Anyone who has seen the horrific video of a schoolgirl assaulting another pupil at Waid Academy in Anstruther must wonder what on earth is going on in our schools. That another pupil chose to film the attack and post it on social media, rather than getting help, only makes it worse.
Only six months ago, Scottish children’s commissioner Bruce Adamson attacked the use of so-called “campus cops”, police officers patrolling schools, but I’d defy anyone watching that brutal assault not to be thankful police officers are on hand in some school corridors.
It is true it would be better if the £2m cost of police presence could be spent in other ways, but we must deal with the world as it is, not how we want it to be.
What is being described as Scotland’s “bullying epidemic” illustrates the need, but good community police officers are positive role models, not sinister symbols of behavioural failure.
Last week I was back at my old school, Currie High, which has strong links with the community police officer and certainly no hint of the kind of extreme behaviour so graphically illustrated last week.
Well-being and safety are paramount, so while there is no complacency, there is a clear desire to empower the young people, engage with their parents and enhance the school’s place in the life of the district.
Perhaps the jewel in its crown is the enhanced support base (ESB) established three years ago to care for those youngsters who might find school a challenge, but where they learn at their own pace with supportive and attentive staff.
They study English and maths in the ESB but other classes can be taken in the main school, depending on individual circumstances.
Although initial plans were for them to join the main curriculum full-time after S3, it will expand into S4 from August, and they should be able to stay in the ECB until they leave.
In last week’s visit, it was clear how safe, content and confident they feel in this environment, not afraid to fire well-prepared questions at me. It was a lively and positive discussion, in some ways tougher than Wednesday’s Debate Night show, but they were all adorable, kind, smiling and optimistic kids. Of course, it helped to have gone to Currie High myself!
Abilities and behaviours differ, but it was so impressive to see how they adapt, and word about the ECB’s success has spread, with applications from across South-West Edinburgh.
Apart from committed staff, the positive culture across the whole school has been nurtured by head teacher Jenny Hutchison who took over in 2020, and having a dynamic head able to make decisions tailored to the school’s circumstances without always referring to central control lies at the heart of its growing reputation.
It has been a hard battle to secure both Currie High’s place in the community and ensure the new building is delivered as promised, and now the first sod has been cut to mark the start of the new school construction programme, the whole place is looking forward with optimism.
But it’s not just about the fabric of the place, but what goes on inside it and as an old girl it made my heart swell with pride.