Ambition, Compassion, Respect and Resilience #preparingforlifeandwork

In a large school like Oban High we are always looking for staff: teachers, classroom assistants, youth workers; technicians, janitors and office staff. As we approach the close of the Spring term, it’s a natural time in the year for all schools to advertise for next year’s staffing complement. Please keep an eye on Myjobscotland and our social media platforms if you wish to come and work in a large, successful, friendly school of international note, set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

OHS are currently planning to interview for a range of staff across the school. We have current vacancies linked to staff who have moved on and some opportunities linked to temporary / probationer contracts that will be available from next session. English, Maths, French, Art, Business Education, History & Mod Studies, Technical, School Technician, DHT, and ASN opportunities are all on My Job Scotland and we hope to interview over the coming weeks, ensuring we have staff in place for the start of next session.

In Tiree, we are looking to appoint a new Principal Teacher of Guidance, as after a successful period in that role, Laura Kilpatrick returns to her substantive post as Teacher of Music. We are also on the trail for cleaning staff. If anyone is interested, applications can be found, as with all Council jobs, on Myjobscotland.

Consequently, I spent the beginning of last week and the close of this week providing application and interview training to staff across Oban and Tiree to help them prepare for jobs they may wish to apply for during the term. Why would I help people leave our schools? It is our professional obligation to ensure that we provide the best support we possibly can for all our staff. We have probationers who have come to work with us to learn their craft. These are temporary appointments that ultimately still need filled on a permanent basis and our role is to prepare them for a career in teaching; which includes getting them ready for interview. We also have staff who move on (promotion, family moves usually) and these more experienced staff also need up-to-date interview training to help them make the transition more easily. Our reputation for supporting and developing our staff is nationally renowned and this helps ensure that teachers from across the country will apply for our vacancies. It is a natural cycle.

One member of staff who is moving on to pastures new requires a very special mention. Duncan Sinclair has been working for Oban High School for 24 years and 9 months. In that time, he has inspired thousands of youngsters. His empathetic and supportive nature has ensured that so many of our pupils have succeeded in life because of the qualifications he has helped secure and the personal characters he has helped shape. I had the great privilege of leading a farewell gathering and presenting Duncan with a gift of appreciation. I also got the chance to watch a video to celebrate Duncan’s time with us and listen to many of our pupils extolling his virtues and wishing him well. I will miss his kindness, the pupils will miss his support and the school will miss a great teacher.

Good luck in Elgin Duncan!

Another member of staff who left us for pastures new this week was one of our Art teachers, Laura Cadden. Laura has been successful in securing a post nearer to home in Irvine. Over the last 5 years, Laura has made a significant contribution to ensuring that the experience of our pupils going through our Art Department has been both enjoyable and successful. The Art Department results have improved noticeably in recent years.

Well done and good luck Laura!

Results? Success? How do we measure these? Well, what we don’t do is pick one individual statistic and compare ourselves with all the other schools in that one measure. League tables were abolished years ago by the Scottish Government and replaced with a statistical tool called Insight. These Insight results can be found in our School Handbook and demonstrate our comparison figures in literacy and numeracy; compare our pupils’ success across all subjects; compare our us with our comparators in relation to how well we are closing the poverty related attainment gap; and finally how well we do at securing positive destinations for all our pupils (the latter is the new Gold Standard to a school’s success).

The Insight report shows how far ahead of our comparators we are in literacy and numeracy and most crucially shows that we are consistently ensuring positive destinations for all our pupils; whether that be ensuring a desire to go to university, college or straight into work.

The 5+ Higher league table published by a recent tabloid paper is based on the number of pupils who have achieved five Highers or more by the time they leave school. If one wishes a comparison about the number of Highers our pupils can succeed in, perhaps we should use the statistic that our pupils are twice as likely to gain 10 Highers or more than our comparator. Why do less of our pupils get 5 Highers then? Because instead of sitting Highers they have chosen to undertake apprenticeships; work experience; national progression awards; OU courses; DofE etc. Simply put: if we didn’t offer this choice and forced our pupils into a limited range of Higher courses, then the percentage of the S4 roll getting more Highers by the end of S6 would rise and we would climb the artificial league table. However, my commitment is to ensuring our pupils have a broad range of qualifications and experiences that will allow them to get a job. As the 10+ Higher statistics (and the large number of Baccalaureates gained) show, that doesn’t mean we disadvantage the more academic. Far from it.

I mentioned the need for us to develop Probationers by teaching them their craft in schools. Probationer Teachers are not the only ones that need to continue to develop their knowledge and skills. We encourage all staff to attend professional learning opportunities wherever they can. It may be that staff take the opportunity to work with the SQA to develop their knowledge and understanding of the courses we teach; it may be they attend Education Scotland or Argyll and Bute Council courses, such as the excellent Google training delivered a couple of weeks ago in OHS. Or it may be that staff attend our own training delivered in school, linked to ASN, IT, Learning and Teaching pedagogy etc.

Head Teachers also need to keep on top of their game and it is important for us to share knowledge and experience with our peers. A couple of weeks ago, along with other Head Teachers from School Leaders Scotland, I was welcomed to Kinross High School where I took the opportunity to learn from many colleagues about changes taking place across the country. Within a very varied agenda I learned that universities have agreed that Foundation Apprenticeships will receive a weighting equivalent to two B Grades at Higher. This was particularly timely as last week I met with Colin Buchanan Regional Manager for Skills Development Scotland and Elaine Munro, Vice Principal of Argyll College. Together (along with Aisling Clark and Jemma Playfair), we firmed up our commitment to take forward another Foundation Apprenticeship programme in Business. This will be available for both Oban and Tiree and we are hoping to allocate 15 placements thanks to the generosity and commitment of our local business partners.

These FAs will be added to by our support for the Argyll and Bute Council FA in Social Services, Children and Young People and our development of new Level 4 FAs in Hospitality and Construction. They are not Highers but they will help our children succeed in life and work just, if not more successfully.

Hurray!!! The community roared. The school car park is open. We now have 184 additional spaces for all our staff, pupils and visitors. The “School Handover” took place from Morrison Construction last week; but to me far more important than opening the long-awaited carpark, was seeing “The Avenue” open up. This is a huge area of social space available for our pupils to take advantage of and was one of the most prominent features of the bid I made to the Government for our new school. The old school had a tiny area of playground around 150 meters long by about 20 meters wide. The new school space is simply massive and we have begun to fill it with picnic benches, single seating benching and, working with our excellent Catering Service, we hope to have external catering, allowing for hundreds of pupils to sit outside on the terracing and benches, enjoying the sun… for three days in May.

Special thanks for David Logan and Shirley Johnstone and all the Special Projects Team for ensuring we were provided with a brilliant new school.

Jayne Jones, the Council’s Commercial Manager, was back in OHS this week, along with a film crew. It was a very polished filming operation that our pupils were involved in to promote “Cashless Catering”. I would thoroughly recommend all our parents use this facility. Parents can either pay money on line onto a pupil’s card, pay money weekly or just give them cash to upload each day. It is very easy and convenient to use. There is an OHS video on our Facebook page showing how to use the service for those interested; but this one will be even better.

Jayne and I have also been exploring how to implement this great facility into Tiree and hope that parents will soon be able to benefit from a similar service soon. 

Can I also take the opportunity to celebrate another great initiative from Jayne’s team. OHS is used by huge numbers of the local community and many find themselves hanging about for hours, watching their kids play football, rugby, shinty, dancing etc. Well now parents can wait in comfort and do so with a cup of tea and something to eat as we now have mobile catering service in place in the main Foyer, easily accessible via the side pitch door. Please feel free to take advantage of this great facility.

What else have I been up to? I visited Dunbeg Primary P7 pupils. That was great. Another group of enthusiastic youngsters all eager to come along to OHS. Although a bit apprehensive of moving to the big school, they were overawed when they learned of all the opportunities that await them; and comforted when we described the level of support we provide.

I’ve also been catching up with my Advanced Higher History class making sure they were all geared up for Thursdays Prelim. I can’t believe we are nearly at the exams. The closer we get, the more nervous both pupils and staff become. To ensure that our pupils are well prepared we are offering Easter Study sessions (available in Oban and Tiree). I find that these sessions are very important for youngsters to attend as they keep the motivation and the regular support with the teachers going. Last year 280 pupils attended OHS sessions. We are hoping to increase the numbers still further. Hopefully the free food and drink will help; though it’s really the ability to have a teacher on hand to help with all the bits of the courses that worry individuals the most that should be the greatest enticement to attend. The timetables for these sessions are/will be published on Facebook. And of course, pupils should all be attending after school study support every week!!

As well as catching up with pupils attending after the after school study sessions, I also caught up with some of those who recently attended the Milan football trip; indeed, I had the privilege of handing out the certificates provided for completing their course.

I was also very pleased to be invited to watch a Bulls v Sharks game and I awarded a trophy to the victorious Sharks. It was an exciting roller coaster of a tournament that eventually saw the Sharks win overall.

An exciting roller coaster is also an apt description of my experience with Calmac over the last few weeks as I am never sure if the ferry is going; when it is going; and if it is coming back: and the timings are very interesting. The week before last my preferred Sunday ferry was cancelled (again), instead I had to get up at 2.30 am on Monday morning to make a 4.15 am sailing. An early morning start indeed. I am enjoying working with my staff in Tiree and building on our partnership working with OHS staff. I am however looking forward to the Summer timetable and daily sailings. Fortunately, Skype is working well which allows me to lead the management teams in either school no matter where I am on any given day; and the Skype lesson tests are nearing completion. This has now allowed us to add a fair number of extra subjects to the Tiree options forms (to be issued Monday 25th). It will also allow us to ensure that some smaller classes in OHS will run by doubling up with Tiree classes. 

Having attended an OHS Parents evening on career options a few weeks ago, I also had the chance to discuss the same opportunities for all our pupils at a Tiree Parents evening the week before last. The positivity of parents around the opportunities we are able to provide is very heartening. 

Positivity is something we saw in abundance from a very important guest. Cristian Califano, a famous French Rugby internationalist took the time to visit OHS (with French film crew in tow) and spent most of the day talking to our pupils about the importance of resilience, dedication and hard work in all that we do in life and work. A perfect model for our shared values of resilience, ambition, respect and compassion. 

We also saw important guests visit our youngsters in Tiree this week as Anne and Mark Stanley came along to provide an interesting and very valuable talk about being a vet. The more guests we have coming into our schools sharing their experiences, the better prepared our youngsters will be when they make their career choices. I also met with Paul Nicol, Director of the Estates Office and Games Steward for the Argyllshire Gathering, who has also offered to broker a number of key speakers for our youngsters after the Summer; which will benefit both OHS and THS students greatly.

Values were the key focus in this week’s assemblies where our Clan Chiefs and Clan Leaders reminded pupils of their importance. Pupil leadership has been prominent all year. You may recall an earlier post about Norwegian Head Teachers coming to Oban, looking at our good practice in this field. The Sports Coaches have been excelling themselves these last couple of weeks as they led a successful Red Nose Day charity event. They continued to inspire when they led a surprise keep fit session this week; and they led the Primary Gymfest, aided by S3 young leaders.

I also discussed successful leadership events with the Laurinburg seniors who have run a quiz night and a race night in the last couple of weeks. I also met a couple of our Senior Pupil Leadership Team members who are taking forward the Summer Dance preparations as well as the leavers Hoodies and Year Book. I have also been impressed with the commitment of young Kirsty MacIntyre who continues to progress with supplier negotiations following her work in leading the school mascot competition. And of course we also offer SQA Leadership Awards and the Higher Leadership class were working with Hope Kitchen this week.

All of these examples of leadership, whether linked to a Leadership or Sports Coaching award, are examples of experiences designed to fulfil our ambition to prepare our youngsters for life and work.

Ambition and resilience were values also demonstrated by all those performing in our annual Oban High School Pipe Band Concert this week. This was an absolutely fabulous show and my thanks goes out to everyone who made the show such a great success; the pupils who performed, the families for encouraging the youngsters hard work and the audience for the rapturous applause given, making it a very memorable evening for all involved. However, special thanks has to go to Angus McColl and Nan Johnstone. Your reward… you can spend a week with me in New York marching down 6th Avenue in New York’s Tartan Day Parade.

Roll on the holiday… only one very busy week to go.




Author: Peter Bain

I have been the Head Teacher of Oban High School since 2008. Most recently, I also took on the role as the Head Teacher of both Oban High School and Tiree High School (which includes a Primary School and Early Learning Centre) as Executive Head Teacher. I previously worked as a DHT in Eyemouth High School in the Scottish Borders; as a Principal Teacher in Balwearie High School, Kirkcaldy and Kirkland High School, Methil; and as a class teacher in Trinity Academy in Edinburgh and Viewforth High School in Kirkcaldy. Although born in sunny Leith near the hallowed ground of Easter Road, I am really from Musselburgh where I spent most of the first 30 years of my life. I went to Edinburgh University in 1990 and attained an MA (Hons) and an MSc before going to Strathclyde to pick up my PGCE (with Distinction) in 1997. I returned to Edinburgh University to complete my Scottish Qualification for Headship and Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Leadership and Management in 2008. The purpose of my blog is to give an insight into my working life, although a wee bit of my personal life and views will inevitably arise. Although I am writing about my experiences at work and these are shared by the school's social media functions, this is not an Oban High School blog and the views expressed are all my own.

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