Big hand for pupils' show of citizenship

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Spring has arrived and along with the first cuckoo comes the time to improve planning again. I think, however, that someone, somewhere, is bending time. If not, then why does this seem to come around faster and faster as I get longer in the tooth?

This year, we really have to look closely at some of our more neglected national priorities. In our defence, just a few trifling issues got in the way, such as job sizing, restructuring, attainment (always a top priority), achievement, promoting positive behaviour (edu-speak for behaviour problems) as well as dealing with the day-to-day stuff.

So, when a flyer for a conference on citizenship crossed my desk, I sent it off and my senior depute and I headed down to Edinburgh to discover what it was all about.

I have to admit that the subject matter weighed a little heavy, mainly due to my searches which had thrown up "civics" courses to be done through personal and social education.

"This is not about politics and civics lessons," schools' inspector Lachie MacCallum, the keynote speaker, announced. I immediately began to sit up and take notice.

"There is an important difference between citizenship and 'education for citizenship'." Now he was talking my language.

The Scottish approach has four main elements: curriculum, classroom experience, school climate and engagement with the community.

Mr MacCallum expanded on these and finished by discussing the future role of subject areas which should be judged in terms of the overall quality of the experience for pupils and not merely in the light of their content.

"Ask hard questions of your subjects," said Mr MacCallum, darkly. Mmmm.

We were then bowled over by a presentation on citizenship by senior pupils from Notre Dame High in Glasgow. What they described most schools do but the difference at Notre Dame High is the planning and progression.

Later, the pupils of Killearn Primary told us about their values of honesty, fairness, respect and responsibility and of how they have their own "Brit awards" ceremony for citizenship presented to people in the community. What a show!

I am full of admiration when young people take centre stage and try to make this happen as much as possible.

Between January and May we have the annual gigantean task of visiting all of our P7 pupils and their parents. We take with us, on our evening visits, S1 pupils from the cluster of schools we are visiting and some S6 pupils, also from the area.

The pupils do most of the talking, answering P7s' questions and speaking about the induction days and "real life" (as opposed to the headie's spin) in Oban High. It goes down a bomb every year.

And at our annual awards ceremonies we have been increasing the pupil content for some time. This year we went the whole hog and had our head girl and head boy chair the ceremony, make the links between awards and give the vote of thanks.

Their fantastic performance was only slightly outmatched by our star turn, Dr Anne Lorne Gillies, a former pupil of Oban High and nationally renowned singer (Mod gold medallist), writer, debater and television producer. She certainly displayed her powers of communication and held our pupils in thrall.

The "wow" factor came when she burst into song at the end, unaccompanied.

"You'll just need to do that at assemblies, Miss," said Andy (S4).

"Aye, that'll be shining bright," I replied.

So, last Thursday when I bought my Oban Times and glanced through it for clippings of our pupils' achievements for the notice boards, expecting to find possibly one piece on the awards ceremony, I ended up with quite a pile.

qur Highland dancers featured on the front page, along with some of our fifth and sixth years with our local election candidates at our hustings.

Page 5 has a photograph of Alistair and Andy (different one), our joint duxes (or should I say "duces"?) along with a report on the prize-giving.

Below this were our modern dance competition winners and then to the left appeared a photo of our local festival woodwind ensemble winners.

Citizenship? I think we may just be doing it.

Linda Kirkwood is headteacher of Oban HighIf you have any comments, email

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