Last week ended with a celebration. Our Oban High youngsters gathered together with pupils from both Dunoon and Campbeltown Grammar schools in OHS for a wee breakfast before embarking on a jubilant march down to the town Square to join the big Oban Pride procession along George Street and the Promenade. Despite the weather (we got soaked) everyone who took part enjoyed themselves.
Not only am I proud of all the youngsters who identify as LGBTQI and came together to promote the community and celebrate diversity, I am equally proud of all their friends who came along to show their support and encouragement. More than that, the opportunity to make new friends from other schools and other parts of Argyll is always a welcome bonus to any event.
Adding to ones experiences, developing wider skills and making new friends are key benefits of another Argyll and Bute schools programme I am pleased to support and encourage. Each year OHS has been working with a company called Outward Bound who deliver Leadership courses at Loch Eil. Last year, together with the other Argyll and Bute high schools we got together for a similar outdoor educational experience for all S3 pupils where pupils learned to work together, learned about relationships, about resilience (a lot were out of their comfort zones) and in doing so made lots of friends from other schools. And, it was all free to the schools thanks to a generous donation made to Outward Bound on behalf of our youngsters.
As well as helping to shape these experiences I also started to piece together a plan for the forthcoming OHS official opening day on the 5th June. This will be a spectacular event to celebrate the work done across the school, ensuring our vision for our youngsters is achieved. All the Principal Teachers, course leaders and staff from Argyll College are busy working up their presentations and displays and our senior pupils are currently liaising with staff across the school to write up their speeches. The school will officially be opened by the Policy Lead for Education, and enthusiastic supporter of OHS, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly.
Other tasks occupying my time this week included continuing to work with Gary Clark and Simon from the Education IT Department. Together with the technicians in Oban and Tiree, they are feverishly working away to ensure that the VC lessons due to commence next week will run like clockwork. I have now overseen eight different tests across the last couple of months. Nearly there. Gary and Simon are currently in Tiree running sessions with the children involved in delivering six different subject areas (Business Studies; IT; Games Programming; Art; Biology; and Geography. Later this week they are back in Oban to deliver the final staff training sessions. I’ll be in Tiree to make sure I’m happy with the quality in the final test day.
Property always features highly in the list of time consuming jobs in a week and this week I have been working with the Special Projects Team to ensure that all the snagging issues are being progressed; that new works have been priced or work has commenced, for example the development of the ground works outside the school building, the installation of fencing or planting and the installation of the new 3D Galley of Lorn display at the Miller Road entrance;and the building of the new Support Department polytunnel and bee shed.
In Tiree I met with local contractor Kevin Brown to discuss progress with the new roof, discussed new corridor decor to brighten and modernise the old parts the high school and the establishment of a fitness gym next to the games hall. I also met with Alex Adleigh, the manager of SSUK, to agree the installation of more Promethean boards, ensuring that every class in Oban and Tiree has the most up to date teaching technology possible to date.
Of course it’s not just equipment and resources that continually need updating. Our greatest resource are the staff. To ensure we continue to build on the quality staff in our schools, I need to agree contract extensions for some and to advertise and interview for others. This week I extended a number of contracts across the schools for another year; firmed up the appointment of Art and Home Economics probationers; appointed new cleaners and a supply janitor for Tiree; arranged interviews for a Technician and a DHT in Oban and a Socials teacher in Tiree; and put out a re-advertisement for a Maths teacher for OHS.
I was also pleased to have the opportunity to review the progress of five probationer teachers we have in the school at the current time and I was delighted to agree with the recommendation of their PTs and I signed them all off with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
Of course in order to keep pace with these changes I do need to ensure we have money to pay for all these staff for new IT and for the property costs and so I have finance meetings every couple of weeks to review our finances. I am fortunate to have an excellent Admin and Finance Assistant, Julie Campbell, who keeps me informed. I’m also fortunate that the Schools Support Manager, Susan Tyre and property officers like George Campbell and Billy Ingram are so supportive. A Heidie cannot do everything on their own. Head Teachers may make the final decisions but they rely on the expertise of others more knowledgeable than themselves before decisions can be made.
Another example of this comes form the work I have been engaged with alongside the PT of Developing the Young Workforce, Aisling Clark. Without the support of Skills Development Scotland Manager Colin Buchanan and support of Elaine Munro at Argyll College, we would not be able to deliver a large number of Foundation Apprenticeships. The number of youngsters interested in Business, Construction and Care FAs are rising each week. If these opportunities lead to the successful acquisition of additional qualifications (an FA is equivalent to a Higher, A grade) and work experience with a business / organisation then we will have succeeded in helping our youngsters to more fully prepare for life after school in the workplace.
Discussions with partners to ensure this develops form another significant part of each week. It is important to engage with organisations like Argyll College, SDS, Bid4Oban and local businesses who look after our youngsters across the town. By listening to the needs and experiences of the employers, we can set them up with youngsters interested in their environment. This is an area we have a lot of experience. We have been running extended work placements (we call the initiative Pathways) for around ten years. We are very lucky to have such a wealth of generous and supportive businesses across the area. Indeed, we will soon be recognising their contribution when we hold our annual Business Breakfast. It’s also a chance for others to come along for a free bacon roll and hear about how they can get involved. Any businesses out there who want to find out more before committing, feel free to call me. Thanks very much!
I was pleased to oversee the start of the new junior timetable commencing in OHS. The timetable, written by Nan Johnstone this year, has clearly worked out very well with all classes running in the correct rooms, with a teacher in front of them. You will be surprised by some of the stories we hear about timetables gone wrong from across the country, with multiple classes turning up to the same teacher; classes turning up to a room number, that is really a cupboard; classes not turning up at all because the timetable didn’t list a room or teacher. We are lucky Nan is excellent in her role.
That is not to say we do not have timetabling issues every year. Some courses are over subscribed. A common issue across schools. In that case our brilliant guidance staff try to work out who needs a subject for a career and they take priority. If they are in S6 and this is there last chance to take the course, they are also prioritised. Some pupils would like to take a subject for a variety of reasons. They liked their subject teacher; their pals are in the class; or they have a real passion for the subject. Those passionate are also prioritised.
Our undertaking for all pupils is that, by the end of S6, all pupils will be able to gain the necessary qualifications and experiences to take forward any career they desire, either directly into employment or via university or college. Some get everything they need on first choosing, others have to re-jig the times and do certain courses in S5 and others in S6 to reach the ultimate goal.
Some pupils are merely back in school, especially in S6, because they can’t decide on a career destination; or are killing time until the Christmas dance – Jingles. Lots of schools have this problem for a whole year with pupils trying to stay on until their senior Prom, the following June. Whilst it is great that the kids want to end their school careers with a big dance, it clearly should not be a significant rationale for staying on, yet it remains the case.
In order to deal with this issue, schools including our own, issue Senior Contracts in an effort to re-assert the importance of coming to school, coming on time, with kit/equipment, in uniform and ready to fully engage in the learning opportunities we provide. This year, we have been re-writing our Contracts to link to our values: Ambition, Compassion, Respect and Resilience. These contracts will be issued next week after I lead a welcome assembly at the start of the new Senior timetable change.
The senior and junior timetable changes in Tiree take effect on the 3rd of June. We had hoped to change on the same days as OHS but this year, because of a change to the bus timetables we have to change slightly later. The date changes will all be consistent from there on in.
We are also getting ready in oban to host our guests from Laurinburg in North Carolina. The pupils involved have been busy fundraising to ensure we can provide our guests with wonderful experiences across Argyll and further afield in Scotland. I have been working on the re-establishment of the Oban – Laurinburg, Twin / Sister town road signs with the Council. We are just waiting on them being manufactured and hope to have them in place after many years of absence.
You will recall the purpose of my blog is to give you an idea of what a Heidie gets up to… well this one has demonstrated again that our role is rich, varied and on the whole enjoyable.
I could have mentioned reading 300 odd emails, writing a couple of hundred responses; visits to classes, assemblies and presentations viewed and individual discussions with or training delivered to staff but a lot of those tasks are either confidential or need to be saved for another day.
I shall leave you with one last experience I had from this morning. Each week I am in Tiree, I visit all the classes in the Primary and the ELC. This morning I really enjoyed chatting to the pre-fives about Jack and the Beanstalk and seeing all the artwork they produced. A new experience for me…. and one I thoroughly enjoy.
Any job that make one smile is a good job.