Retiring rector says it will be hard to bid farewell to ‘fantastic school’

Rob Kelly, Headmaster at Berwickshire High School is retiring after 41 yrs.
Rob Kelly, Headmaster at Berwickshire High School is retiring after 41 yrs.

AS pupils and staff at Berwickshire High wave goodbye to another academic year they are also saying farewell to rector Rob Kelly, the man who has been at the helm of the school for 15 years.

Mr Kelly has been in education for an amazing 41 years but now he is going into retirement and looking forward to returning to his native Glasgow to be closer to his children and grandchildren.

Getting ready to clear his desk earlier this week, Mr Kelly said stepping away from Berwickshire High wasn’t going to be an easy move as the school had definitely made its mark on him.

“I decided it was time to go earlier this year,” he explained.

“Longstanding depute Alastair Chrystie stood down last year and he’d been here for more than 30 years so I thought the time was right for me to move on but I’m going to miss Berwickshire High incredibly.

“I’ve throroughly enjoyed the last 15 years and although as head I’m bound to be biased, I have to say the school is fantastic. The pupils are well behaved, the staff are very professional and the parents and the local community are incredibly supportive.

“They have all made my job a lot easier.”

Mr Kelly said probably the major highlight of his time as rector of Berwickshire High was moving from the old school next to Duns Swimming Pool to the new multi-million pound state of the art building across the road which has been home to staff and pupils for the last three years.

“The old building had served the school well for many years but it had become a bit tatty,” he continued.

“The facilities in our new school are much better; they really are first class.

“I may sound a bit selfish but I wanted to experience a few years in this building before I said goodbye and I’m certainly glad I have.

“The behaviour of our pupils was good in the old school but I’ve noticed a marked difference since we’ve moved. The architect responsible for the new building said the ethos of the school and pupil behaviour would change for the better and they certainly have.

“The school environment has brought out the best in everyone and I feel I’m saying goodbye on a high.”

Prior to moving to Berwickshire 15 years ago, Mr Kelly had taught in a number of schools in Lanarkshire but just like Berwickshire High’s move from one building to another, he said the move south had definitely been for the better.

“I noticed a huge difference when I moved to Duns,” he recalled.

“I don’t want to be too harsh on the schools in Glasgow where I taught but everyone seemed so much more positive here. The pupils were better behaved, the staff had a different outlook, academic standards were considerably higher and one of the things I was most pleasantly surprised by was the strong extra curricular side to children’s education here.

“The industrial action of the 1980s had really damaged this side of things in schools in the central belt but here it was thriving.

“On a personal level it was also a nice change to have my morning commute to work take me through the countryside rather than lots of traffic lights and congestion!”

As well as the school having a huge impact on him, Mr Kelly said he hoped the aim he had 15 years ago to try and put his own stamp on Berwickshire High had been achieved

He explained: “When I arrived in Duns it was a real time of change for Scottish education and there were a number of areas where I felt the school needed to be updated. I wanted to try and bring a more ‘central belt perspective’ to school life; a modernising agenda if you like and I’d like to think I managed to do this.

“We were the first school in the Borders to introduce faculties; the first to employ full time guidance staff and the first to have a 33 period week. Berwickshire High is a school that has embraced change and its success has all been down to team work.

“I’ve been well supported by the staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years.”

As well as seeing pupils enjoying their learning during their school years, Mr Kelly said one of the things that had given him the greatest pleasure during his time at Berwickshire High was seeing former pupils return with successful careeers.

“You get a really good feeling when you see pupils come back through the school doors as fully qualified professionals in their chosen fields.

“The youngsters come to us at the age of 11 and 12 and leave at 17 and in many cases the person at the end is radically different. I’d like to think that’s because the school has made its mark on them.

“I haven’t done any winding down - there’s no such thing when you’re a headteacher but I have taken a number of assemblies and bar the seniors who were still in nappies when I took over here, the rest of the pupls weren’t even born!”

Mr Kelly, who is looking forward to having more time to pursue hobbies such as hill walking, gardening and reading, said he’d like to offer a sincere thanks to the pupils and staff at Berwickshire High who he “was going to miss an awful lot” and also to the community of Duns for their support. “I’ll never forget it,” he added.

And the school’s Parent council said they wished Mr Kelly “a long and happy retirement.”