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The better side of school

As part of a recruitment drive, our council has instituted a number of open days, inviting anyone who wishes to return to teaching, or to move into the area, to visit a number of schools, chat to staff and pupils, and gain a feel for what it is like to teach here.

We've had more than 30 of these visitors in the past few days. They have all been extremely positive about what they have found. Their comments remind us that, while teaching doesn't get any easier, we should beware of negativity and its debilitating effect.

After our "debriefing" chats with our visitors, we could reflect that the vast majority of our pupils say please and thank you, open doors for others, wear uniform, want to learn and follow our basic school expectation of mutual respect.

There are some who, of course, go far beyond that in what they give to the school and wider community, in terms of academic, artistic, sporting and caring activities. Others fall below our expectations for whatever reason and require a disproportionate amount of support to maintain them in school. The point is that, with an outsider's fresh perspective, what our visitors saw was far more positive than negative.

The same would apply to our staff. Though sagging under paperwork and quality assurance procedures, and forever running before the next deadline, the vast majority remain positive and enthused and provide better and better care, education and support for our pupils and families year upon year.

The popular perception would suggest that the staffrooms of Scotland are peopled by a cynical workforce, poring over post-McCrone contractual fine print with magnifying glasses, eschewing all manner of extra-curricular activities and driven by self-preservation rather than professional zeal.

That's not the real picture in our school or in any that I know.

As in the pupil body, there are all sorts in the teaching force. But the vast majority do the job for the same reasons they chose it in the first place: to make a difference, to educate the pupils and to do their best within a system that may creak and groan but which still puts the pupils at its heart.

When it gets it wrong, as it does often, it's the teachers who have still to make it work. But they, overwhelmingly, do so with the pupils' best interests at heart.

One of our associated primaries is undergoing an inspection just now. A primary 3 pupil went home worried, saying it was very busy in school because the "suspectors" were coming.

I suspect what they will find there and in the vast majority of our schools is a far more positive picture than one might expect.

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