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With the first week of the new term under her belt, Campbeltown Grammar School’s new acting headteacher spoke to the Courier about her plans for the school’s future.
Sam Stewart, who took on the role following David Fyfe’s retirement in the summer, said her priority and focus will ‘very much be on building strong, positive and nurturing relationships with young people, staff and parents/carers and in driving forward improvement within learning and teaching and, ultimately, raising attainment’.
Miss Stewart took the helm at CGS following a difficult few years for the school, during which it received two ‘unacceptable’ Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education reports and placed 334th out of 340 in a league table of Scottish secondary schools relating to the number of pupils leaving school in 2020 with five Highers.
‘I am aware the school has a number of development needs and I will absolutely commit myself to do my utmost best to drive forward improvement during my time as acting headteacher,’ said Miss Stewart.
This is the 35-year-old’s first headteacher experience after completing her Into Headship qualification in May.
This is a professional programme designed to enable teachers to attain the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Standard for Headship, a requirement for headteachers in Scotland.
‘I have not experienced this role before, therefore it will be a steep learning curve,’ said Miss Stewart. ‘It is a dream of mine to be a headteacher one day and, with Mr Fyfe retiring, I was aware of the need for CGS to appoint an acting headteacher for the start of term.
‘I felt the opportunity to experience headship was too good an opportunity to refuse and it will allow me to make a difference to the lives of the young people at CGS.
‘I feel confident in my ability to support our young people in feeling happy, safe and supported with their learning.’
Until she joined CGS, Miss Stewart was a depute headteacher at Dunoon Grammar School, of which she is a former pupil.
Miss Stewart grew up in the Glendaruel, Colintraive, Blairmore and Sandbank areas, attending Kilmodan and Strone Primary Schools before Dunoon Grammar.
She then completed a Master of Arts with Honours degree in Scottish Literature and Language at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 2007.
It was at the same university that Miss Stewart went on to complete her teacher training, graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Secondary Education, qualifying her as an English teacher.
She carried out her teaching training placements in schools across Inverclyde, and completed her probationary year at Springburn Academy in the north east of Glasgow before being appointed as an English teacher at Glenwood High School in Glenrothes, Fife.
Within a year, she had been appointed to the post of principal guidance teacher, a position in which she remained for five years before she took on the same role at Lochgelly High School, also in Fife.
Within six months, she became acting head of the school’s pupil support department and for her final 18 months at Lochgelly, she was the department’s depute headteacher.
Her final years in Fife were as depute headteacher at Glenrothes High School, to which she transitioned as part of a management restructuring exercise within Fife.
‘Then a dream opportunity arose when my own former year head decided to retire at Dunoon Grammar School,’ Miss Stewart said. ‘I applied for this depute headteacher post and was successful and had the privilege of working alongside previous teachers of mine.
‘It was extremely special for me to return to my former school as depute headteacher. I had such a wonderful time as a pupil and the last three years have been the best of my career back in my former school and my hometown.’
For the time being, Miss Stewart is based in Campbeltown from Sunday evenings until Fridays, returning home to Dunoon at weekends.
‘I am about to move into a new flat and I also have a 15-month-old puppy, named Darcy,’ she said. ‘I am really lucky that my mum is looking after her during the week right now; it is my intention to bring her to Campbeltown on alternate weeks very soon.’
Miss Stewart, a former bagpiper, is looking forward to spending more time in Campbeltown where she used to compete at piping competitions.
‘I am very much looking forward to attending some Kintyre Schools Pipe Band practices,’ she said. ‘I used to compete against the band many, many years ago when I played for Dunoon Grammar School Pipe Band.’
She added: ‘I am most looking forward to exploring the gorgeous beaches and walks that Campbeltown and the surrounding area holds. I think Darcy will be in her element as she is a water baby!’