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Headmaster's Blog


Speech Day and Prize Giving today was a very happy day in the school calendar and I was delighted to see so many parents, grandparents, friends and former pupils here to celebrate the children's successes over the last year.  Our guest speaker was Gavin Hastings OBE, and we were honoured that Gavin could be with us to speak and to give the children their prizes. Rather than my traditional blog, today I have shared my Headmaster's Speech with you and I trust you all have a lovely Summer.

Chairman, Governors, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls – welcome to Speech Day and Prize Giving 2016.

I am honoured to be standing here before you as Headmaster and to be able to celebrate with you, all of the outstanding successes and achievements of this year at Craigclowan.  Though I have only been here for two thirds of it, I can honestly say that I am astounded by the amount that your busy children manage to pack into their lives!

It is marvellous to see so many parents, guests, former pupils and friends here today on this very special school occasion … I thought perhaps I would start by reminding you what today is for…

  • Today is for the children - to celebrate their many achievements at the end of the academic year
  • Today is for the parents - I hope that you will be proud of your children’s successes here
  • Today is for the staff - to acknowledge their outstanding contribution this year to the progress of all the children, both inside and outside of the classroom
  • and finally…Today is for the Governors - we are very grateful to have such a talented and inspirational group of professionals who actively support the development of the school.

So I hope that you will all sit back and enjoy the proceedings.  I’m told that Fidel Castro – former president of Cuba – once gave a speech about politics which lasted for seven hours and ten minutes.  I would like to reassure you that this one will be at least a little shorter!

Like the Chairman, I am delighted to welcome Gavin Hastings OBE as our guest speaker today….I should hope that Gavin will need no introduction to most of you, however, for anyone who might not have been paying attention to rugby in the 80s and 90s and for the younger members of the audience today, Gavin is widely regarded as being one of the finest rugby union players of his generation.  Playing at fullback, he played for Watsonians, London Scottish, Cambridge University, Scotland and the British and Irish Lions during his career.  He won 61 caps for Scotland, 20 as captain.  He was a central figure in Scotland's 1990 Grand Slam...he captained Scotland in one World Cup, and played in two others, including a semi-final; he captained his country and scored the winning try when Scotland registered their first win at the Parc des Princes.  He was also regarded by New Zealand at the time as simply the best full back in the world.  Gavin…welcome.

I have spent much time talking about values in my short time here at Craigclowan.  I make no apology for this.  Values matter, they are the framework upon which our community is built and they are the common language that we speak.  And our values are not made up, nor are they wishful thinking.  Rather they are an expression of what it takes to be a part of the Craigclowan community.  I have been delighted to have numerous parents recount conversations which have taken place in the car and round the dinner table which have shown clearly that the message is being well received. 

I have spent some time this year encouraging the young people in front of me to be unafraid of making mistakes.  It is not whether you make mistakes that matters; it is how you respond to them, how you pick yourself up afterwards and learn from them that defines you and your character.  Together, this year, we have discovered that when we are willing to step out of our comfort zones and risk making a few mistakes, we take the biggest steps forward in our knowledge and understanding.  We may not feel entirely comfortable with the experience, but we grow strong as people.  It’s a bit like the old saying “people are like tea bags – you don’t know how strong they are until they are in hot water”.  So, it follows that, to really push the boundaries of what we are capable of, we have to get into a bit of hot water from time to time and risk failure.

In real life we can’t wave a magic wand to get what we want.  Instead it takes hard work and determination…so, children, as you leave to go on to your senior schools next year or as you head for the summer break, I want you to take away this thought…be determined, work hard and be willing to take risks and embrace your mistakes as opportunities to learn.

Moving to a new school, and especially one in a new country, is an anxious moment!  One never quite knows what to expect and there is always a nagging doubt that the school may not be all that it’s been made out to be.  Well, I can tell you, it has been reassuring to spend the last six months getting to know Craigclowan.  The school is in a very strong position with delightful pupils, a strong and committed staff and a supportive parent body.  Over the last six months, we have launched a new website.  We’ve added a new minibus, ‘Kevin’, to our fleet and established a new bus route to Alyth and Blairgowrie.  In time for the start of next September, we’ll add one more bus to our fleet and begin another new route into Fife to serve the families to the South East of us.  A new play area has been constructed to the front of the main school building with help from the pupils and the PTA and I know that this will prove a hit with pupils for years to come.  Less exciting, but important for helping pupils make progress, we have invested in standardised testing throughout the school which will help staff to track pupil progress and diagnose any problems.  

For the coming year we have further plans for development which will see us take the next important steps on our journey as a school.  Over the summer break we are investing significantly in interactive whiteboards throughout school to ensure that every classroom and teaching space has the very latest and best high quality teaching aids.  We will also augment our new laptop trolley with a mobile bank of 20 iPads which will enhance learning throughout the school.  Behind the scenes a new Management Information System will be rolled out which will improve our ability to track and record both pastoral and academic aspects of school life.  As you are aware, we have recently consulted parents concerning changes to the timetable and the school day.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and we have been very glad to receive your feedback.  I will write to you over the next week to confirm our plans.

In a school, creating the right environment for your children to thrive does not only depend upon well-equipped labs, sports halls, astro turf pitches or dry ski slopes.  These things help, a great deal sometimes, but it is the staff that really make the difference.  To be able to stand here and know that we have an expert and caring staff who are passionate about educating children means a lot to me.  Make no bones about it, they’re shaping the future of your children each and every day.  Please join me in thanking the staff for everything that they have done for our children this year.

This is the time of year when we say fond farewells to staff who are leaving us.  Rhona Piper has been with us for several years.  Her calming presence around the school and capable professionalism in the classroom have served us and your children well.  As she returns to the junior school at Gordonstoun, she will be sorely missed and our loss is certainly their gain.

Lynne Perkins has been with us for four years and has worked as a Classroom Assistant throughout the Middle School, helping both in the classroom and with small groups giving extra support.  With her unflappable nature she has risen to every challenge put to her and has been a pivotal member of staff.  She leaves us to go back to university to gain her Post Graduate Degree in Education at Dundee.

Florence Proctor has kindly covered the last two terms, filling in following Graeme Johnstone’s departure.  Her high standards and enthusiasm for the subject have served us well once again.  We wish you a happy retirement once more Florence!

Donnie…what can I say…Donnie has been at Craigclowan for nine years and, I think it would be true to say, has a special place in all of our hearts.  He has kept the grounds in good order, marked pitches, tackled odd jobs, swept paths and cleared snow…of late he has even been seen driving ‘Kevin’ on one of the new school runs.  All this he has done without complaint and with his customary huge grin on his face.  Donnie, you are a legend, we will miss you!

Of course, staff leaving presents an opportunity.  We have recruited well and been lucky to find top class replacements for those who are leaving us.  In Form 1, Elizabeth Young joins us to take over from Louisa Wood.  In Form 5, Flo Earl, previously a member of staff at Ardvreck, will be joining us to take over from Rhona Piper.  Charlotte Marjoribanks will be joining us from Winchester as our second Maths specialist.  Hilary Whitaker, who until recently taught at Kilgraston, will be joining us for the year to cover Michaela Prince’s maternity leave.  And finally, Marc King is joining us as Donnie’s replacement.  All of these have big boots to fill but I am confident that they will do so and, with all of our help, quickly become valued and trusted members of our community.

Today is a celebration of the many achievements our children have accomplished over the course of this year.  Whether they are academic, sporting, musical or artistic, all of our children have amazing talents and they will have had chances to showcase them over the last twelve months.  It always seems a shame to only pick out a few highlights, but, conscious that many of you will be itching to begin your summer holiday, I’ll attempt to do just that.

On the academic side it has been another successful year for Craigclowan.  As a non-selective school, our results have been impressive and they are evidence of the extra value that a Craigclowan education gives.  Each student is on a journey of learning and we are proud of each and every one of them.  Once again, all the Form 8 leavers have gained entry to their first-choice senior school.  Alice and Catriona H were given the Latin award after their scholarship exams at St Mary’s Calne.  Sofia R and Isobel T won all-rounder awards to Glenalmond and Fettes respectively and Casta S was awarded an art exhibition to Glenalmond.

In the Scottish Maths challenge, our Form 6 and 7 pupils won one gold, one silver and four bronzes.  In the UK Maths Challenge, our Form 7 and 8 pupils won four silvers and eight bronzes.  Once again, our young entrepreneurs in Form 8 won the National Fairtrade Snackattack competition. Well done, Ross G, Catriona H and Sofia R who were on the winning team!  In Forms 4 and 5 we ran a very successful Maths and Science Fun Day which will hopefully help to put some of the STEM subjects on the map.  Our very successful poetry competition was again fiercely fought…well done to Sacha T and Madi S who prevailed. 

The Music Department has had another busy year.  It is a real strength of our school and the quality of the performances that I have seen and heard have amazed me.  The Concert Choir took their place amongst the predominantly senior school groups in Perth Concert Hall for the Perth Festival of Youth and performed with real panache.  Perform in Perth was again a real showcase for the talents of our pupils and the successes were many.  Ben C from Form 6 has been selected to sing a major role in Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ which is touring this summer.

The pupils in Form 6 who took their English Speaking Board Exams this term all passed with Merit or above awards and more than half of the pupils were awarded a Distinction. 

For the second time, a group of children sat LAMDA examinations.  These were passed with flying colours and I have no doubt that we will reap the reward of their developing abilities in future school productions.  The incredible Form 8 production of ‘Calamity Jane’ this week has been a huge success.  With only a very small group of Form 8s there was nowhere to hide and they all rose to the occasion.

There have been many highlights this year on the pitches, courts, track and slopes.  Our Under 11 boys hockey players were winners of our own tournament.  Our Under 11 mixed Kwik Cricket players were once more national winners and our Under 11 and 12 tennis players were overall winners at the St Leonards tournament while our under 13 players won the Morrison’s tournament.

Twelve girls were selected to represent WOSPs teams in hockey, netball and rounders and four boys were selected to represent the WOSPs rugby team.  Archie S was selected to play for the Under 14 Midlands Hockey team which, at the age of ten, marks him out as one to watch I think!

On the slopes, a 1st at the Glenshee Scottish Minors Qualifying event was then followed by Silver at the Scottish Prep Schools.  We also won silver at the Scottish Schools Minors Dual Slalom Race at Hillend.

It has been another successful cross country year, notably at the Scottish Prep Schools Championships.  Jamie L was first under 10 boy and Esther L was the first under 10 girl.  In the team events, our under 12 girls were first and under 12 boys second while, at Strathallan, Sofia R was the first under 14 girl.

The broad variety of activities which are offered here at Craigclowan seem to be expanding and I’m pleased to say that a great deal has been going on in the extra-curricular department.  Forty one different activities have been offered this year including mountain biking for the first time and, next year, we will add fencing to the list.  Our African themed day was a roaring success and allowed the children to explore life on a different continent.

The Chairman has already thanked them, but please allow me to add my thanks to his for the PTA and the sterling work that they do to support us here at school.  Be it running the second hand uniform shop, selling strawberries and cream on sports day or running the end of term discos to name but a few of their activities, we are very grateful to have their support.  In particular I’d like to thank them for their assistance with the funding of our new trim-trail, the new mountain bike trailer, Kevin (the minibus), the new high jump mats and a number of other small items.  Thank you.

On behalf of the school pupils and teaching staff, who are so often on the front of the stage, I would like to thank the numerous members of staff who support us backstage.  This includes our catering team led by Jean, producing superb daily lunches and fabulous match teas.  The grounds and maintenance team led by Donnie who work hard to keep the school looking as good as it does.  Iain MacDonald, our new bursar, who works so hard to keep the finances and the operational side of the school on the road.  And of course, Jen Trueland, my outstanding PA, and the office staff, Mhairi, Corinne and Angie for their endless patience and resourcefulness.  We continue to be very grateful to the cleaning staff who keep all of the least glamorous elements of school life running so smoothly.

Of course my final thank you extends to all of you here today - parents, grandparents and friends who do so much to support Craigclowan in its widest sense.  We do not underestimate the sacrifices you make to give all of us here the opportunities that we have.  You have chosen to do that and we see ourselves working in partnership with you and with each other.  We recognise and appreciate the encouragement you give to us.

I have said in the past to the School that when things are challenging, we should remember the wise words of Lyndon Johnson:

"There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves."

Thank you for being a part of all the successes we’ve had this year and please sit back for a few moments now, relax and be very, very proud, as I am, of all that your sons and daughters have achieved this year


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