It with is great sadness that I begin my most recent blog with the devastating news that John Porter has passed away. John has worked in our Science Faculty for over 25 years and consequently has been an inspiration to thousands of our children. Only a few days ago, John observed that he thought he would see out his days in the old school. Prophetic.
John’s success, indeed the success of all the pupils who benefited from his skills as a teacher, can be attributed to not only his sound knowledge of his subject and decades of practice getting pupils ready for exams but to his unique personality. John was a calm teacher, with occasional displeasure rarely being audible. My enduring recollection of his classroom management lies in my observations of him using mere facial expressions to control and direct his classes. Misbehaviour was corrected with a frown and a downward motion of his head. Suspected foul play in the offing; a squint and pursed lips redressed the situation. Adulation and pride when his pupils demonstrated what they had learned that day was met with a raised chin and wry smile. “There you go Mr. Bain, seems they were listening after all.”
As well as being popular with our children, John also gained the respect and friendship of all his colleagues: both in and out of school. His calm approach and wry humour could be found not only in the class but frequently in staff gatherings, large ones in the hall; smaller ones at the school gates, where he liked to take in the fresh air at breaks and lunchtimes. Whether having a chat around the back of seven in the pouring rain where we would meet walking our dogs, or in the corridors of Science, John always conveyed to me what it was like to be the perfect gentleman. I found him to be exceptionally pleasant, he made me smile and he was a fantastic teacher. I will miss him greatly, as will his colleagues and pupils. Our thoughts are with his wife Barbara and children Michael and Sasha.
There are a few staff in Oban High School who have taught alongside John for decades and they too face a different type of melancholy in addition to the heartache of losing a dear colleague. It may seem strange to some but when one works in the same place for so long (and in Duncan Sinclair’s case the same classroom for 24 years) an emotional bond to your environment becomes established. The School may be considered ‘just’ to be a place to work; but school communities are our extended family to a large extent and the school building surrounding us our home (away from home). Moving house after many years can be an emotional strain to many and so it is when moving our school, with all the memories, traditions and familiarity that gives our subconscious, pride and comfort.
As an Historian, you will not be surprised to learn that I have ensured that we will be taking much of that heritage with us to our new school. The original School stone badge from the 1890 build has already been placed in the new entranceway; the war memorial, School Captain’s and Dux Boards will be placed in the Foyer next week; the Clan Shield will take centre place in our new trophy cabinet; and clan shields will take centre stage as one walks through the front door. The bell tower will be rebuilt during the external works. And, I have even looked at re-establishing the flag pole on the hill next to the School. I would appreciate anyone telling me of a local flag maker to make us a new school flag.
Much of my time spent since the last blog as been working with colleagues from the Council’s Special Project Team getting the new school ready. Indeed local boy and Project Manager David Logan, along with Shirley Johnstone have been camped out in my office for the last fortnight. Together we have spent most of our time working with Morrison’s to ensure all is going to plan and that our new school will be ready for us moving in at the end of this week. Of course, in the old school much of our last few weeks have also been spent packing.
The two extra closure days were most welcome as without them we would not have managed to pack away all the equipment and materials necessary to keep teaching the courses. A wee reminder to all that whilst we were busy packing, our pupils should have been busy studying on all the work we left for them on Show My Homework: true for the two days unpacking on the 16th and 17 April too. Also a wee reminder that we a running Easter Revision in Argyll College for the next two weeks, so please check FB for details.
As well as packing and planning for the new school I also squeezed in ‘a few’ interviews and appointed ten new staff:
Art and Design: Sheila Stewart
English: Beth Brooks Taylor and Tara Carmichael
History and Modern Studies: Catriona Morrison and Alison MacFarlane
PE: Calum Vardy
RMPS: David Duncan and Hanna Pyne
Science: Hanna Stevenson
Technology: Matt Walker
Our local community has helped share the message that Oban High School is a great school in an attractive and vibrant area. Helping share the social media news and adverts we place on Facebook, website, Twitter, You Tube and this Blog clearly works. Keep sharing folks!
I mentioned Oban High School being a great School. Where is the evidence? Well, you will know from our news and my blog that we have some international renown for our post 16 Education provision and that I have been asked to present to Head Teachers from across the country on issues such as Leadership, Curriculum, Working with Parents and Pastoral Care, so we must be doing well in these areas. However, added to that list is our exam success. Now some years are up and some are down and that is the natural order of statistics. No organisation can continually go up and as they do rise, so they must fall. I am pleased to note that last year was most certainly an “up year”.
Why mention last year’s results now, I hear you ask. Well! Every August, right across the country, the SQA course results are published, pupils get certificates through the door and schools sit and beaver away working out how well the school has done. The Press also like to compare schools’ pass rates and generate a league table. Fortunately the Scottish Government and Education Scotland have recognised that SQA course passes are only one way to measure a school’s success and they have a fairly new measurement framework called Insight. Insight measures all the qualifications provided by many different qualifications bodies, including SQA course awards; SQA Unit awards; National Progression Awards; Saltire Awards, amongst many others. All these awards are given an equity benchmark called the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). Almost all educational qualifications we use, from Doctorates and Masters to National 1s or SQA unit passes have a numerical value attributed to them. So, no matter the range of choice on offer in a school, (around 100 choices in OHS), a School gets credit for all their pupil successes.
Schools are also provided with what is referred to as a Virtual Comparator School as a more accurate way to measure how well a school is doing compared with other schools. The Insight programme basically finds 10 other pupils with similar backgrounds and similar characteristics to our own pupils, for every pupil on our roll. Subsequently if we had 200 pupils in S4, Insight would find 2000 similar pupils and measure if our pupils did more or less well with this Virtual School group. They also focus on what a pupil achieves when they leave school. So, no mater whether a pupil does 6 or 8 subjects in S4; or whether they did their courses over one or two years, it is how well did they do when they left school that is the true measure of success?
This is a great system of recognition especially for schools who see that providing a breadth of opportunity necessary to progress all career pathways is more important than just providing a traditional 20 subjects that everyone has to do to clock up Higher passes, percentages and tariff points. It has one flaw. The overall results are not entirely collated in August when everyone wants to know how a school got on. Indeed, the definitive set of school results are not published until February the following year, 6 months later. Hence why I mention results now, following my analysis of last year’s definitive results.
In short, our Positive Destination figures (the key benchmark of how well a School has provided for our pupils) remains above all comparative indicators, local and national; and our Literacy and Numeracy figures are above the Virtual Comparator at Levels 4 and 5.
We still have some work to do gaining more As in our Highers and obviously as with most schools we have departments who are performing below national averages… alongside departments surpassing the national averages.
Our total Insight Tariff points are also affected negatively because of our Pathways programme. Most of our S6 choose this vocational option and gain valuable work experience rather than taking say, another Higher or Advanced Higher which gains lots of Insight Tariff points. With 8o pupils dropping a subject to do more vocational experiences, it is clear that the narrow deficit could easily be overcome by the School dropping Pathways and forcing pupils back into an SQA course to clock up more points. That will never happen!
For those of you who are still interested in the old traditional measurement system I can report that by the time our pupils left school last Summer the following percentage pass rates were attained:
32% achieved 10 or more SCQF Level 3 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 22%)
32% achieved 10 or more SCQF Level 4 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 21%)
18% achieved 10 or more SCQF Level 5 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 10%)
1% achieved 10 or more SCQF Level 6 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 0%)
86% achieved 6 or more SCQF Level 3 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 87%)
83% achieved 6 or more SCQF Level 4 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 84%)
59% achieved 6 or more SCQF Level 5 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 57%)
28% achieved 6 or more SCQF Level 6 Awards (Virtual Comparator, 26%)
* The figures have been rounded.
* SCQF Levels 3, 4 and 5 includes SQA National 3, 4 and 5 passes and SCQF Level 6 includes SQA Highers.
* I chose to report at +10 as it is the maximum recorded and + 6 because that is the maximum we offered in S4. However from next year, we will be presenting 9 subjects as we are now certificating PE, RMPS and Scottish Studies in addition to English, Maths and the 4 unique pupil choices as we do presently.
All in all some very good results with areas of improvement as standard. Well done to all the pupils, staff and family members who helped ensure our successes.
I hope you all have a great two weeks holiday. See you in the new school.