculum in both schools move forward at the same time and in line with local and national good practice. It will also ensure that that staff in each school have a bigger team to work with. This is great for both schools as every school needs another to partner and moderate lessons, courses and assessments with. It is mutually beneficial.

The High School partnerships began first because as the head of two high schools, this was easy to achieve. However, I also lead an ELC and Primary school. To support their development, I thought it best to seek the support and guidance from an experienced Primary Head Teacher. Minnie MacLellan, with many successful years of experience in leading two primary schools and with a Gaelic and island background herself seemed to be an obvious choice. Minnie has now kindly been working on my behalf with the PT of Primary/ELC, Julie MacLennan and her team. Together, they are working on an improvement plan that will ensure that our primary colleagues will also be able to work in partnership with colleagues, sharing good practice and delivering a curriculum that ensures our youngsters continue to learn all they need to ensure continuity of learning from the ELC, through the Primary, into the High School and beyond.

Minnie also kindly led a parental information evening on the subject of building a curriculum. The session focused on discussing with parents what Tiree parents thought were important contributory skills, values and career destinations necessary to consider for teachers planning what to teach and why we are, or why we should be delivering additional knowledge and skills. As much as some in the audience may have been more aware than others about the history and nature of their community, there were many others who told me they valued the evening as being enlightening. For my part, as the new Head Teacher and not familiar with the history and environment, I found the session to be immensely interesting and useful.

Kevin Champion and I acted as the assistants and added information that helped shaped the next steps to the Primary developments as evidently, Primary pupils become High School pupils and we need to work together. Kevin was in Tiree to work with his Senior DHT partner, sharing experiences and self-evaluation systems crucial to evidencing the success or otherwise of all we do and contributing to the next steps planning stage of our improvement plan. As the Head of Guidance in Oban, he also had the opportunity to work with the new PT Guidance Laura Kilpatrick on Guidance issues but also discussing how she could add to the OHS course options through teaching Music Technology, something we can’t currently offer without her expertise.

At the same time we had Kevin over in Tiree, we had Jack Cooney, teacher of Computing in OHS working with his new colleagues… and covering classes caused by the aforementioned Flu.

My visit to Tiree extended into the weekend again as I found myself privileged to be part of the school musical production of Oliver, in which I played the part of Mr Bumble. Whilst my acting talents were a tad rusty, my costume, made by the very talented Claire Brady, ensured that I at least looked the part.

Fortunately, I was only on stage briefly, which gave me the chance to run around the front to watch all my pupils getting engrossed in their roles and thoroughly enjoying themselves. There is nothing more satisfying to any teacher than to see their kids smiling away, enjoying themselves, and of course learning so many skills as they do so. The evening show and a Saturday matinee were enthusiastically well attended and I am aware from many discussions after the show and on the ferry home that it will be remembered for some time to come.

These shows only come off because of the enjoyment of the kids; the enthusiasm of the audience; and the hard work of the adults involved, teachers and parents/community helpers alike. Well done to everyone; especially Julie, Becky, Ishbel and Laura.

Everybody enjoyed themselves – a great way to end the week!!

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“Blown away”

A reminder that my Blog is not a diary; it merely reflects my thoughts about what I have been doing and thinking in a particular week. Sometimes it has more about Oban, about Tiree; about my work with the Council, BOCSH, SCEL, SLS etc; and sometimes about my views on Scottish Educational issues. Advanced warning: my witterings this week are varied and a tad longer.

Last week’s blog included a great evaluative summary from the Good School’s Guide, from their evaluation of our school the previous week:

“If you have a vision of secondary education as a linear, largely shared academic experience with national exams strategically placed along the way, think again. Oban High school probably more than any other secondary school we have visited has fully embraced the idea of the Curriculum of Excellence and shaping an education to each individual child.”

“We struggle to describe this as a school: more a complete educational experience. Inspiring leadership has meant they tackle a huge and complex catchment area with commitment and dedication.”

It is worth repeating if only to complement the observations made by the HMI following their Thematic Inspection of OHS last Monday. You may recall that as part of the Scottish Government’s drive towards school improvement and the empowerment of Head Teachers and their school communities, I noted that the HMI were carrying out a number of Thematic inspections across the country. Oban High School was chosen to be evaluated on “Leadership of the Curriculum”.

Leadership is an interesting concept because everyone thinks of leadership in different ways. What is leadership? Is it an individual leading others along a route chosen by the leader? Is it a single person deciding who else is allowed to lead and encouraging leadership amongst others? Is it a committee or team of people leading the rest of the organisation?

How we viewed leadership was the first challenge posed by the HMI. My answer: Leadership is about everyone recognising that they have a leadership role to play. It should be assumed as a natural responsibility and not one foisted upon or gifted by someone higher. I believe that pupils, teachers, support staff, parents and community partners all have a leadership role to play if we are to ensure we continually improve the breadth and depth of care and education we provide to our community. If everyone shares our vision and takes ownership of what they can achieve, either as an individual and/or as part of a team then the school will naturally move forward with pace and consistency. It will thrive because of the collective will and collective talents of all and not just rely on one person (the Head Teacher), or a few (the Senior Leadership Team).

I was pleased by the HMI’s assessment of our leadership of learning being “accurately outlined and well defined”. Particularly pleasing was the recognition that there was “evidence of pupil leadership and how they were leading their own learning”. As with all positive observations there is always a caveat… on this occasion, the observation that there was variable leadership ability across teachers. Entirely natural and to be addressed.

Some people, Head Teachers included, love praise and hate criticism, even if it is positive criticism. It is my contention that one is unlikely to receive much praise if they cannot welcome observations on the aspects of life that are less than perfect. The reason I am content for other organisations like the HMIe, Good School’s Guide; Investors in People etc. to come into our school and have free reign to watch our lessons; evaluate our exam results; or interview our pupils, staff, parents and partners (as has been the case twice this month) is that a fresh eye on what we are doing is crucial to being able to improve. Sometimes someone will give advice that is out of context and so of less value but on most occasions we use the independent comments and suggestions for improvement to continue our journey of improvement.

And, building on prior advice is perhaps why the HMI continued with more praise for our Learning, Teaching and Assessment Policy; the quality of our support staff; the wealth of partnerships we have established; the very positive relationships we have with parents; the success of our assessment and moderation activities; the level of empowerment felt by Principal Teachers and how they use this leadership; and the strong levels of reflection shown by teachers.

The HMI thought our youngsters were great and that they had no difficulty in describing our curricular success, they spoke highly of our Pathways Programme, which provides vocational opportunities and experiences to seniors to supplement their academic qualifications; and particularly pleasing was our youngsters’ insistence that Oban High School equally values both the academic and vocational. The large number of Baccalaureates we provide are highly valued to some going to university; but not any less valuable than the Customer Services awards that will get some a job straight from school.

This example, amongst others, helps explain a final parting observation by the HMI when it was noted that there are “not many schools that can achieve this level of inclusion”.

Awaiting, then experiencing, any HMIe visit creates a certain tension across a school community and so at the end of the visit I met with pupils, then staff, then sent messages to parents and partners saying thank you and well done. They all knew the school, both vision and practice, and they outlined where we were and how we could improve. All took responsibility for leading the school… and exemplified my definition admirably. Pheww!

A special mention has to go to my Senior Depute Head in Oban, Kevin Champion. Kevin was responsible for putting together all the preparatory reports and evidence and for setting up all the interviews with pupils, staff, parents and partners. Given the importance of the visit and the need for an attention to detail, I am very pleased (and relieved) his work was excellent. A fantastic effort. Thanks Kevin.

Of course I mentioned that with praise should naturally come critique. So, what’s next to add to our School and Department Development Plans?

Well first up is that I’ll need to re-write the curriculum rationale. When I first heard this statement my heart sank as I thought the criticism was of our curriculum itself; and given I’ve been running about Scotland and Norway promoting it, this could have been very embarrassing. Thankfully the Curriculum was great, it’s just we under-sell ourselves by not describing it very well.

More seriously we have work to do in developing a deeper understanding of the Broad General Education amongst staff (and I would argue with many parents). The BGE contains a breadth of education that pupils are entitled to experience, covering eight curricular areas. A key purpose is to ensure that between S1 and S3 pupils get a baseline education covering knowledge and experiences they will need to make their way in life after school. It was designed that way to help overcome the problem of schools narrowing the curriculum so that pupils were only taught a limited number of subjects so they could pass their exams in that narrow range of subjects.

The BGE has a heavy lean towards ensuring we teach literacy, numeracy and health and well-being for all and indeed these three areas are the responsibility of all teachers to ensure these basic skills are taught, reinforced and consolidated across all subjects. Additionally, we continue to develop inter-disciplinary courses; ensure we share with pupils the learning outcomes and success criteria and skills to be learned in lessons – all to ensure that pupils see the relevance of doing subjects and topics within subjects and how they fit with the real world.

The media has wrongly lambasted a Curriculum for Excellence (especially the BGE) for many years. Lazy reporting had mistaken the professions frustrations around the new qualifications as being one and the same. They are not. I know many who are still fed up with the qualifications changing year after year. I am not aware of many, though they do exist, who can argue against a Curriculum that delivers a wealth of knowledge and skills to youngsters varied enough to expand their knowledge of the themselves, the workplace, the world they live in.

If you believe the purpose of school is to prepare young people for life and work, then the BGE is great (though can still be improved); and if you believe school is merely to provide youngsters with 8 O Grades, then you may be one of those arguing with the Government for a revision of the curriculum again. Head Teachers across the land uttered many expletives when this came out. Everyone is entitled to their view though.

The consultation document can be found here:

https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/110962.aspx

Last week I wrote about those who harken back to their own schools days, usually around the 80s. Back then we had the ability to tackle up to 8 O Grades across S3 and S4; 5 subjects (Highers or O Grades) in S5 and another 5 in S6 (though most only did 3 and had lots of “free periods”. Sorry, most pupils had left school by S6 with few courses at an appropriate level of breadth of interest available to them.

Two main problems: firstly, only about 30% could manage to do 8, either because of ability but also because they simply had no interest in studying for 8 subjects, most of which they didn’t like or were forced into. Standard Grade replaced the O Grades and allowed for three levels of certification across the 8 subjects (Foundation, General and Credit – the latter being equivalent to the O Grade) but still kids hated doing 8 and would try and sabotage their way out of classes constantly: wasting the time of teachers and causing a major headache for Guidance and Deputes – what to do with 70% of pupils who could not or would not stay in all 8 subjects?

Another key complaint was that there was too big of an academic jump between O Grades / Credits and the Higher. When the new National Qualifications were designed, the National 5 qualifications were deliberately designed to be harder and to close the gap between the Higher. They were also to be delivered in one year (S4). Clearly pupils having harder courses to sit in less time required a solution. The solution for the majority of schools was to reduce the subjects on offer from 8 to 6, thereby allowing more time and more chance of passing all 6. This also had the added benefit of not forcing pupils into many more subjects they didn’t want to do.

For those who complained that pupils would not get as many qualifications as previous generations four points were made and repeated often:

1. Most pupils never sat 8 in the first place;

2. Pupils can still get as many qualifications as before, they just need to spread them evenly over S4-S6;

3. A cautionary note about the stress caused by trying to do 8 harder subjects in less time would have on the health of youngsters;

4. Those traditionally sitting 8 are almost certain to go onto do 5 Highers to get into university, and no university asks for more than 5 Highers, so what’s the point of having to do 8 Nationals?

At Oban High School (following consultation with pupils, parents and staff), we moved to 6 subjects like most others. Our pass rates at the O Grade/Credit/National 5 remain on par, sometimes better, sometimes less so, with the averages attained before the change (though it should be remembered it is not a level playing field because the Nat 5s were designed to close the gap and are more difficult many subjects argue).

With regard to Higher results: they have improved significantly between both periods. This could be because we have employed better teachers; have better ways of teaching now; have better resources etc. Or, it could be that the new Nationals really do prepare youngsters better for the Highers and the system of spreading them evenly over three years rather than front loading in S4 works very well.

In terms of overall success rates: by the time pupils leave school, a pupil in Oban High is twice as likely to get 8 or more Highers and 10 times more likely to get 10 or more Highers compared with our Virtual Comparator.

One further adaptation we have put in place this year allows pupils to attain up to 9 subjects in S4 and we have done so without reducing the time allocated to the basic 6. How? Pupils will now be able to collect a National 4 or 5 in PE and RMPS. These are compulsory subjects that all pupils in Scotland have to do. Our staff have re-worked the courses to allow our youngsters to achieve qualifications as well as experiences. We have also built in Scottish Studies units across many subjects and will add a short term course in June to ensure the full award can be gained.

Why? Why not? If we can, we will.

Oban High School is not alone in making these changes and there are more than a few who are leading the way with ensuring that our youngsters get the best possible qualifications – Tiree High School will be included in these improvements.

The Inspection had kept me away Tiree for some time, though I was still able to lead developments from afar courtesy of VC; and having a number of excellent staff on the island. Oban staff have been working with our island colleagues on course development, assessment and moderation as well as professional learning through shared practice. We had OHS staff teaching Tiree classes and Tiree staff teaching Oban kids; whilst others focused on strategic developments. The impact on staff from both schools is noticeable.

Wednesday saw me attend the Joint Services Committee in the morning and Chairing the Education Budget Steering Group in the afternoon but the best part of the day was without question attending the annual Dance Show in the evening. I say every year that it gets better and better… this year was a cracker, even the teachers demonstrated a lot of talent (a lot of the recent appointments have all been experienced dancers). Our partnership with the internationally renowned Ballet West; the continuing growth and diversity of our excellent Sports Coaching programme and the dedication of both staff and pupils, led by the brilliant Denise Gemmell ensured a night to remember. Thanks too to our Primary pupils who came along and entertained the audiences with spectacular routines.

staff dance

Thanks to Kevin McGlynn for this picture.

I was back on Tiree on Thursday and Friday (in fact I am here until Monday). In that time I have renewed and changed staff contracts, almost concluded the recruitment process for a new Janitor; worked on plans to improve our school property; began changes to next year’s curriculum to allow more courses to be offered to pupils; teased out some of the views given in the recent pupil focus groups with some pupils; liaised with external partners to come in to provide more courses; and worked with Oban staff over the joint In-service provision next week.

Saturday evening has obviously seen me write this Blog. Tomorrow I’m composing a letter to parents with an update on where we are with the school review and asking for their views on a possible new curriculum; maybe even a change to the school badge, name and uniform – all suggested by pupils.

However such decisions are reserved for the leadership of all, not for one. I look forward to seeing how it all comes together.

I don’t want to kid you all on and suggest I spent the whole weekend working. Saturday morning saw me tour the island with Archie and Maisie. We had a great time walking along Balevullin Beach (it was a bit windy), then Sandaig Beach (even windier), then on the recommendation of the only other locals brave enough to be out in the gale (Chrystal and Daisy) we were off to the Hynish Centre and Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum (exceptionally interesting for an historian like myself).

Balevuillen

I thoroughly recommend Tiree, no matter the weather. Its stunning scenery and friendly locals will ensure you have great time.

The HMI opened the week with a statement about being “blown away” with Oban High School’s curriculum and inclusion” and I’ve closed with being blown away with Tiree’s scenery and hospitality. A well rounded ending to this week’s blog I feel.

How do you like your tea? Strong.

A short blog.

“No blog last week. Shocking! What on earth were you up to Bain?”

With the HMIe about to descend on Oban High tomorrow as part of a national thematic inspection on how head teachers and their schools have been empowered to develop the curriculum, my attentions have been largely focused on ensuring that we re-evaluate our curriculum and prepare the reports necessary before their arrival; as well as meeting with all the staff, parents, pupils and local organisations and businesses that will be interviewed to determine our successes and further development needs. It’s all rather time consuming but I have to say a very valuable exercise as it does force us to take stock of our vision, values, aims and ensure we measure the impact on the pupils of all that we have been striving for.

This external evaluation comes close on the heels of another. “The Good School’s Guide” is a totally independent review publication which sends their staff the length and breadth of the UK reporting on schools’ care and education as a way of informing parents who are thinking about where they would like to send their children. As you are well aware parents living in a rural area like Argyll tend to send their children to the local school; but not always. We have lots of pupils who choose to come to Oban instead of other school catchment areas or even from abroad because of the breadth of qualifications we offer. I’m not permitted to share the full review with you (you’ll need to buy the next GSG update if you wish) but I can offer you a teaser or two:

“If you have a vision of secondary education as a linear, largely shared academic experience with national exams strategically placed along the way, think again. Oban High school probably more than any other secondary school we have visited has fully embraced the idea of the Curriculum of Excellence and shaping an education to each individual child.”

“We struggle to describe this as a school: more a complete educational experience. Inspiring leadership has meant they tackle a huge and complex catchment area with commitment and dedication.”

“Peter Bain may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is a man with a strong vision and a passion for education.”

I have to say I don’t mind not being everyone’s cup. If any leader in any business was well liked by all, then something would be far wrong. Improvement, innovation and aspiration requires change and not all people like change; yet change is necessary. The world around us is changing, many of the jobs we will be doing in a generation will look quite different from that which we do just now. Consequently, the qualifications and experiences which we provide in school, with the support of our partners like Argyll College, Ballet West, Open University or Glasgow University (Reach), need to change too. Many staff, parents and pupils recognise this and appreciate the changes we are making to ensure we prepare our youngsters for work; others cannot see beyond their own education and advice given to them from 20 or 30 years ago.

It is for this reason that I am pleased to note that we have yet again secured the continuing support of Skills Development Scotland (SDS). I met with Area Managers Margaret Bennett (Oban) and Pamela Little (Tiree) this week to ensure that careers advisors will be present in careers discussions between our pupils and our parents; thus ensuring parents are given the most up-to-date guidance from the experts. It is quite an undertaking by SDS to send extra careers advisors to our schools during course options and I am extremely grateful to them. Of course parents should be aware that families may also use the excellent World of Work website developed by SDS.

Top tips for parents:

1. If your child knows what career they wish to embark on. Look on-line for initial advice on qualifications and experiences required; then speak to their Guidance teacher who will give them advice and will then arrange an appointment with a careers advisor if necessary.

2. If your child does not know what they want to do when they leave school. Aim to get the highest possible qualifications they can (including English). Leaving with any 5 Highers/National 5s etc (always including English) will allow entry to an endless number of university/college courses or for securing the basic qualifications to get an interview for a job.

3. Allow pupils to choose their own subjects; subjects they enjoy. If they enjoy the subjects they are doing, then they will more likely pass them; and at a higher grade. Do not tell them they must choose one from Science, one from Socials, one like Admin, Business etc. This was the advice I received in the 80s. If pupils follow this and are forced to take subjects they do not enjoy, they may miss out on the grades they need.

4. A very few subjects like medicine and dentistry have very specific demands. Make sure you know what these are. Don’t guess/ don’t assume the 80s model.

5. Finally, employers and universities are increasingly looking for pupils to have acquired experiences that will allow them to do well in their new job or survive living away from home. Once a pupil has gained the necessary qualifications they need for a job interview / university entrance, balance S6 with a wider range of experiences (most of which have qualifications linked to them them). Interviewers seem more interested in asking questions about things like a Leadership or Customer services experiences than how many extra Highers or Advanced Highers a candidate has. This is advice from Business leaders not just Head Teachers.

 I should also pay tribute to SDS for supporting us in developing Foundation Apprenticeships for pupils in both Oban and Tiree. It is very early days as we tease out the structure, staffing and finance of these between the schools, SDS and Argyll College but Aisling Clark (PT Developing the Young Workforce) has already received support from the local business community to secure placements for our Oban kids. I briefly mentioned this during the Parent Council meeting in Tiree in an effort to get the ball rolling there too, so we will be looking at placements for all youngsters.

Whether we are offering academic National 1 Courses or full Baccalaureates; Foundation apprenticeships or Customer Service units for those who wish to balance the academic and the vocational experiences, our promise is to ensure we provide any qualification or experience one needs (not wants) for any pupil to get any job or any university place in Scotland.

One parent told the Good Schools Guide we are not as good as we think we are because we try to offer too much to our pupils. Some parents scoffed at us offering vocational subjects like Bakery instead of more Advanced Highers. My response to this is simple. If a pupil needs an Advanced Higher to get into a Scottish University, we will run it. If a pupil wishes a career where a Bakery qualification will help them get a job; we will run it.

Our Vision is for all pupils to succeed. Those pupils doing the many Advanced Highers / Baccalaureates we offer and those who wish to work on the land; in factories; in shops, offices, hotels, bars and hairdressers. We can and we will support every child’s dreams… along with our partners and friends in the community.

 Hold on a minute whilst I climb down off my soapbox…

So back in Tiree last Monday and it was some of these tips I was sharing. Tips already frequently given to OHS parents. I was very pleased to note a well-attended Parent Council meeting: a meeting that was full of parents interested in the developments underway and of those volunteering their services (and resources) to the school. I have been lucky to have the support of the OHS Parent Council and it seems to be that the THS parents are equally dedicated to the task of supporting our school.

I have had the privilege of working alongside many parents over the years who have embraced this endeavour and have sought to support the changes necessary to ensure that every child has access to the same opportunities as others. The support of parents in securing funding for our Hardship Fund, our Breakfast and Homework Clubs and for other initiatives linked to the Scottish Government’s (and our) desire to close the poverty related attainment gap are very noticeable. My thanks to all the parents who give up their time to help in our schools either with fund-raising or supporting good causes; in promoting initiatives linked to the health and well-being of our kids; or in helping us to support parents, help their children with their studies and experiences.

I was grateful for the delivery of paint for the THS out-buildings and for the offer of help to paint the walls. Other property issues I worked on this week included the installation of a new roof to much of the school. I am also in the process of building a new fitness room and have already purchased the equipment; new offices have been built for the new PT and secretarial roles; the heating is in the process of being sorted; and new computers/IT equipment has been ordered to bring the IT up to the same spec as Oban. My thanks to George Campbell, Billy Ingram, Maria McPhee and Kevin Brown.

Of course one of the biggest IT changes taking place across both Oban and Tiree is the establishment of Skype to ensure better communication between the partnered staff and to enable the ability to share learning experiences thus expanding the level of choice in both schools. I am thankful to the Council for investing heavily in the installation and purchase of equipment to make this happen.

Property meetings in Oban led me to check over the new carpark, bus turning and outside social spaces in the grounds of the new OHS. Nearly there. Inside we are now at the stage where we are making minor repairs caused by the wear and tear of over a thousand people making their way around and in and out of our school. We are also about to add some CCTV to the Atrium and more importantly our newly agreed Values (based on our Vision statement) are to be placed on the Atrium walls.

Following a consultation exercise with OHS pupils, parents, staff and partners the values of Ambition, Compassion, Respect and Resilience were identified as those our community most thought worthy of recognising and promoting.

Jemma Playfair (DHT) carried out exactly the same exercise with pupils in Tiree last week and is about to launch the staff and parent consultation this week. I am aware the THS community share these same values, amongst others, though I am interested to note whether they will feature as the top four as well. It matters not if they match or not. What is important is that each school promotes its own set of values.

I have mentioned a fair few partners above and my week continued with more meetings about ensuring continuing support from another two great organisations of a similar nature. The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme has been provided both within and in addition to the traditional OHS curriculum for many years now. Since we took the initiative to take place the award at the centre of our enhancement activities and secured the support of many staff, dozens of pupils each year benefit from the experiences and lessons learned as they make their way through the Bronze, Silver and Gold tasks. My discussions this week were around utilizing the partnership with Tiree so that both sets of students can take part in the activities away from their immediate local communities but still have the support of the others environment and resources. There’s no point in dragging tents across a ferry when the same equipment is at either end for example. My thanks to Lucy Girling for driving forward all the initial developments in Oban; and to Aimee McIntosh for taking over now.

Freda Fallon’s leadership of developments with Outward Bound is another success story. We have now progressed from delivering leadership courses each year to S6 pupils to allowing our S3 pupils to experience what it is like to use the outdoors as a leadership opportunity… one that because of the nature of the setting encourages ambition to succeed in a unfamiliar setting, compassion for the feelings of team-mates, all of whom will be stressed to some degree by the experience; respect for the skills each team member brings to the endeavour and resilience throughout the challenges set.

Another example of how we plan to link our lessons, in and out of the classroom, with what we need to build on to better prepare our youngsters for life and work after school.

Partnerships is a theme I shall explore again next time as just this week Wenche R. Kavli, Head Teacher of Skedsmo videregående skole and Knut Kirknes from Mailand Videregående Skole, Norway, both contacted me to take forward international opportunities we are working on alongside the Scottish College of Educational Leadership.

I would love to keep typing away with more info and thoughts but the HMI will be here soon, so I better get myself and my team in order to show off what a wonderful school community we work in. The HMI will interview me, the senior leadership team, groups of teachers, support staff, then pupils, parents and local partners… it’s going to be a busy day.

I’ll tell you all about it next week. Meantime, for those interested in many of the daily goings on over the last couple of weeks, go onto Facebook. I instructed all the staff in both schools to increase the number of posts published to keep giving parents and the wider community an idea of life in our schools; as well as for key messages, travel updates and sharing our numerous success stories.

Please feel free to share any FB post.

If you are a parent reading this and have any questions about anything, contact your child”s Guidance teacher in the first instance.

Anyone else reading my personal blog who wants to get in touch about sharing good practice; wants info on any of the professional learning I am involved in; or are offering support for my Oban or Tiree kids, PM me please.

It’s good to share!!

Keeping calm

Another early Monday morning start saw me join some Oban colleagues at Oban International ready to head off to Tiree to take forward some collaborative approaches to PE and RMPS. Murray Hamilton, typically for a PE Teacher turned up in shorts whilst the rest of us shivered away in our overcoats.

Also in attendance was Hannah Pynne who was going over to work with Peter McFarlane on developing an RMPS course and Jemma Playfair, DHT, who was focused on carrying out a pupil voice evaluation of what pupils thought of their environment, learning, curricular opportunities, school uniform and relationships with others.

I spent most of the day on the phone to Oban staff or face to face with Tiree staff negotiating a temporary curriculum for January to May. This temporary curriculum will ensure that almost all our pupils are fully engaged in learning and teaching and will allow some additional qualifications to be gathered by the end of the session. The on-going harmonisation of the Curriculum in each school will gather pace as time goes on and we can get every PT and/or subject specialist in each school to work together in a collegiate and planned manner. This will take a few weeks. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say.

I did get the chance to nip round and see a few classes however. I met one Primary class coming back from their Pupil Voice session with Jemma, high as kites demanding a new uniform… whilst all wearing uniform. That was the last of about a dozen questions Jemma asked them. I must remember to put the learning and teaching question last next time I think, so that’s the one fresh in their minds.

I also got the chance to nip along to the Primary Gaelic classes to learn my daily phrase… “Je ha hoo a geecan?” or What are you eating? Native Gaelic speakers must be cringing at my phonetics in an effort to learn a few phrases. Tha mi duilich.

Spending time with Murray is often enlightening, fun…. and expensive. Enlightening as I learned a little more about his views on how best to ensure that every single pupil in school can achieve a PE Nat 4 at the very least; fun seeing him and Lydia crawl about the staff room floor with the biggest curriculum map I’ve ever seen.. and expensive as he just convinced me to build a fitness gym with running machines, weights etc. in Tiree. Whilst we don’t have the ability to match the state of the art one in OHS, we will at least develop a new resource previously unavailable.

I shall also add one further adjective to describe Murray, and his staff. Infectious. The enthusiasm and commitment they have for providing the best education possible, to develop excellent relationships with their pupils and to ensure their youngsters get access to the widest range of courses and experiences they can possibly offer rubs off on so many others, that they too wish to go the extra mile for our kids. And, that’s both in the High School and in the Primaries we teach in. I look forward to seeing these developments pan out in the coming weeks. We are sending two PE staff, Greg and Jenny over to plan a PE curriculum with Lydia the week after next, similar to the curriculum we deliver in St’ Columba’s, Park, Rockfield, Lochnell and Dunbeg… through into OHS.

One of the best developments I have encouraged, in partnership with some of my Primary Head colleagues is that of our PE staff going out to many of our partner primaries and taking a lead for the PE curriculum, as well as teaching our future pupils through the Primary years.

The benefits for the pupils is that they get a subject specialist teaching them knowledge and skills at an early stage, which is built on by specialist staff, year after year until they reach the high school having followed a progressive programme that allows them to seamlessly transition into the next stage of their learning in a new school but with familiar routines and teachers. The benefit for the Primary staff is that it allows them non-contact time where they can choose to develop other specialist areas we cannot provide. The benefit for the secondary PE staff is that it allows them to teach at a more advanced level in S1 than would otherwise be the case had they not had the opportunity to develop the seamless course and build the skills and expectation levels. It is perhaps for this reason that we are now in the rare position for a secondary school that we can almost guarantee every pupil an extra National qualification in PE by the end of S4. An aim now planned for in Tiree.

Tuesday’s main event was having to announce to our Oban staff at the evening staff meeting that once again the HMIe Inspectors will be in our school. Along with dozens of other schools we are contributing to the gathering of evidence on how well the curriculum is doing across Scotland. Although one is never entirely happy about being inspected… no one likes a test, it is an opportunity to have someone from outside our organisation have a look at what we are doing and give some tips for improvement. That can only be a good thing.

I read an interesting article recently in the Times Educational Supplement for Scotland (TESS). This is a magazine publication full of educational articles and jobs across the country / world. Every teacher should read the TESS for the articles, most use it for the jobs. The article in question was around why we demonise the Inspectorate; create a picture, indeed an expectation, of them as incompetent monsters out to get us. Why have schools painted such pictures for generations? A friend of mine, who held a senior role in the HMIe once described a fellow colleague “As somewhat right of Ghengis Khan”.Whilst this may have been true, as there are inevitably one or two such fiends out there in every walk of life, I have been fortunate to have been inspected in three schools and found most HMIe are there to help us. Graham Norris was an HMI that I had great deal of respect for as he both praised and advised on improvement in a manner that ensured staff felt valued. Most do likewise.

The key to success is, as the article noted, to play the game; to prepare fully; to be positive; and to show off our best work. Too often teachers and schools believe they should not have to put on a show. They do. The HMI only see a snapshot of what we do in a day. That snapshot needs to show us in our Sunday best and this was the message to my staff.

Wednesday saw me back in Tiree, this time accompanied by David Kearns, one of our Science teachers who was going out for a couple of days to work on developing a new Science curriculum and to offer support as part of our new partnership programme, ensuring that we can learn from each other across the schools. He also paired up with David Burt, one of our Technicians who is again working on IT developments with a Neil Connor.

This partnership work was further advanced on Thursday and Friday when Kevin Champion, Senior DHT, and Aisling Clark, PT for Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) exchanged places with me and Aine Cooney. Kevin worked on building relationships with staff and held pupil assemblies outlining developments and he introduced a new series of lessons using inter-disciplinary learning to S1-3. These lessons are designed to replace an existing course and which could lead to additional early level qualifications. Aisling on the other hand was there to partner with Jayne Smith, who is the PT DYW, and together they will introduce three new courses immediately, all of which could lead to extra qualifications for senior pupils by June. These were Scottish Studies, the SQA’s Leadership Award and Customer Services. The latter two have proven to be of great interest to employers and so having them on ones SQA certificate can be very useful in securing an interview for a job.

Our new school in Oban is nearly finished, although we still have work to do. On a very cold Thursday morning I had to spend time braving the elements to check on progress with the new road and new car parking, bus turning and pupil drop off areas, as well as discussing landscaping, external seating, types of hardcore needing laid etc. I then went to check on the progress with our additional Piping and Drumming Pavillon. I can’t wait. The indoor facility is first class, the outdoor environment will also be great. Given we only had a hundred yard stretch of playground in the old school for 1200 pupils, the expanse of social space we have created on the site of the old school will give our pupils the space they deserve.

I had the pleasure of discussing both the above issues (our superb curriculum and our fantastic new school) to the ladies of the Inner Wheel as I gave them a two and a half hour tour on Thursday evening. This tour was even longer than the one I gave to their male counterparts in the Rotary Club. I spent this amount of time with my guests because they showed a genuine interest in the work of our staff, of the successes of our pupils; and of how Education was ever changing. It was a very interesting time.

The Rotary Club is a wonderful organisation. Members give up their time and volunteer their services to many a good cause. They also fundraise for the benefit of many local, national and international causes. Oban High school benefits on a regular basis, most prominently at the moment through their support of our Laurinburg Exchange. I also squeezed in attending a parent meeting on the Laurinburg Exchange this week where I was reminded that this is the 27th such exchange trip between pupils of Scotland High School in Laurinburg, North Carolina and OHS. The commitment by members of the Rotary Club in both towns and from our OHS staff is commendable. Pupils from Laurinburg will be in Oban in June; the Oban pupils will go to Laurinburg in October.

The highlight for Friday was interviewing for, and appointing a new Depute Head Teacher, Lauren Morrison. Lauren will take up her post with us after the Easter Holiday. My thanks to Maggie Thorpe, our Parent Council Chair and to Aine Cooney for sitting on the panel with me. Thanks also to my excellent Head Boy, Angus Neil for being such a wonderful host and tour guide to all the candidates. It is never an easy task to be involved in appointing staff. It is a huge responsibility to get it right for the school and it’s pupils, and a huge emotional commitment knowing that such decisions can have life changing effects on someone’s career and family.

On the subject of staffing changes. I would like to say well done to Duncan Sinclair who has secured a new position as Teacher of Maths in Elgin High School. Duncan is an excellent teacher and will be greatly missed. Fortunately, I have a good relationship with Hugh McCulloch, the Heidie in Elgin and he has very kindly agreed I can keep Duncan until Easter, ensuring all his certificated classes won’t be affected.

Three class highlights from my tour round the classes this week. Firstly was watching Greg and Neil in PE use a Ghetto Blaster on the pitch to try and motivate our boys to run round the pitch a wee bit more briskly that usual. Work in progress boys. The second, also on the subject of walking was bumping into a few of my kids from our Support Department coming back from their Daily Mile walk. I mentioned in last weeks blog we didn’t do a Daily Mile in Oban as well. Oops! Sorry Kirsteen. Finally, having one of my Tiree Primary classes sing the full version of Katie Beardie to me. Fantastic!

Friday finished with me turning up to the staff football for the first time since August. I think I may have to take part in the Daily Mile next week and try and get back into fitness again.

I was just about to end here and post this blog when I got stuck for a title. On reflection I chose the title “Keeping calm”. Oban High is in the middle of a very stressful time just now as we are in the middle of the prelims. Pupils are stressed, teachers are stressed. There are pupils out of normal classes and making their way around the school out with our normal changeovers and our canteen is dealing with pupils constantly trying to squeeze in breaks and lunches between exams. Despite this disruption to the normal school day a number of visitors to the school have taken time to say how calm our school is. Exam invigilators, candidates for jobs, guests linked to building the new school and Council workers have all been in school during this very busy week and have been so impressed by the maturity and work ethic of our pupils. Such calm comes from the hard work and support given to our pupils. If they were not being taught well, or given support by staff, then pupils would not be as content as they are for so many guests to note the positive ethos in our school. Well done everyone.

A flying start

So here’s my first blog of the new year. However before I begin, may I remind everyone reading my witterings that the purpose of my blog is merely to give those interested, an idea of what a Scottish Heidie gets up to each week or so. I also take the opportunity to share a few of my views about what’s happening in Scottish Education. This is a personal blog and the views expressed herein are all my own.

Last Sunday I had a pleasant sail into Tiree ready for a couple of days in my new school. The weather was cold but sunny and together with my two Westies we had a wee run about to get a feel for the place. Given the island is internationally renowned for its glorious beaches we couldn’t resist enjoying a lovely walk along Balephetrish beach. I’m well aware locals will say I should have gone to a number of more glorious beaches – the kids were quick to give that advice. I’m sure I’ll walk them all over the coming months.

The first Monday morning following anyone’s holiday can be a bit depressing but given I’m starting a fresh new chapter in my role as Head Teacher I found the early morning rise far less of a challenge and was indeed keen to get to work; or I was until I arrived to find the heating was on the blink. A quick call to my pal George Campbell, the Property Officer and soon after local contractor Kevin Brown is popping his head in the door with a big “All fixed now” grin. All those who complain about rural mañana attitudes have never met Kevin. Not only did he fix the heating within an hour, he had his boys starting work on new offices I only commissioned two weeks ago… and we had Christmas in the middle. Thanks Kevin!

The first task in any new term is to nip round and see as many staff and pupils as one can and following this break we visit classes to wish everyone a Happy New Year. On my travels I deliberately spent some time in the Gaelic Primary classes so I could learn another Gaelic phrase. I’m trying to learn one each day. “Shed de va ha” – “you’re welcome” is my latest lesson… no comment on the spelling is required thanks!

Regardless of whether I’m on Tiree or in Oban, each school requires my attention and each have tasks requiring to be completed, regardless of where I am. One of the most important tasks for a Heidie is to appoint staff. Monday saw me use video conferencing to take part in Principal Teacher of Guidance interviews and I’m pleased to report that I appointed Lee Dott to the position of permanent PT Guidance for Clan Ossian. This now ensures that we are up to full complement with four full time Guidance teachers for the first time in some months. Sadly we are still one DHT short, a shortage we have faced since the Summer. Given the wonderful school we work in, in beautiful surroundings, with international acclaim, a decent salary and staff accommodation provided if required, I simply cannot understand why Oban…. amongst most other rural schools face such staffing shortages.

However, not long to go I hope. Another job I completed was deciding on which candidates to interview for the DHT interviews next Friday and I am grateful that our OHS Parent Council Chair, Maggie will once again support us in choosing another DHT.

Following some work on Oban issues I returned my attention back to Tiree affairs and was interested in the pupil evaluation of the school canteen and what pupils thought of the food and the environment. All schools carry out such surveys and as such we are well aware that not all pupils are totally sold on eating in school canteens where the choice and ingredients are significantly limited by the Government’s healthy eating guidance. The flip side is that many do enjoy the food that school canteens provide, especially when the canteen listens to the desires of our pupils – hence the need for regular pupil surveys – tastes change.

The canteen in Oban provides a huge range of choice at breakfast, break and lunch and around half our pupils stay in school at lunchtime, especially on fish and chips or Brownie days; even with so many other venues to choose from nearby. A fantastic achievement and testimony to the talents of our kitchen staff.

Our OHS catering Manager, Donna, will travel to Tiree on the flight with me next Wednesday.

I think many people underestimate the importance of creating nice environments with good quality food as a pre-requisite for effective learning. Similarly people underestimate the importance of physical activity in preparing youngsters for effective learning and I was pleased to meet up with Primary classes engaging in their Daily Mile: a great national campaign to get kids active and set them up for the day. Whilst we don’t do the Daily Mile as a daily starter in Oban High, we do provide an excellent Breakfast Club where about 50 regulars appear each day. Please encourage your children to attend this free facility. It really does provide them with a great start to the day.

Monday progressed with a series of jobs too boring to dwell on in a blog: working on timetabling issues to make sure the right number of staff in classes this term; as well as preparing for next session. We are about to go through the pupil choice Options Process and that will require us to think about the next round of recruitment adverts in the next couple of weeks – for both schools.

This process involves a great deal of support from our excellent partnership with SDS and this year we have extended the one to one meetings between Guidance and pupils to include parents and a careers advisor. My aim is to ensure that pupils, and their parents, are given the best and most up-to-date advice possible before making choices. Far too often subject choices are being made after parents give advice to youngsters based on their own experiences from 20 or 30 years ago. Education today is a world away from those days. By inviting parents into school to watch lessons and by getting them to meet careers staff we hope to counter the misconceptions. Both Oban and Tiree will benefit from these initiatives over the coming months.

As well as working on contracts and recruitment issues I also spent time with my DHTs in both schools thinking about what professional learning opportunities we could provide between now and the Summer. One of the best development opportunities any member of staff can engage in is through sharing knowledge and experiences with colleagues in other schools. The partnership arrangement we are establishing between Oban and Tiree lends itself to this concept wonderfully. I am currently working on pairing every member of staff in Tiree with a partner in Oban so they can learn from each other. This seems to be proving quite a popular idea and I have already arranged partnership meetings between senior leaders; Guidance; Support; Science; English, Maths; RMPS; Post 16 PTs; Janitors, catering and Technicians. Other subjects will be aligned in the coming weeks.

In order to establish effective partnership working we must first establish good relationships and so I have been busy arranging reciprocal visits. I have the new Tiree PT Guidance and Support (Laura Kilpatrick) in Oban this week meeting her counterpart PTs (Claire Brady and Kirsteen Binnie) whilst Kevin Champion and Aine Cooney, both Senior DHTs began to take forward their remits together: and IT Technicians David Burt and Neil Connor are working together in Tiree for a few weeks.

Next week further partnerships will begin to flourish in Tiree with Murray Hamilton leading PE developments and supporting Lydia Macajova, David Kearns will work with Jo Bennett on Physics and Hannah Pyne will work with Peter McFarlane on RMPS developments. What members of staff learn from each other will be taken back to the wider faculty staff in each school.

I also set up further visits between staff for the rest of the month to support all subject areas and management, both in Primary and Secondary. However, more on how they pan out in a later blog.

Of course such a transformational change about the way in which we take forward the curriculum, learning and teaching and professional learning all requires planning and much of my time this week was spent discussing with all members of management (PTs and DHTs) in both schools aspects of our School Improvement Plan and School Review challenges. I led a whole staff meeting in Tiree on Monday morning and a management meeting after school; I did the same in Oban High on Tuesday evening. In both I reiterated our basic plans and expectations. In Oban I reminded staff of our Vision and ensured they planned to share this vision with all pupils in My Time classes, in PSEd classes and during weekly assemblies.

I also discussed some of the issues raised in the Pupil Forum discussions held in Oban just before we broke for Christmas (an exercise to be repeated in Tiree on Monday coming). Many pupils claimed not to understand why we taught compulsory PE, RMPS and Scottish Studies. When we explained (AGAIN) that we had to teach these subjects and that they got extra qualifications for them, their reply was more positive. This is a great example of why pupil forums with the ability to talk through questions and answers is a far better measure of what we need to do to improve that just churning out the far more usual questionnaires for people to tick away absentmindedly.

Tuesday saw me get an update on how the new school is progressing. I’m pleased to note that things are on schedule and that we will be done, dusted and open fully by the end of February/ start of March when the external parking and landscaping is complete. I also carried on my property discussions with discussions about new offices, heating system works; Astro turf lights and a new roof for Tiree.

 Wednesday saw me fly back into Tiree with Kevin Champion, my OHS Senior Depute making his first trip. Kevin’s role is to support and develop self-evaluation across both Oban and Tiree thus expanding the opportunities to share good practice and to moderate out-with our owns schools. This level of partnership working is highly desirable in ensuring we learn from each other.

Most of the day was spent either touring the school and meeting pupils and staff or sitting planning a development strategy with my Deputes. However, I did learn another Gaelic phrase from one of my Gaelic Primary classes, learned about the need to build bridges over lakes for trains to cross from an ELC pupil and met pupils practising for the school show, Oliver. I’m not sure the last meeting went according to plan as I have been roped into playing Mr Bumble. Only kidding. I’ll enjoy that experience. I used to be involved in amateur dramatics and performed in both comedy and musicals back in my home town of Musselburgh as a young man.

Another thing that didn’t go to plan was the plane being unable to fly back in to pick us up because of fog. Oh well, it allowed us to work on into the night and the VC facility meant I could still meet with my DHTs back in Oban. After an early start at school in Tiree, where I dealt with janitorial, catering, cleaning and property issues, Kevin and I hopped on the ferry back to Oban.

The ferry takes four hours but I can safely say that it can be a very productive time (as long as the WiFi is working) and this allowed me to liaise with Oban staff on new school building issues; staffing and contracts; new remits for all the staff partnering with Tiree staff; new road lay our discussions with Morrisons; the development of further qualifications for the senior school in both schools; worked up a up a new curriculum and dealt with rugby goals that weren’t in place. That’s the jobs I recall. I don’t usually list jobs because it’s boring and I’m pretty sure you’re not interested. However on this occasion it does serve to demonstrate that even when travelling it’s entirely possible for a Heidie to carry out their role from afar. I won’t reel off all the jobs done when I got back to school though I will repeat my thanks to Minnie MacLellan, the Head Teacher of St’ Columbus, whom I met after school to discuss support for Primary, ELCC and Gaelic in Tiree. Having found myself in charge of these unfamiliar territories after having spent over 20 years in Secondary, I am not so daft as to believe that I do not have a lot to learn and have consequently engaged the support of a very talented Primary Head with experience in ELC and Gaelic to add to my thoughts on these areas.

Friday saw me back to normal (whatever that is), walking the dogs early in the morning, one hand on a lead, the other with a mobile to my ear discussing transport and construction concerns before teaching my Advanced Higher History pupils all about how to pass their Dissertation.

Thereafter, I finished the week by catching up with Lynne the Head Janitor; Donna the Catering Manager; Nan Johnstone, who is going to write this year’s timetable, which we start writing now; Julie my Admin and Finance Assistant to make sure we’re not skint; Laura the new PT Guidance for Tiree who has been training in Oban all week; my SLT in Oban and my Senior DHT in Tiree thanks to VC.

I would normally add a wee section here on my thoughts around a national issue but it’s been a busy week and it’s my daughters 18th birthday today (yes, I’m that old) so I’ve run out of time. I hope you have a wee flavour of what I’ve been up to in week one of 2019.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

My last blog finished as we were preparing for our school Christmas dance, famously called The Jingles. It was the 31st Jingles and it was one to remember with over 400 senior pupils dancing the night away in the Corran Halls to a variety of acts: Ceol an aire opened, followed by The Chunks and closing with DJ Dave. I have to say a huge thank you to the senior pupils who, as part of their leadership course, organise both the senior and the junior Jingles Christmas dances; and of course all the staff who give up their time to supervise the events. The senior dance in particular requires staff to act as ticket sellers, cloakroom staff, serving staff, first aid responders, photographers, bouncers and for a few of us at the very end, cleaning staff. It’s a busy night indeed. It is no mean feat running an event of this size. Well done everyone. It went very smoothly indeed. Thanks to the Corran Halls staff who looked after us all throughout the evening.

Thanks to Kevin McGlynn for this great picture.

The last week of term began with a 4.30 a.m. start last Monday as I made my way down to the early morning ferry to Tiree. I had attempted to fly into Tiree the week before but the weather had other plans. With gales forecast for much of the early part of the week, I saw a wee opportunity to make sure I made it to school to meet my new pupils, staff and parents before the Christmas holiday.

As soon as I arrived I was met by smiley faces and a table full of welcome posters and cards, made by our Primary pupils. A lovely welcome indeed. My first task was to tour the school with my Depute in Tiree, Aine Cooney. Aine took me to classes across the school as I tried to meet every pupil and every member of staff on day one. I learned much about how the Early Learning and Childcare part of the school operated and I enjoyed sitting with the kids as they showed me their post office and how to count money. Next up was a visit to the Gaelic classes and I put into practice my very limited Gaelic vocabulary. Fortunately, I have found some very willing youngsters to teach me more. My plan is to visit them each morning I am in school and learn a phrase a day. It might take a while but I’ll get there. I did embark of a Gaelic Ulplan course a few years ago, so I’m hoping it might come flooding back.

Next up was a tour around the Primary classes and the chance to speak to more of our young pupils who were keen to tell me what they were learning that day. I’ll need a few more visits to start learning everyone’s names… something just not possible in Oban with more than a thousand faces to recall. Then it was into the High School classes so I could learn about how they were negotiating the curriculum, a bit about the run up to their exams and what the seniors did outside of school. I managed to drop in on the piping and drumming classes the following evening too. It will be good to tie up the pipe bands of both schools soon.

Supervising the canteen at lunchtime provided me with a new experience as I sat first with the Primary pupils asking them about how they liked the food, what they liked about School and how they spent their lunch hour… well they were my questions. The pupils were more keen to tell me about the football teams they liked, who they got on with, or didn’t, and what they thought about Tiree. The high school pupils likewise were completely unfazed by having their new Heidie sit with them and were very happy to answer all my questions about the food and about how to improve their lunchtime experience.

I have never been a teacher in a primary school but I have had a lot of experience in interacting with young children. When I was much younger I was a Sunday School teacher, a B.B. officer and I taught drama to primary children in Corstorphine, Edinburgh. All useful background experiences. In fact I originally sought to become a Primary Teacher before switching to do History at the last minute. I think I have much to learn from my Primary colleagues and have already engaged the support of Minnie Maclellan, the Head Teacher of St’ Columba’s Primary in Oban, but I think I shall enjoy the new experiences as much as I did all those years ago.

Much of my three days on Tiree was spent chatting to staff, evaluating current practice or just putting into place the first stages of a plan to take forward the School. The prerequisite to this plan was to share my vision to taking forward the School and determining if it chimed with others. I was pleased to note that no one raised objections to the proposed direction of travel and indeed by the Wednesday when I met parents, they seemed keen to work in partnership to achieve our aims. Indeed the initial meeting with parents led by the Head of Service, Louise Connor and the Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly seemed very positive indeed.

All new Heads starting in any new school first need to set our their stall, then evaluate what existing good practice needs to be developed and what practice needs to change. To make any change happen effectively one must ensure there is a team in place to lead the change process. Having appointed Aine to the position of Senior Depute, it was necessary to ensure I also had Principal Teachers in place across the high school curriculum, in Primary / ELCC and in charge of Guidance and Support. Following a morning of discussions and interviews I was pleased that Julie Maclennan was willing to take on the PT Primary/ELCC role until interviews could be held and that Laura Kilpatrick was successful in securing the PT Guidance/Support role: a crucial position I feel every school should have and every pupil and parent should benefit from.

Much of the rest of my time was ensuring that the infrastructure for Tiree High School was put in place to facilitate a support package I am developing for all staff. To begin with I have worked with Education IT to establish a 1-1 VC system called Vscene that will aid communication between staff in Oban High and Tiree High… this will soon be enhanced yet further when the Council puts in a whole new communication network called Skype for Business, which will transform the quality of the phone/IT network massively.

It will also help the development of partnership working that is being established between my two schools, ensuring that almost every member of staff has a partner with whom they can share ideas; ask for support; work with on professional learning opportunities; use as part of the Moderation process; and link up with to take forward learning and teaching, and curriculum development.

I’ll share more in the future as we go forward with the plan to harmonise the learning, curriculum and systems in both schools, making sure the pupils in each have the opportunity to achieve the best possible qualifications whilst ensuring that we nurture and develop their social, emotional and vocational experiences and talents.

Of course just because I was on Tiree for a few days didn’t mean to say I was not taking forward Oban High at the same time and I ensured that I was in regular contact with my DHTs in Oban during what is one of the busiest weeks of the year. Monday was a busy time for Guidance and the Deputes but not necessarily for a good reason. Disappointingly they spent much of the time dealing with a high level of in-attendance as our records showed that only 80% of our pupils turned up for School. Despite our annual re-assurance that we continue to teach classes as normal and that by not turning up to school in the run up to a holiday pupils are missing a large amount of learning, we still have pupils opting to stay at home and parents either taking them down to Glasgow shopping, away for an early holiday or merely keeping the peace and keeping them off after listening to nonsense like “It’s the last week, we don’t do anything anyway” or “All we do is watch videos”. Every year we try to make sure we get as much teaching done as possible in the run up to the holiday, we have Prelims in January after all; and every year we remind parents we’re running classes as normal; and we remind teachers too not to give in to youngsters wanting an easy time and to keep teaching. It is quite frustrating for teachers eager to support pupils learning to find their efforts thwarted by “Holidayitis”, a not so rare illness only found around the end of a school term. I am aware this is a national phenomenon.

Most of the absences were in the senior school, no doubt linked to Senior Jingles having passed and the threat of missing the dance because of truancy no longer hanging over them. Junior Jingles on the other hand was held on Tuesday evening and that was very well attended, indeed perhaps the best attended in many years. I think the new school Atrium with all the Christmas lights, the huge Christmas tree and the new stage facilities with a fantastic sound and light system was a likely contributory factor as it made for a great venue. The Traditional School of Music musicians made sure the Ceilidh was a great success and DJ Dave was back making sure everyone had a fantastic party. Well done to all the staff who gave up their time.

Thanks to David McPhee for this picture.

Wednesday evening saw the annual Christmas Concert deliver another great set of performances. Alex Craik had his first stint as the Compère for the evening replacing Frank McKenna for the first time in ten years. And another first in that time was my absence from my duties as Trumpeter in the Orchestra. Sadly, I’ve been so busy of late I’ve missed too many practices with the band this year and I feared, as the only Trumpeter at this time, that my late arrival would have spoiled what was a brilliant performance. We now have another two Trumpeters in the wings, so next year I’ll get more practice in and make sure we play well together. The efforts that go into putting on this event from music staff, pupils and from the Parent Council are superb.

After flying back to Oban I was back at my OHS desk on Thursday and spent much of my time setting up meetings and planning schedules for coming back in January. How time flies! I can’t believe we’re nearly in 2019.

I did squeeze in a very enjoyable staff event on Thursday as I thanked Lucy Downie, Ali McCaig and Liam Rankin for their service to the School before they departed for exciting new jobs. I then went on to award the prizes for the best Christmas door. Seventy five entries was an outstanding number. Well done to all the staff and their pupils who took part in this first such competition. Hannah Stevenson won the judges vote and Nicola Hamilton won the people’s vote on Facebook.

By the last day of term, we were down to about 400 pupils, less than half our school roll. At this point, normal lessons cannot be achieved. Fortunately, that’s around the number the local Parish Church holds and it provides almost exactly the right number to pack the church and give the annual Christmas service a great atmosphere for the last big event of the session. This year the singing was once again in key and the band played perfectly the numerous Christmas carols that we all enjoyed. The key message this year, delivered by Jim Beaton and Chris Fulcher, was around “What Christmas means to us?” I closed the service by giving my view of what Christmas means to me.

Regardless of ones view of religion or of Christmas (it doesn’t matter what faith one has or none), what matters most is how we look after ourselves and others. I said that I believed that at this time of year there seems to be a greater degree of empathy, of compassion and of love for others… something I wish could be repeated all year round. I wished all my pupils and staff a lovely Christmas holiday and hoped that they would enjoy spending the time with their family, friends and loved ones.

Finally the term ended and our pupils departed to enjoy their holidays and all the staff came together for a banquet in the Atrium. It was a wonderful event where we sat and had lunch, brought by all the staff themselves, and we enjoyed each other’s company, chatting about the marvellous events of the week and about our forthcoming holiday. Some of us even won prizes in the Christmas raffle. I think this is only prize I’ve ever won at school.

It’s now Christmas Eve and time for me to stop working and enjoy a wee holiday. So I’ll close this year with my warmest wishes to all my readers and I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

And the awards go to….

My last few blogs have featured numerous examples of where I have had to attend meetings locally and nationally learning about plans and good practice across the country that will help all schools develop, including Oban and Tiree High Schools. This series of planning meetings and professional forums are condensed into the early part of the session every year. Now they have concluded it’s time to take the information gleaned and good practice observed forward in school.

So, I have been very pleased to have spent the last couple of weeks entirely in school working with my staff on developing and expanding the curriculum; discussing professional learning opportunities for staff that will help improve the pupils learning experience; observing classes and speaking to youngsters about how they have been getting on in and out of the classroom; and working with our new school team on ensuring all is going well as we reach the conclusion of the new school external works.

As I toured the external works this week, I was amazed at how large and open the new external space we have created by knocking down the old school really is. It is huge! That space will be used to create much needed parking for the school community and will provide a more suitable and safe bus park for the many buses we use to get our youngsters to school.

Of course it is not just parking spaces we are putting in. When I wrote the original bid for a new school to the Scottish Government, I included very prominently the need for additional outside social space, suitable for 1300 pupils. In the old school, because of numerous extensions, there was little play ground. The new school will see a large, wide, contoured avenue filled with benches set in a much more pleasant looking setting. It will all be finished by the end of February.

Most mornings I spend keeping an eye on our daily assemblies which on the run up to Christmas increasingly have a Christmassy theme injected into them each day. (I know that’s a made up word.) I think switching on our fantastic new Atrium ceiling lights and putting up the Christmas tree slightly earlier this year has set the tone for these three weeks.

Although I think the new Christmas door Clan challenge has become the talking point of our Christmas celebrations this year.

The effort that has been put into decorating classroom doors has been phenomenal. I think the promise of a great present to the staff with the best door and hundreds of points for the winning Clan class may have spurred them on. The competition was judged by Minnie MacLellan, the Head Teacher of St’Columba’s Primary School and Terry Donovan, member of our very supportive Parent Council.

The winner was Hannah Stevenson in Science. I gave an additional Heidie award to Morag MacKinnon.

Back to my morning routine. Each morning I have been practising Christmas Carols on the Trumpet with my young protege, Amber. I’m very grateful to Amber for her enthusiasm and dedication. With me having to attend so many after school meetings in the last couple of months I have sadly missed the band practice each Tuesday and I am woefully in need of practice. Hopefully together we will be ready to join the others in the band at next Wednesdays Christmas Cracker concert, to be held in the school at 7 pm. Better get your tickets early, seats are limited to the first 400.

Another routine I am pleased to get back into is seeing my Advanced Higher History pupils each day. We have just finished learning about how the Weimar Republic came to an end, partly as a result of social and economic factors arising from the Wall Street Crash’s effect on Germany, partly by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi movement, caused by many other factors going on in Germany at the time.

When not teaching kids or meeting contractors, I’m meeting mangers to look at taking the school forward and the pressing issue at the moment is changes to the curriculum. Aileen Jackson, PT Raising Attainment and Aisling Clark, PT Developing the Young Workforce have both been leading a piece of work for me and collaborating with Faculty PTs to look at additional qualifications that we can put in place for our pupils. The SQA have a huge suite of courses that go far beyond the usual twenty or so traditional courses taught in every school. There is an additional group of courses referred to as National Progression Awards. These are designed to allow youngsters who have an interest in a particular subject, for example Food Technology, to expand their interest in a more vocationally honed way, whilst allowing the accumulation of an additional award, for example an NPA in Bakery – which we teach just now. Our task this session is to ensure that every subject provides an additional qualification alongside the traditional subjects to make sure our youngsters develop as many skills; and acquire as many relevant qualifications as they can so they can compete in the jobs market when they leave us.

This was an aim I shared with Tiree High School staff when I met them for the first time on Wednesday, though not quite in the way I imagined I would. I had planned to meet all the staff and parents at the school, along with my colleagues, Yvonne McNeilly, the policy lead for education; Douglas Hendry, Director of Community Services; Councillor Roddy McCuish and Louise Connor, Head of Service. However as we sat at the airport enjoying the hospitality from the excellent Oban Airport staff member, Dixie, we soon learned from Julie, the Pilot for the day, that we may not get out to Tiree and we certainly wouldn’t be getting back. No problem however, as a few calls back to the schools and we at least managed to sort out video conferencing for all the staff and we arranged to meet the parents next week.

As well as discussing my aims for enhancing the senior curriculum in both Oban and Tiree; and answering many good questions from staff, I did dwell on the benefits of new technology for communicating across rural areas and for teaching.

As my regular readers will know, the role of the Head Teacher is to lead the school. But, to do so well requires that the Head Teacher keeps up to date with national, even international best practice; keeps up to date with changes to the legislation, the guidance from the Scottish Government, Education Scotland, HMIe, SQA et al; and from professional learning provided by the local authority or from agencies like School Leaders Scotland and the Scottish College of Educational Leadership; and in the case of a Heidie with a new school, to meet with architects and contractors weekly. To keep pace with all this new practice, legislation and guidance requires Head Teachers to be out of school, a lot. How then do we manage our schools? Firstly we put in place good leaders throughout the school. In my case, I have a Senior Depute Head Teacher employed in both Oban and Tiree High Schools, as well as a number of Principal Teachers across the areas of curriculum and support, all charged with making sure the polices and plans of the school are implemented in my absence and all ensuring that all staff play their part in keeping the pupils motivated and succeeding. Additionally in Oban I have three other DHTs as well as office, janitorial, catering and cleaning managers all making sure that all aspects of the school are being well led.

To keep track of progress and to support staff I use my iPhone and iPad a lot. They prove to be invaluable as I check on progress whilst travelling to and from meetings or other school visits. Any support required for a manager back in school can easily be done through guidance from myself via a quick phone call or email to whomever is best placed to help the member of staff with a question.

Taking the use of IT a step further is my desire to use a VC facility called Vscene. This is the software used to teach the e-Sgiol classes I mentioned in my last blog. Gary Clark from Education IT has been superb in supporting me in taking this forward and I am now able to use VC from any device, in any room, in any building (even from the car, train or ferry) to have meetings with any member of my staff in either school and many in other schools or in the Education Department. Although I could do this by phone and email before, actually seeing someone and sharing documents visually is a big step forward as subconsciously seeing someone during a conversation gives greater clarity, understanding and confidence during a discussion.

It is my intention to roll this out into classrooms to make sure that pupils have access to courses otherwise not available to them because of a lack of teacher in a particular area or merely to cover a short term absence if no supply cover is available. There are of course limits to which courses this will benefit. More to follow next year on this.

The last couple of days have been hectic with recognising success. I was privileged to have been invited to the Regional Netball finals where I watched a hugely competitive seniors game between Lochaber High School and Oban. Lochaber managed to clinch the game in the final minute leaving our Oban girls frustrated, especially given they netted a second after the final whistle that would have led to extra time.

That was a similar disappointing end to the conclusion of the Rugby Under 15s Scottish Plate Final at Murrayfield where our team, whom had dominated the game until Kenny Gray got injured in the last ten minutes, lost the pace and a final try in the last seconds of the game to see a very experienced Galashiels pip them to the post.

Another award we received this week was the My World of Work Young Ambassadors Award. This was to recognise the commitment of some of our senior and S3 pupils who have undertaken to act as My World of Work Ambassadors, going around the High School and out across our 19 partner primaries promoting to all pupils an understanding about the importance of skills and experiences as well as qualifications to better prepare them for undertaking their journey through school to employment. Given this is the essence of my vision for Oban and Tiree High Schools, I was particularly pleased to receive this Award along with our pupils at OHS.

The next competition to note was Kirsty MacIntyre’s Mascot competition. As part of her Scottish Studies qualification, Kirsty had to lead and organise an event. Following on from an example she was aware of at Atlantis Leisure and seeing a gap in what we have in school, (no school mascot), I gave her permission to run a competition to establish an Oban High School Mascot. After many weeks of youngsters working hard on their designs, the day arrived for Kirsty, along with seven fellow judges to choose a winner. Bid4Oban kindly donated the prizes.

The judges used a scoring system to decide on the top three best designs, arriving at a decision that saw a joint first place award. The winners, that led to the creation of a pair of Mascots were Neve Davies and Katie Barlow. Each drew a picture of a School Westie, one a boy and one a girl… hence their idea to have a pair of Mascots. Well done to both. I’m a wee bit biased given I have two Westies. But, there were many judges!!!

Normally I finish my blog on a Friday night or Saturday morning but given it’s the Senior Jingles tonight, arguably the biggest event in Oban’s social calendar, then I think I may be a bit tied up tonight and shattered tomorrow after all the dancing, so I’ll close early this week.

It’s a busy week next week with Junior Jingles, the Christmas Cracker Concert, various Christmas festivities and two trips to Tiree, so look out for even more news next weekend.