Where every pupil's mind, body and soul is developed

27th June 2008 at 01:00
Jeff Brown is as likely to be teaching history to a class of S4 pupils as playing in the sandpit with the nursery children
Jeff Brown is as likely to be teaching history to a class of S4 pupils as playing in the sandpit with the nursery children.

For his school, Moffat Academy in Dumfries and Galloway, is one of a rare breed of all-through 3-18 establishments. It means he knows pupils from when they are just out of nappies right through to young adulthood. The academy is an integral part of the community - more so than most.

His pivotal role in the school and the community has been recognised in this year's Scottish Education Awards, where he was crowned Headteacher of the Year. Mr Brown will now be entered for the UK awards later this year.

Barry Graham, his deputy and one of the staff who nominated him for the award, says: "For Jeff, it's not a job; it's a way of life. He's in the school from 8am till 10 pm, almost every day.

"What makes him a great headteacher is that he knows all the children from the ages of three to 18. He knows the head boy and the head girl from when they first came to the school; he knows all the families and the community."

His staff see him as a very modest man who puts the school first. Mr Graham believes teachers are given career and continuing professional development opportunities under Mr Brown which they probably would not get elsewhere. "He listens to ideas and is always willing to take new things on board."

Linda Hesketh, the nursery teacher, is impressed by the way he is able to get down to the level of the youngest pupils in the school and join in whatever activity they are engaged in.

Mr Brown makes a point of teaching in every section of the school - nursery, primary and secondary. "Working with nursery pupils frightens a lot of head-teachers, but he comes in and works with them every week," she says.

Mr Brown's vision for the school is to develop every pupil's "mind, body and soul".

"The heart of the school is its young people, and central to that is making learning such that they want to do it all their lives," he says.

He has been teaching for 34 years, the last 20 at Moffat Academy - the culmination of a career that has taken in Lockerbie Academy (his first school, where he was a history and modern studies teacher), Dumfries High, and Stranraer Academy along the way.

When he arrived at Moffat in 1988, there were 190 pupils in primary and 154 in secondary; there are now 46 in nursery, 250 in primary and 300 in secondary. It is, he says, a very mixed catchment, drawing in pupils from right up to the boundaries with the Scottish Borders and South Lanarkshire. Its pupils include some with special needs. There is a real touch of pride in his voice when he talks about one former pupil, who had a cochlear implant and is now at university.

Running an all-through school has distinct benefits, he believes. Older pupils can go into the P7 class and help with paired reading, and the P7s can go into the nursery and help with the children there.

The development of citizenship in the community is a real priority for him. Students in S5 and 6 work in the charity shop and the local old folks' home; recently, the school managed to arrange work experience for no fewer than 70 pupils in the local community.

Twenty years ago, Moffat Academy was one of the first to introduce first-line guidance. Two teachers take each class and work with them for the first half-hour every morning.

"You can do things like that in a school like this," says Mr Brown.

"Staff are willing to work across boundaries, for instance teaching Higher and Intermediate pupils together, because if they didn't do that, in some cases, the youngsters wouldn't get the opportunity to do that course.

"You can have one Advanced Higher pupil and staff will bend over backwards to help."

With typical modesty, he adds: "I don't see myself as anything special. I'm just doing my job. I feel quite humbled by the whole thing.

"It's the staff and parents and young people and community working together with me that makes the school great. I am fortunate to be in a position where all these groups are positive and supportive. Being a headteacher is a great privilege - young people are the future of the world."

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