What about those pictures though? By now we hope you’ll have seen our photographs of Bertha Park High School – you’ll have taken in that beautiful building, peeked around the stunning street-art inspired murals and had a nosey through some of the classrooms with their fabulous state-of-the-art equipment.
But while it is the first new school to be built in Scotland for 20 years with a sizeable £32.5 million price tag, what it represents is much more than just a building. As we found out when we spoke with its new Head Teacher Stuart Clyde, what Bertha Park High School is all about is making its learners’ experiences the best they can possibly be.
Much has been made of this new school doing things differently – we’ve heard about the mobile phone ban to encourage a social media detox, there’s the emphasis on practicing daily mindfulness and on digital learning but Mr Clyde is quick to point out that by far the most impactful change will be through the relationships within the school community itself.It is the first new school to be built in Scotland for 20 years, with a sizeable £32.5 million price tag.
“We need everyone in our community; our staff, our pupils, and their parents to think a little differently about how we all interact with each other. The better the relationships between us all, the better the outcomes for our young people – it’s as simple as that,” says Mr Clyde.
Thousands of Perthshire’s pupils will have streamed through the doors of Scotland’s newest school today carrying with them, not just their backpacks and new stationery, but the excitement of being at the forefront of something new.
It is these young people who get to make those first important impressions and we wish them all the luck with it!
Stuart Clyde: "We wanted to make Bertha Park High look and feel different from what lots of people think a school looks like; everything feels open, airy, spacious, light and of course fun. There are so many wonderful places, but I think my favourites are the open flexible learning areas. The possibilities for what we can use them for is endless, and I can’t wait to see what the pupils and teachers do there."
"Everyone associated with designing, building and establishing the school is extremely excited about the learning opportunities Bertha Park High will provide. We have such creative people working in the school that there seems to be no end to the fabulous ideas about what we can do. Most of the challenges have come from people who are expecting our school to operate the same as others; it won’t.
"Once they see the impact of our approach though, I’m sure they’ll change their minds. It was wonderful meeting the young people and their parents over the 18 months leading up to now and getting their hopes and aspirations for what they want their new school to be: how it feels, and what they can get up to when they’re here. It has been a real team effort to put everything in place and make Bertha Park High School a place where everyone wants to be."
"I hope that every single one of our young people reaches their full potential, whatever that might be. We are aiming to provide them with everything they need to succeed in the world and give them the very best experiences and opportunities throughout their time at Bertha Park High."
And the pupils said:
"Our vision for Bertha Park High School is very straightforward: we want our school to be a place where everyone wants to be. If you’re a pupil and you don’t come to school here, you wish you did; if you’re a parent and your child doesn’t attend Bertha Park High, you wish they did; and if you’re a teacher and you don’t work here, you wish you did.
"Bertha Park High will provide parents, pupils and staff with the very best in opportunities, resources and innovative approaches to learning that will ensure it’s the place to be."
Parents and pupils told us they wanted a school that was safe, learning-focussed and free from bullying – a place where good mental health was valued and promoted. "It’s important to first consider why we are adopting this approach to pupils’ phones. Through the community consultation last year, parents and pupils told us they wanted a school that was safe, learning-focussed and free from bullying – a place where good mental health was valued and promoted. The pressure young people can face through constant access to social media can often have a detrimental effect on their mental health and be a considerable distraction from learning.
"It can also be the root of conflict between pupils, which of course is not conducive to good learning. We are encouraging more face-to-face interaction at intervals and lunchtimes and feel a social media detox will allow our learners to be in a better frame of mind for learning and building better relationships with everyone in our school. Mobile phones have their place of course, but we feel that’s not necessarily in learners’ hands all day, every day."
"Everything we’re doing differently has one purpose: to make the learners’ experience the best it possibly can be. To achieve this, we’re doing lots of things differently from other schools.
"We’re practicing mindfulness daily: first thing in the morning and throughout the day to get our young people in a good place mentally, for learning and for dealing with the challenges we all face.
"We’re placing a considerable emphasis on digital learning: every pupil with have their own device that they can use in school and at home to collaborate with each other and access learning resources and materials anywhere and at any time. These devices will also help to break down any barriers to learning by adapting to the learners’ needs. We can also access and show our learning in ways that just aren’t possible with more traditional methods.
"Perhaps the most impactful thing we are doing though, is the relentless focus on great relationships. We need everyone in our community: our staff, our pupils, and their parents to think a little differently about how we all interact with each other. The better the relationships between us all, the better the outcomes for our young people – it’s a simple as that. Our three core values reflect this: Respect for yourself, Respect for others, Respect for the Bertha Park Way."
We want everyone to come into school with an open mind to learning. We want them to be excited, be inquisitive, be enthusiastic.
"We want everyone to come into school with an open mind to learning. We want them to be excited, be inquisitive, be enthusiastic and be prepared for some challenging, but fun work. We want everyone to be unafraid of trying new things, and to embrace the idea that they might get things wrong – it’s all just a part of learning.
"Most importantly everyone needs a positive attitude and have respect for themselves, others and the way we do things around here. If everyone - pupils, staff and parents - follows this simple code then there is absolutely nothing we cannot achieve."
Bertha Park High School opened on Wednesday 21st August, 2019 as one of the Scottish Government's Schools for the Future. Stuart Clyde is the Head Teacher.
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