Thanks for the Super Teds

10th September 2004 at 01:00
One of my seminal moments as a guidance teacher came on a visit to the primary where I started school. The school was celebrating its centenary, and among the pictures displayed was a photo of me in full flow in a P1 country dancing class.

Then I entered the head's office for the first time since 1957 when I'd been belted for watching some pals throw stones into a neighbouring hedge.

It was all very emotional.

Although I moved south after just a year at St John's in Edinburgh's Portobello, it has always been "my first school". Our primary school holds a special place in our hearts, and the place where it all started has a lifelong pull on our emotions.

By a happy coincidence, the headteacher of my old school for the past 24 years has been a good friend and so I've been able to keep track of my alma mater as it has progressed into the 21st century. Ted is one of the Thursday night five-a-side veterans and so, given his links in the community, a number of our fellow footballers have connections with the school, as parents, staff or former pupils.

It all gives an interesting insight into the value of the primary school to the community it serves, not only in the obvious case of a rural setting but also, as in the case of St John's, in a big city suburb.

Ted is about to move on to a post at education headquarters where he will be supporting colleagues with his wealth of experience and commitment, but he leaves behind in Portobello nearly a quarter of a century of commitment and support.

Generations of pupils, footballers, parents, grandparents and assorted members of the community have cause to be grateful for, and appreciative of, his time as local heidie.

His record of prioritising the needs of pupils and their families, of celebrating successes and supporting in sorrow and providing a focal point for his school's community and its neighbours gave those who, like me, started their schooldays at St John's a solid foundation - not just for the rest of their education, but for the rest of their lives.

When primary headship vacancies are proving difficult to fill, it's as well to remind ourselves of the crucial and influential role they play in so many ways.

Naturally, the Thursday night guys are not slow to comment on Ted's elevation to troubleshooter status. It can only be a matter of time before someone produces a Hibs shirt for him to wear with the lettering on the back declaring that, like the sometime cartoon hero, he is indeed "Super Ted".

But then the pupils and parents of St John's have known that for years.

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