Tanaka sings hope for Scots education
The last day of the Christmas term arrived for staff and students with a mix of relief and the excitement associated with festive celebrations.
Traditionally, we finish the year with a Christmas service and then a staff and pupil variety show. The expectations built up over the years lead to a 90 per cent-plus attendance and an air of anticipation as the day dawned.
This year didn't disappoint. The service, put together by staff and pupils, was inspirational and reflective - a chance to remember the reason for all the celebrations.
Then the decks were cleared for the entertainment. A combination of pupils and staff produced a show that could best be described as vaudevillian. Pupils of all ages sang, danced and frequently did both. Staff revealed hitherto unsuspected talents - with several musical acts, and a hysterical skit on Strictly Come Dancing which owed much to Lily Savage, Danny La Rue and John Sergeant. With nearly 1,000 staff and pupils rocking along, the atmosphere was electric and a great tribute to all concerned - performers and audience.
And then Tanaka sang. She arrived in Scotland around 18 months ago from Zimbabwe. She has settled well to become an influential and valued member of the school community. She has a singing voice touched with greatness and has already won our annual Stars in your Eyes award. As the first notes of her Leona Lewis song rang out, the whole atrium hushed. Her talent, her presence and her voice had silenced hundreds of well revved-up teenagers into total attention.
It was a moving experience and emotion was everywhere. First years had found a new hero, friends in her year group were bursting with pride for her and sixth years were realising this would be their last "school" Christmas. Staff, meanwhile, were witnessing a graphic demonstration of the effect of their hard work in establishing and maintaining such a positive ethos in the school, based on respect and celebration of ability. This shining moment testified to the results of their efforts even beyond the excellence of their classroom teaching and learning approaches.
Watching Tanaka, you couldn't help but be positive about the strengths of Scottish education - a good omen for the new year. Successful? Confident? Effective? To recall a briefly popular political phrase from the old year - you betcha!
Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston.