Tall tales

19th December 1997 at 00:00
No conference could fail with the presence of the tallest men in Scottish education, Kenny Dykes, head of Barrhead High, and Cameron Munro, director of the Jordanhill truancy unit (sorry, the Scottish Initiative on Attendance, Absence and Attainment). Dykes, as someone observed, "is the only man in Scotland able to get a bird's-eye view of Cameron Munro". Or, as he said himself: "At 6ft 7in you can get away with quite a lot."

He's learnt at Barrhead to be content with small beginnings. One parent who remarked that he must be pleased with her son's 80 per cent attendance said: "He's never had 80 per cent for anything in his life." But Dykes is not easily impressed. "That's eight weeks off school," he declared.

Then there was the parent who hit on what she thought was an effective strategy. "I found out William was truanting on Monday, so I kept him off for the rest of the week so he wouldn't do it again."

Dykes revealed he has a secret weapon apart from his height - a mobile phone to contact any parent the guidance staff have been unable to track down over unexplained absences. "I've never had a violent reaction yet," he says with only a hint of apprehension.

His ruse sends out two messages, he says. "Parents think, 'that heidie ain't half organised: he actually notices when the kids are missing'; and 'isn't it nice he got in touch to see how the wean was'."

Apart from putting the phone to his ear, Dykes likes to keep his ear to the ground. He is a "school gates heidie", keeping a watchful eye on comings and goings. "I've never seen a drugs runner yet," he confesses. But there was one occasion when I saw a suspicious looking character standing across the road. So after eyeing each other for a while, I went over and demanded to know what he was doing there.

"'My wife's a cleaner at your school and I'm waiting to pick her up,' he said."

Nice to know we've got security-conscious heidies.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now