THE start of a new school term is an exciting but daunting time for pupils making the transition from primary school to high school and the youngsters starting their new life at Berwickshire High aren’t the only ones making a step up.
Following the retiral of long-serving rector Rob Kelly in June, there is a new man at the helm of the Langtongate school. Step forward John Clarke whose appointment marks the first headship of a sucessful teaching career which most recently saw him serve as senior depute at Earlston High School for five years.
Having left one good school, Mr Clarke is busy finding his feet at another with a reputation for high standards and he said that so far he was very impressed with his new surroundings and the pupils within them.
“The first thing I noticed is what a fantastic building we have; you absolutely can’t fault it,” he told ‘The Berwickshire’ from behind his new desk last week.
“What I knew of the local community before arriving here was also very positive and once I’ve settled into school life I’m really keen to get out and about and develop some strong links with everyone.
“Working the short distance away at Earlston I’d always had the Berwickshire High headship in the corner of my eye should it ever come up so when the position became available I jumped at the chance.
“Having spent my first couple of days walking the corridors and popping in and out of classes I can say both staff and pupils have a very, very positive attitude and I’ve been made to feel welcome.”
Mr Clarke said his predecessor Mr Kelly spoke very highly about the school, its youngsters, teachers and ethos and even though he’s only been in his new role a matter of days he is clearly well at home already.
“When I met Mr Kelly he shared some of his experiences with me and it was abundantly clear that he loved the place to places,” he continued.
“He did say to me I was taking on the role at a rather difficult time with financial pressures and issues with curriculum changes but assured me I would be working with a very positive staff who were ready for the challenge.
“He also spoke about the brilliant atmosphere in and around the school and that’s definitely something I’ve picked up on already.
“The kids at Earlston High were a fantastically well behaved bunch but the pupils here can definitely hold their own. They’re friendly, polite and well presented and seem to take a great pride in the school.”
Brought up and schooled in Ripon, North Yorkshire it wasn’t until someone made a passing comment to Mr Clarke while he was studying for a degree in maths north of the border that he really considered a career in teaching and even then it wasn’t something he pursued straight away.
“When I was 18 someone said to me ‘John you’d make a really great teacher’. At the time I thought that was absolutely hilarious as I’d never ever seen myself as one but after spending time as a youth worker I knew I wanted a career that involved working with kids.
“I did my teacher training and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in education since. I love working with children and seeing what I can do to try and make a difference in their lives.
“Becoming a head teacher is very daunting, Whether you like it or not, as headteacher you are a figurehead of the community. What you say is often critiqued and I’m very aware of that responsibility but also very excited by it. “
Although Mr Clarke said it was far too early to put any concrete aims into place as to how he was going to make his mark on the school for the better, he already had some loose ideas on how he wanted to make Berwickshire High an even better place for its pupils.
“I’ll be spending the first few weeks of my time here listening and digesting information but I do have a few loose aims I want to put into motion.
“Obviously my main goal is to create the best environment for people to learn in and a fantastic place for staff, parents and the community.
“I’m very excited by the good things I’ve seen so far and I know I’ve got a tremendous school to be in charge of.”