A sense of place
Would Dr Who, teleported to various historical points, in North East Scotland (biblical weather permitting) be able to observe societal progress. There has been steady measurable agricultural productivity improvement (conspicuous in aerial views of the multi-coloured patchwork landscape) but is there a visible trail of education development (besides the 2 Unis who have done particularly well hereabouts).
The OpenStreetmap of Old Aberdeen shows St Machar Academy in relation to its principal feeder primary at the top left. Why do so many young students undertake the arduous bus ride elsewhere, and what does the new Acting Head intend to do. I reckon there is a consultancy opportunity for someone with a fresh pair of eyes.
What would an opening pitch feature ?
Of imminent concern is the upcoming new intake enrolment process. My perspective is that contrary to what it may be like south of the border there is little razzamatazz. As an upper stage primary school pupil I would want to be enthused by the next big step in the education journey. There are several ways that a manager directly responsible for the jobs of 75 people should be approaching the New Year.
TONE: The key difference between Primary and Secondary is magnitude and its consequences. Such is evident from the step up with regard to, for example, music (a local favourite): Rock Challenge concerts where secondaries from all over the North East compete with high energy are a highlight. Such boldness though is lacking from the School Prospectus and website, the former in particular is a handbook rather than a punchy advertisement. In both cases I would have put individuals (recent past ones maybe to overcome safety concerns) front and centre.
THE DRAW: In order for St Machar to suck its clients in there must be a sense of vortex that extends beyond the campus. If I lived in Tillydrone, say on Dill Road opposite the RiverBank primary, I would want to look forward to that commute to secondary school. There are several campaigns that could be undertaken:
1. Increased familiarity of the route to School. A concern to parents in this area is likely to be the growth in traffic as a consequence of the new river crossing. A funding bid to the call for proposals to Sustrans for safe journey routes might be a good start. It would represent one focus for addressing the issue.
One approach might be a joint primary/secondary school pupil focused working party. I was particularly that the Headteacher of Airyhall Primary had her kids marching in protest at a new recycling plant that was to be located half a mile or so from her establishment — a good example of civic engagement.
2. Improved appreciation of the related urban landscape. As the map shows there is green space to the right of the main north south axis road. There is also a museum. The latter belongs to the University and as it has, in the past produced walking guides of various forms, for its campus I would have thought a trail (of the style previously discussed) that focused on east of Tillydrone Avenue starting at the new housing complex built on an old mill there.
3. Small scale urban upgrading. The newly refurbished thoroughfare will bring attention to some of the open space west of Conningham Gardens (see Google Street view). Despite the image showing the traditional sunny disposition of Aberdeen the area, originally a school & community centre & housing complex has still signs of the recent demolitions. There is already a strong civic mission in this general area (see Tilly Tattle) and the local Councillors have put forward proposals to upgrade a relocated medieval building.
4. Attainment gap addressing. The First Minister has nailed her colours to this issue and it will be most topical in the run up to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May. My feeling is that the University next door could reach out in all sorts of ways to raise pupil sights in this part of town. My particular favourite would be a study to discover what stone circles were for way back. My own theory is that they were simply places for bonfires so that sailors could navigate by … I am certain various departments could be enticed into involvement in such a research project which would raise the academic focus of the area.
The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), and now the HIGIOS (How Good is our School) framework set an atmosphere of expectation. I would have thought that the Council´s Education & Children´s Services department would jump at the chance to be involved in such a project.
Finally Education Scotland highlights outdoor education opportunities thus:
- Partnership, especially Community ones
- Risk, exposure to and management thereof
- Spectrum of experience, informal to formal
Small steps with an eye to a larger goal as outlined above represents a direction of travel to address such.