Case Study 38, February 2004

Click for the next page!
.Extended school curriculum through
pupil-pupil partnerships.

This is the second Case Study of four during the 2003-04 session. Bearsden Academy highlights pupils’ and recent former pupils’ own potential for taking responsibility and for contributing to an extended school curriculum through pupil-pupil partnerships. Even in schools where staff members are heavily engaged in out-of-hours curricular and club activities, demand may outstrip the supply of staff time and skills. The emphasis on social inclusion and on health-promoting schools challenges schools’ capacity in sporting and other popular activities. When Bearsden Academy turned to their senior pupils initially for support they were delighted by their enthusiastic response and their willingness and ability to take substantial responsibility. The pupils’ continuing commitment and the further developments that the initiative generated are seen by the school community as indicative of a new dimension in the school’s already positive ethos.

This Case Study was published by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network.

Bearsden AcademyContact for this Case Study
Bearsden Academy
Head Teacher: Mike Doig
Depute Head Teacher: Annette McKay
Morven Road
Glasgow G61 3SU
Tel: 0141 942 2297

Introduction: School profile

Bearsden AcademyBearsden Academy was founded in 1911, and is a non-denominational, six-year comprehensive school situated in the Glasgow suburb of Bearsden. Its location gives it a central focus in the local community, and it has four associated primaries: Baljaffray, Bearsden, Castlehill and Mosshead. In addition, a significant number of pupils transfer from a local Catholic primary, while placing requests from Glasgow, Clydebank and beyond now account for some 20% of the roll of 1375.

Bearsden Academy has a long and proud academic tradition, and is among the top performing state schools in Scotland in terms of academic attainment. Added to this is a record of achievements in other spheres of school life, thanks particularly to the provision of an extensive range of extra-curricular activities organised by teachers for pupils.

Bearsden AcademyThe main building dates from 1958, and the teaching accommodation has been extended over the years through the addition of various annexes. Nevertheless, there are severe pressures on our accommodation, to the extent that the roll has for several years been capped at an 8-class intake of 240. A new two-storey Library was recently constructed, along with an ICT suite, and we also have a modern multi-purpose Games Hall with excellent facilities. The staffing complement is currently 93.4 f.t.e, and includes a Senior Management Team of 7, with 18 PTs (Curriculum) and a Guidance Team of 8 PTs (Pastoral). The school is fortunate in its extensive and hard working support team comprising; a Support Services Manager, 10 clerical and administrative staff, 3 school assistants, 3 SEN auxiliaries, 7 technicians, and the facilities management team. Both the School Board and the PTA are active and very supportive of the school, and parents in general are very well represented at consultation and information evenings, as well as at extra-curricular school events. The motto of Bearsden Academy is committed to excellence, and feedback from the Student Council, parental questionnaires and interviews indicates that the majority of pupils, parents and staff consider that the school has a positive ethos. This was also the view of HMI the last time the school was inspected, just under five years ago.

Background to the Programme

Contrary to stereotypical expectations of a school like Bearsden Academy, our need to address the issue of social inclusion is actually a significant one, not only because of the wide range of backgrounds from which we draw our pupils, but also because we now try to highlight the importance of achievement on a broad front, as well as of academic attainment. The school has been very successful in the latter, but has been less obviously engaged in the past in enabling every pupil to achieve to the best of their ability, and celebrating these more varied individual successes.

There are a large number of well established peer support initiatives in the school, most of which are well tested schemes such as Study Buddy, Read On (paired reading) and Friends Against Bullying. All of these involve senior pupils working with younger children on a voluntary basis during the school day and at lunchtime, and are consistently successful year on year thanks to the commitment of the senior pupils and the readiness of the younger ones to accept the support of fellow pupils. These activities are organised by the Depute Head responsible for the 160 pupils or so in the Sixth Year, all of whom are expected to be involved in at least one of the schemes of responsibility that run every year in the school.

Unfortunately, with an ageing profession and with the introduction of new contractual limits on teachers’ time, we were finding it difficult to offer new experiences for pupils outwith school hours to enlarge the extensive programme already available. In particular, there was a demand from younger pupils for sporting activities that we could not match with the necessary expertise of staff, either because the relevant teachers were already optimally involved, or because no member of staff had the relevant interest or experience in that field. This was particularly disappointing since we were promoting a healthier lifestyle through exercise and sensible eating while also encouraging every pupil to become involved in at least one out-of-hours school activity.

Football Coaching

In the summer of 2001, we were aware that the incoming S1 contained many youngsters who were already keen football players (see Picture A), and at the same time we were about to bid farewell to a particularly impressive S6 group of footballers. One of our Depute Heads, C, head of S6 and coach of the Under-18 football team, came up with a possible solution to the lack of teaching staff to meet the demand. With little persuasion, the then Boys’ Captain, Neil, and two of his friends, Fraser and Jamie, volunteered to coach the new S1 boys. The response from pupils was enthusiastic and the offer was readily accepted, subject to our identifying a member of staff who would act in a supervisory capacity. In the event another Depute Head, A, took on the responsibility - she set up the coaching sessions and made the arrangements for competitive matches for the team.

Three years later the same young men are still with us, and apart from occasional unavoidable absences through university exams or classes, they have never missed a week. After two successful years, they reckoned that a third year would be impossible owing to their university and work commitments. We still could not find a teacher coach, but to the delight of all, when our volunteer coaches got their university timetables in October they discovered that they could manage to fit in some coaching after all.

Neil was asked why he did it:

"I got a lot out of my years at Bearsden Academy, particularly my final year. This is a way of giving something back. I really look forward to the coaching sessions with the boys. Tuesdays are one of the highlights of my week".

"We appreciate that it’s really good of Neil and the others to go out of their way for us. Tuesdays were no fun when there was no football after school".
Nico, S3

Having found a model that worked, Depute Head C then approached some of the following year’s Under-18 team when they were due to leave school. This time a trio of young men - who had not always taken school life very seriously! - volunteered to coach another new S1 intake of footballers, and again, their commitment has been faultless.

"The boys are all good individual players, but they need to learn to work as a team. That’s what we can teach them".

"We have a good mix of boys, from some who don’t do particularly well in class and who are often in trouble for things like not paying attention, to others who are quite intellectual. Being part of the squad brings together boys who would not otherwise speak much to each other".

"We’ve always enjoyed our football but we don’t take it too seriously. This is a chance for us to make football fun for some of the younger boys".

Keeping up the family tradition, Adam, Captain of the Under-18s last year, is now coaching the current S1 squad along with his friend Scott, as they go through their first year of university courses, thus following the pattern established by Adam’s older brother, Neil, almost three years ago.

The boys in all year groups are very impressed with the dedication of their coaches:

"They turn up every week in their own time so that we can have our football".
Stephen, S2

"It gives you something to look forward to and enjoy".
Lewis, S2

Depute Head C, the man with the initial idea, is enthusiastic about the success of the scheme.

"It gives the older boys a chance to remain involved in football when they finish school. They learn how to pass on their skills to others. They enjoy it and it keeps the younger boys involved in schools’ football, which is great".

All three ventures (see Picture B) are under the watchful eye of Depute Head A, who enjoys seeing the young ones develop footballing skills and teamwork, and welcomes the on-going contact with former pupils.

"It’s great to have groups of pleasant young men appearing at my office at the end of the day - a welcome change from the groups of small boys that are sent to my office during the school day".








Enthusiasm and collaboration

Picture A: Enthusiasm and collaboration: S1 girl and boy would-be footballers with former School Captain, Neil, and two of the supportive Depute Head Teachers.










S1, S2 and S3 boys' team
S1, S2 and S3 boys' team
S1, S2 and S3 boys' team

Picture B (Parts 1, 2 and 3): Our S1, S2 and S3 boys' teams with senior former pupils Adam, Scott, Ross, Martin, Michael, Fraser and Neil, their highly-valued coaches.





Don't forget to turn the page for more of this Case Study.
Use the forward arrow to the top right of this page!