Madras College was continuing to project its core values and a positive image across its learning environment and the community – despite a rising number of “challenging” pupils.
Head teacher at the St Andrews secondary school, David McClure, told Thursday’s end-of-term academic ceremony that efforts to help people were coated in the values of giving youngsters a well-rounded education and assisting their journey in the outside world.
The pupils also appreciated very much the support they received d from staff in a number of ways, he said.
Main priorities in 2016-17 focused on school image, improving the core numeracy skills of BGE pupils, including partnership work with primary school cluster colleagues and parents.
Madras also aimed to enhance its Senior Phase option provision for all S4-S6 pupils ; continued support of the development of Curriculum for Excellence courses and resources, continue its support of staff development through in service training, professional reading and external contacts, and a lot more.
It was all delivered to ensure pupils left Madras with “a rich and valued education” and a set of qualifications and attitude which supported the transition to next destination – and also ensure it was sustained.
“In the measures of attendance, absence, reduced exclusion, improved staying on rate and transition to a positive destination, the school has maintained its very positive story which is evidenced in our statistics ,” said Mr McClure. “Our positive sustained destinations have improved again from last year’s figure of 93.3 per cent to 95.8 per cent this year.
Mr McClure gave numerous examples of exam results, accomplishments in and out of school, and how pupils had engaged with the community. In some cases, this had drawn a number of comments wrapped in praise.
“When I speak to our young people about their experience in Madras, they are always full of praise for the hard work which the staff put in to support the pupils,” said Mr McClure. “Lunchtime study, after-school study, quality feedback, marking, Easter school, a general grumpiness when presented with work which is less than the expected standard but, equally, a general encouragement when presented with work worthy of merit. “
“For Madras, everything is about opportunity, effort and attitude – from the pupils, the staff and from the long-suffering parents too.”
However, despite the positives, Mr McClure added: “As a head teacher of almost 16 years, I am noticing that the number of very challenging pupils coming to us seems to show a year on year increase, and the challenges they present are also becoming more difficult to deal with than in previous years.
“In respect of this, each year the school works harder to understand and work through those challenges to support those who present and to support the continued expectation of standards for the whole school community.”
But he added: “Despite this negative comment, I am pleased to report that, for the second year in succession, Madras College has been included in the list of the top 50 schools in Scotland for combined attainment at N5, Higher and Advanced Higher.”
Mr McClure said Madras continued to embed the core values of respect, endeavour, aspiration, achievement, equality, diversity and equity. “Within these, we strive to promote a positive image of how we present ourselves, how we behave, how we attain, how we support others and how we support our local community.
“Although I can’t say we achieve this for every single pupil, for every single minute of every day, the vast majority of our young people do achieve this target and, this session, our pupils supported others and the community through a range of activities,” said Mr McClure.
The head teacher returned to a topic he covered at aprevious assembly – resilience – defining it as: “That ineffable quality that allows people to not let challenges overcome them or drain their resolve.”
He added: “It allows them to find a way to pick themselves up when they have been knocked down and get back on track.
“Psychologists have identified that resilient people have a positive attitude. They are optimistic, they have the ability to regulate their emotions and believe they can change course. Resilient people do not give up. But this is not a genetic trait, instead it is derived from the ways you learn to think and act when faced with obstacles – large or small.
“It comes from hard work, perseverance, supportive relationships, believing you can work through stressful situations and making the effort to do this.”
Mr McClure added: “I do not believe you can teach resilience but I do believe a good school will engage you in the experiences which will help you develop it.
“In so doing, you will not only become a better person but you will also be able to help others less fortunate than you to get through those tough times that they, too, have to face.”