Relatively speaking - This double-act found the perfect showcase

16th July 2010 at 01:00
Jim Dalziel became a secondary headteacher at 37, but his daughter, Jane Arthur, was appointed a primary head at the even younger age of 32. They both enjoy the repartee of the classroom and love having a captive audience

Jim Dalziel, 63, headteacher of Eastbank Academy in Glasgow

I had a teacher, Mr Cameron, who was head of maths at Queen's Park Senior Secondary in Glasgow. He seemed to be having such a good time, always joking. He asked me one day what I wanted to do and I said, what he did. He said: `Don't. You'll never have enough money if you marry and have a family.' So I put it out of my mind.

I did politics and economics at university. My mother had brainwashed me into going into Camp;A or Mamp;S - she had this great vision of a wonderful career for me. I was on the point of taking a job as trainee manager at Camp;A, when I suddenly decided, no.

As a temporary measure, I took a job as an uncertificated teacher - it was the last year you could do that - at Gallowflat Junior Secondary in Rutherglen. I taught English and social subjects, and I loved it. Mr Cameron was wrong.

I went to Jordanhill in 1970. Having had a year's teaching before going there helped me appreciate what I was being taught. I did economics, with modern studies as a second subject.

My first job was at Claremont High in East Kilbride and then I went back to Gallowflat, which had been incorporated into an upgraded Stonelaw High, as a guidance and modern studies teacher. I then became principal teacher of modern studies at Riverside Secondary - that was when I first discovered the east end.

A lot of headteachers, directors and depute directors were modern studies teachers originally. We were self-starters - we had to create a job for ourselves when there was a teacher shortage. Modern studies teachers would go around with boxes of newspaper cuttings, because there were no textbooks, apart from Tumelty, which I thought was useless. I am actually an author (with Alex Stirling) and our book was published by Blackie. But Bob McKay and his group beat us to the punch and cornered the market. Our book disappeared without trace, although two copies were sold to a school in Ghana. I've often wondered what they made of a book about Scottish local government over there!

When I left to go to Kilmarnock, I said, like General MacArthur, "I'll be back". The kids in the east end are so funny. They can be quite outspoken, but not in a nasty sense. Nowadays, you'd call it "streetwise". I'm from the southside - Govanhill - but I've adopted the east end.

I went to James Hamilton Academy in Kilmarnock as an assistant head and then, after I'd become depute head, I saw an ad for headteacher of Eastbank Academy, back in the east end of Glasgow. I thought it was a bit early for me - I was only 37 - but I got the job. After a few weeks, I thought: `God, what have I done?' I was only a boy. But I never regretted it.

Tom Miller was my head at James Hamilton. He was a very challenging mentor but quite visionary and utterly focused on improving learning and teaching and the curriculum. He made me realise that going into senior management had a very serious side to it and you had to take some aspects, particularly the welfare of kids, very seriously.

Working in Glasgow has given me so many opportunities - I've had the glory years of lots of dosh for projects and developments, and now we're entering the lean ones.

I enjoyed it when we set up the first learning community in 1999, something which is coming back, in a way. I had a budget of 125,000, so I could really splash the cash. Initiatives included Enable, where primary- trained teachers taught early secondary classes, and getting French and science teachers into primary classes. I don't think we quite achieved what we set out to do. There were various reasons why that happened; one, perhaps, was that we lost some of the freedom and initial flexibility, and it became more of a structure.

There are teachers who are professional technicians, in the sense that they take pride in learning their trade and delivering it. But there are some teachers who are almost born to it - they have that connection with the kids without even thinking about it. I have teachers like that in my school today, and I can see that they are exactly the same as I was as a teacher in class. You've got to have that liking of young people, and a sense of humour, and that makes every day different for you.

Two of my teachers retired the other day. One of them, John Baird, has been doing pastoral care for 35 years and spent his whole career at Eastbank. He was fantastic with the kids; I don't know if we'll see his kind of "guidie" again. But there are young teachers coming through, too. Alexis Grant is our enterprise and employability officer and she just doesn't stop. Her energy reminds me of myself - interestingly, her father is a depute head of a primary school.

Three years ago, because my wife had difficulties after an operation, I was seconded to work for the authority. I don't know if any other authority would have been as supportive. I spent two years at headquarters and the people I worked with were terrific. But I was dying to get back to school - I could never have done that for my whole career.

Jane Arthur, 39, headteacher of Pirie Park Primary, one of the largest schools in Glasgow, created from the merger of Drumoyne, Elder Park and Greenfield, in Govan

During the teachers' strikes in the mid-1980s, my brother John and I got to go to James Hamilton Academy with my dad. We worked in the library, reclassifying the books. I've always felt very much part of my dad's school and job.

If I told my dad I had got nine out of 10 for a test, or 95 per cent, he would always ask: "What happened to the other one mark, or the other five per cent?" He didn't drive us to do our homework, but there was an ethos of work in the house.

My original plan was to be a doctor, but I did work experience in a doctor's surgery and thought it was boring; plus, I used to faint at the sight of blood. So I was going down the route of biochemistry or biophysics. When I went to speak to someone at Glasgow University about the course, she told me the first year was basically physics, my most hated of the three sciences.

I was going back to do sixth year, because I was quite young, only 16. But I had a summer job cooking fish and giving bits to people to taste, and one day when Dad picked me up, I said: "I don't want to go back to school." He said: "Why don't you phone up Jordanhill and apply as a late entrant to the primary course? There's quite an eclectic range of subjects, Jordanhill's a nice place, and you'll get a degree at the end of it."

They were interviewing 150 people for 12 late entrants' places, but I and two others from my school got in.

As soon as I went there, I loved it. I'm a frustrated actor, like my father. I like the sound of my own voice. I love the responses you get from children, because they're not scripted, and how they push you in a direction you didn't intend to go in.

At Jordanhill, I absolutely loved the teaching of reading and maths. I got the big picture of where it came from. I thought if I had realised all that, I might have worked harder at school.

I graduated in 1991 and was only 20. I had a job in Motherwell at a nursery, but when Glasgow heard, they offered me three jobs. One was in Carmyle, just along the road from Dad, and he said: `If things get too bad, you can come and have lunch with me.'

I was made permanent at Carmyle and asked to take P1. I had just got married and, on Boxing Day, I got a phone call to say the school had been burnt to the ground. It was transferred to the Dalton building in Blantyre. For two years, the children were taken in double-decker buses to what had been an old wartime hospital. The kids would shout out because there were cows in the playground. We really had to work as a team and it was fantastic.

We went back to a brand-new open-plan school at Carmyle. I had done my infant teachers' qualification and women into management courses, and applied for an assistant head's job. Marian Hughes, my headteacher, berated me, saying she had paid for me to do my infant training and I had set up all the structured play programme (the equivalent of active learning now).

I went to Quarrybrae Primary in Parkhead and became part of my father's learning community. The head, Fiona Ferguson, had known me since I was a child. She was the grande dame of primary education and knew what stock I came from. When McCrone came along, my job was changed into a depute's.

At that time, I gave birth to a stillborn baby at full term. The staff were marvellous but I faced difficult questions from some of the children, like "Why did your baby die?" Six months later, I became pregnant with Sarah, who is now eight.

I started working for my Scottish Qualification for Headship and went to Clackmannanshire to study their work on phonics and reading. I got funding from the learning community to implement "fast phonics" - it made a real difference to the learning and teaching in the schools.

When Sarah was only eight months old, three acting head posts came up. I went for the one at Whiteinch and became permanent head in December 2003 - I stayed there for nearly seven years.

In 2004, I had a second child, Lucy. Being a parent has changed me and I feel I can relate to parents better - the important things are: what's my child going to eat and wear and who will look after them in the playground? You expect children will learn when they go to school. It's the social things you worry about.

This year, I became headteacher at Pirie Park Primary. There are certain things I would go to headquarters for advice on, or my area manager, or my QIO (quality improvement officer). But the best advice I get is from my dad.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today