Movers and shakers

28th September 2007 at 01:00
The achievements of Dundee pupils, staff and schools were celebrated at the Focus on Achievement Awards recently. Emma Seith highlights some of them.


Bringing in professional dancers to stave off the winter blues, constant access to the outdoors and growing their own vegetables are three reasons a Dundee nursery school has become the first in Scotland to achieve the gold standard health-promoting school award.

Menzieshill Nursery was also honoured at Dundee's education awards, winning the Developing a Healthy Environment Award.

Promoting healthy living, according to Isobel Fleming, the headteacher, is at the centre of everything the nursery does. "The curriculum is planned around the seasons, so we are starting to talk about the harvest, baking our own bread and taking the children to the shops to buy the ingredients."

The fruit given to the children as daily snacks and to take home on Fruity Friday and Tasty Tuesday is also in tune with the seasons. "Strawberries and plums and apples are in season, so that's what they're getting. We try to educate them about food production: that you don't just pick up a loaf in Asda, you have to bake it, and that different fruits grow at different times."

However, it is the nursery garden and the children's year-round access to it that truly create a healthy environment, she says: "Ten years ago, it was tarmac, but staff and parents have done a wonderful job transforming it."

Today, the nursery grows its own vegetables and the children plant and tend the flower beds. There is a section dedicated to feeding and studying wild birds.

However, during the winter, Mrs Fleming noticed the children were more sedentary and less inclined to spend large chunks of time exercising outdoors. "They still went outside, but not for as long as during summer," she explained.

So, last winter, Mrs Fleming contacted The Space dance school in Dundee and a musician and professional dancer came to the school.

"The children followed the musician as if she was the Pied Piper," she said. "They loved it."

After eight weeks, the nursery moved on to phase two of their Mini-movers scheme and another dancer from The Space was brought in, this time teaching dance moves to popular music.

This year, after the October break, the children will be moving to music again for 20 minutes every week. "If you want to get young children moving, music is the key. Mini-rugby and football are fine, but if something is too hard, if young children have to follow too many instructions, or wait too long in a line, they'll vote with their feet."


The award for multicultural education was won by a cluster of primaries made up of a Catholic and two non-denominational primaries with large ethnic minority populations who worked together to promote faith tolerance and awareness.

The Al-Maktoum Institute Award for Multicultural Education was presented to Park Place Primary, Blackness Primary and St Joseph's RC Primary in Dundee. The schools joined forces at the beginning of the year to teach their P7 pupils about different faiths. The project, supported by pound;43,00 funding from the Anti- sectarianism in Education Project, focussed on Islam, Catholicism and Christianity.

Each school studied one religion and presented their findings to their peers. Places of worship were visited and pupils designed and made button badges with multi-cultural, anti-sectarian and anti-bullying messages. Youngsters also worked with a team from the Dundee Rep Theatre to produce a short play, Toni's Story, that carried messages about the importance of respecting others.


Teacher Edmund Gasowski, who was permanently disabled by a stroke 10 years ago but continues to work with pupils in Dundee, was presented with the Services to Education Award.

Mr Gasowski was having a drink with colleagues to mark the end of term and their last day at Kirkton High in Dundee (the school merged with Rockwell High in 1997 to form Baldragon Academy) when he suffered a stroke.

It damaged his brain, causing him to develop aphasia difficulties speaking and understanding language. As a result, he was forced to give up teaching.

However, Mr Gasowski, who was 48 at the time of his stroke and principal teacher of technical studies, is still a familiar face at Baldragon Academy where, since 1999, he has been a volunteer classroom assistant in the technical and the home economics departments.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Gasowski, his wife, Alison, said: "Teaching was a job he loved. He wanted to go back because he missed it so that is why he did it, partly for himself, but also because he felt he would still be able to help the pupils in the department."

Mr Gasowski cannot speak but, according to Mrs Gasowska, has many other ways of getting his point across. "It's like being on Give us a Clue all your life," she joked.

He appreciates the frankness of the pupils, who are never slow to ask: "What's wrong with you then?" And also the speed with which they accept him and his disability.

George Laidlaw, headteacher at Baldragon Academy, said: "Pupils and staff admire Eddie for his tremendous ability to communicate, and his sense of humour elements of a very good teacher. He has developed an understanding in others that being disabled does not prevent someone teaching. Indeed, they listen more carefully. The story of how Mr Gasowski has overcome his disability and continued to give great service to education is inspirational and deserves this recognition."

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