a Sense of Belonging: Responding to Adverse Publicity
High School is a learning community located in the town
of Blairgowrie in Highland Perthshire. In August 2003,
there were 1044 pupils on the roll. It has a staff of
115, of whom 83 are teaching staff. Our school is 97
years old and over the years has developed strong, positive
traditions and good links with our local community.
school was not itself the subject of the legal interdict
- some young people were. The Interim Interdict required
that that these young people should not trouble the
pupil who had been bullied. We needed to make sure that
the pupils against whom the order had been served were
following the terms of the interdict within the school.
Before proceeding with other priorities, therefore,
we developed a strategy of managing the interdict. This
meant more detailed time-tabling for the affected pupils
by a member of the senior management team.
intensive period of evaluation by the school, the council
and others and widespread consultation was necessary.
Perth and Kinross Council, in consultation with our
School Board, implemented a support strategy for our
school, designed both to clarify antecedents and to
take the school forward in a positive way. The Executive
Director of Education and Childrens Services and
the Convenor of the Education (now Lifelong Learning)
Committee developed an action plan with the following
was a focus on school leadership and management:
a head teacher was seconded from within Perth and
Kinross to provide leadership and support.
on the in-school functioning, relationships and
perspectives was commissioned by the Council and
undertaken by external consultants. The Edinburgh-based
consultants shared their findings with our school
community (see later).
council policies in community partnership,
ethos of achievement and effective learning and
teaching were to be reinforced. A policy
was developed to improve communication with parents
and the media.
influenced our thinking and actions?
school had undergone a standards and quality inspection
in 1999 and HMIe identified specific issues in our ethos,
relationships and communications that had to be addressed
with some urgency. Action points arising from the HMI
report led to developments that are salient to this
Vision and Action that focuses on recovery.
We were also very concerned about our record of exclusions
112 pupils for a total of 576 days in 2002/2003
and 104 pupils for a total of 514 days in 2001/2002.
A recurring theme among some pupils had been threatening
behaviour with some physical violence and verbal abuse
seconded head teacher had previous experience of working
with the Scottish Schools Ethos Network and felt that
the situation in Blairgowrie could benefit from some
of the strategies promoted by SSEN. He had also previously
worked with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld on
the importance of a sense of belonging and mutual respect
within our diverse communities. Research on shared leadership
and on how social capital is generated in school communities
were other external influences that could also be brought
to bear in addressing our difficulties.
our school community, we had inherited a strong legacy
of taking a pride in our school and of tapping in to
the desire of pupils, staff and parents to work together
(see picture A) and to help each other to learn effectively.
We also shared a very strong desire to win back the
esteem of our local community.
did members of our school community feel about the situation?
are some comments drawn from the research undertaken,
illustrating substantial confusion, some hurt, denial
and defensiveness, as well as constructive suggestions:
school in Scotland could have had problems. The press
blew it out of proportion".
youre told you cant do something and then
someone else does it and gets away with it, youll
be more likely to try it yourself".
kids actually like the stricter teachers better. They
like to know where the boundaries are".
should we respect a teacher who is rude to us?".
is very important that the senior management team
sees its role as a discipline one, not as a friend
when pupils are not conforming to standards of behaviour.
Obviously they need to give praise where praise is
merited, through awards of certificates and positive
feedback. But both roles should be clearly understood
could all work better as a team. We need to work on
a lot of people with good ideas but the communication
a society problem. Everyone is looking out for themselves".
these comments also indicated some possible improvement
a sense of belonging
and demonstrating respect for each other
our responsibilities seriously.
on to what we did well
what we did well could not disguise or negate the substantial
aspects of school life that required improvement, it
was really important for the school communitys
self-belief that we did not lose sight of our strengths.
Following the adverse publicity in 2003, pupils in particular
felt resentful that their achievements were not being
given proper recognition. These included:
quality musical productions (see Pictures A and
celebrations led by pupils receiving additional
support for learning
achievements at national level in sport and technology
in social inclusion projects with outside agencies
ICT work in setting up our schools website
leadership from senior pupils, with support and
example being offered to younger pupils (see Picture
the 1999 HMIe report on our school had praised:
very good examples of direct teaching
good support for pupils with special educational
wide range of extra-curricular activities
good arrangements for supported study and a high
quality learning resource centre.
the link in the column to the right to read the very
latest 2004 HMIe report.