'Always aim high' says headteacher of the year

22nd June 2012 at 01:00
Glasgow head says where you come from does not matter

When Jane Saunders was announced as Scotland's headteacher of the year last week, her pupils did an impromptu conga round the school before hastily arranging a guard of honour for her.

Since then, the celebrations at St Bartholomew's Primary in Glasgow have barely stopped, with flowers and cards pouring in from the Castlemilk school and its wider community. "It's given people a lot of pride," she said.

Mrs Saunders, 45, summed up her approach as she received her prize at the Scottish Education Awards ceremony in Glasgow last week: "It doesn't matter where you come from, you always aim high."

She was accompanied by three members of the pupil council, including eight-year-old Edward Coll, who told TESS: "Whenever you go into school you think it's going to be boring, but Mrs Saunders turns it upside down."

Elliott Harvey, 9, said Mrs Saunders was always reminding him and his friends to "aim high".

Leah Wilson, 9, recalled thinking there was little point in entering a pupil council election, but that thanks to her head's encouragement she did - and won.

Mrs Saunders strives to make pupils' voices heard, notably by introducing a "headteacher's lunch" where she invites one child from every class to eat with her every few weeks.

A native of Cambuslang - her father, Peter Mullen, retired as headteacher of Glasgow's Holyrood Secondary in 1994 - Mrs Saunders took up her post in 2002. It was her first headship and she had a tough start: a 2003 HMIE report underlined that considerable work had to be done - but a 2012 report showed the school had made great strides.

She has introduced a P7 careers conference and "record of achievement" folders for all pupils, to celebrate the talents and skills of each child in the 262-pupil school.

A determination to open pupils' eyes to fresh possibilities led to the school's participation in Glasgow Caledonian University's Caledonian Club, which aims to demystify university for children from areas such as Drumchapel and Castlemilk. Through the club, St Bartholomew's pupils recently travelled to London and met Olympic athletes.

"I love teaching and making sure that the children have something to look forward to," Mrs Saunders said.

* The Scottish Education Awards are organised by the Scottish government and The Daily Record



An HMIE report earlier this year described Jane Saunders as "a highly- skilled leader who has involved fully children, parents and staff in evaluating and improving the work of the school" and who "demonstrates a personal and passionate commitment to delivering the school's shared values and aims".

Her school's strengths included "highly motivated, polite and confident children who are keen to learn and make a difference in school"; "outstanding work of all staff in helping children who need additional support to learn"; and the "strong ethos of a faith community and commitment of adults to the care and well-being of children".

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