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Opportunities to pursue excellence

There can hardly be a school in the country which is not involved in enterprise activities of some kind. So one that wins the Scottish Education Awards accolade of Most Enterprising Secondary School must surely have a winning formula.

Peebles High certainly believes it has - and the big ambitions to go with it. As headteacher John Brown puts it, the school is about "creating opportunities, pursuing excellence and achieving success".

"We're creating real-life opportunities for pupils, which is crucial," Mr Brown says. "This is about developing skills in young people, not just about achievement in the classroom."

All of the sixth year undertake leadership activities, for example. One initiative was through the local Tweeddale learning community, when teachers and pupils from Peebles High and nine primaries took a day out to consider A Curriculum for Excellence. In a practical embrace of the four capacities, S6 students took a leadership role in organising the day.

"We can see the impact this sort of thing has on the way it builds confidence in our pupils," Mr Brown says. "We believe it is creating opportunities which allow a `can do' attitude to flourish."

The contribution of the Skills for Work programme is also a major factor in the school's thinking. It is the only secondary which uses its own staff to deliver it, since the nearest further education college in Galashiels is over an hour away.

In Pauline Crory, it has its own hairdressing teacher with - eventually - approval from the General Teaching Council for Scotland. Teachers also deliver courses in construction, engineering, early education and childcare, and hospitality.

Peebles High has links with 40 businesses. The most extensive is with the nearby Macdonald Cardrona Hotel. For the past three years, it has been involved in developing the four capacities of the new curriculum through a specific project. Each year, all S2 pupils, some 50 pupils from S3, 20 from S5, 12 school staff, five hotel managers and six consuls general representing overseas countries are involved.

The project allows young people to develop skills in teamwork, leadership, decision-making, taking responsibility and risks, and creativity. It also exposes them to the hospitality industry, the international diplomatic corps, the media and the local community.

Although there was initial uncertainty, the school says there is strong parental and pupil support for its efforts to unify the vocational and academic streams in this way. Construction and engineering classes are over-subscribed.

"The opportunities we provide develop a desire to learn, which is far more important than whether you get an A, B or C grade," says Mr Brown. "It's about skills development as well as deepening content, knowledge and understanding.

"Different people have different skills and should be given the opportunities to develop them - be it in plumbing or French."

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