July 7 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Top headteacher Gerry is a class act

Running two schools is a challenge, and RONNIE MCGOWAN meets a man willing to take it on - By Ronnie McGowan

“NO child gets left behind” – sounds like one of those educational platitudes gathering dust in the darkest recesses of a classroom. But when it’s Gerry Lyons addressing his staff at St Andrew’s Secondary School, it is delivered with the stamp of authenticity. Sitting in the heart of Carntyne in the east end of Glasgow, the school has been well served by this core belief during the six years of his stewardship.

In August, he will take up the new post of Executive Headteacher combining the responsibilities of running St Andrew’s and Holyrood Secondary School on the south side of Glasgow.

It’s a big challenge involving managing a teaching staff of well over 200, while organising a pupil population of nearly 4,000.

Both schools are successful in their own way. Each now has its own newly-appointed Head of School in charge of the day-to-day running.

This represents a major shift in the governance of schools although it has come about less by design and more by Glasgow City council seeking to appoint a leader of the highest calibre with the desired qualities and characteristics to take on this significant appointment.

Gerry Lyons was the right man in the right place at the right time with the experience, credentials and track record to carry out the role.

Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education for Glasgow City Council says, “Gerry is passionate about young people and has the highest expectations for them while instilling confidence in parents”.

The Executive Director is more than confident that Gerry will lead both schools with his two Heads of Schools and the senior management teams in both schools. The opportunity will exist for some form of collaboration between the staffs of both schools.

Alongside his sense of Faith, Mr Lyons is driven by a strong professional integrity, which acts as an engine to transform the lives of pupils.

He has an intrinsic motivation in the quest for social justice, delivered with a down to earth common decency.

But running through his philosophy of what a good school looks like is an in-built streak of pragmatism, unsurprising from the son of a Glasgow plumber. Being raised in Maryhill has served Gerry well in his practical day-to-day approach when dealing with pupils.

At 8.45 am you can reliably find him at the school door welcoming pupils warmly.

From that time onwards his door is open until the end of the school day and beyond.

But beware anyone arriving in the school premises with an outside garment covering their school blazer or worse still a blazer not being worn at all.

He can crack the whip when needs arise. Any pupil who decides to carry their blazer draped over a forearm or stuffed in a bag will be reminded that St Andrew’s is not a ‘carry your school blazer school’.

Throughout the day during the changeover of periods, he can be found interacting with pupils, marshalling and ensuring a smooth safe passage between classes.

Each day the whole school is reminded of that week’s theme: it may be on the issue of litter in the community or it could be encouraging everyone to show respect for each other and themselves.

Year on year, he will deliver this relentless reminder of the school’s code of conduct, ‘Be on time’, ‘Bring correct equipment’, ‘Best behaviour’. These are all important checks and reminders of expectations.

It is his modus operandi and it resonates with the school at every level.

The result is that St Andrew’s Secondary is a school that nurtures a positive caring, aspirational attitude in its pupils, who take a great pride in their school.

Former pupils will attest to how good and well-ordered a school St Andrew’s is.

St Andrew’s came about through the amalgamation of three secondary schools, and when Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the school in 2002 he remarked on the positive ethos felt on entering the new building—in no small part down to the efforts of the headteacher at that time, Bruce Malone, and his team.

A school offering a good ethos and a great spirit will enhance any pupils’ chances in life, said the Prime Minister.

The combining of three secondary schools must be regarded as one of Glasgow City Council’s great success stories. Visitors are met by courteous, well-mannered and attentive pupils, who go out of their way to be helpful.

The pupils have a deserved reputation for putting much into the community. During the month of Advent, they raise many thousands of pounds and distribute this to grateful charities.

Gerry Lyons also imparts a strong work ethic in the school amongst staff and pupils and his high academic ambitions rub off on everyone.

Recently a pupil gained entrance to Oxford University.

When talking to Mr Lyons you will be left with the feeling of having been in the company of someone who has a strong pride in their working class roots, with a fierce determination to succeed in education, not only at a personal level but for everyone else at his schools, too.

Tony Blair’s mantra of ‘education, education, education’, is not lost on Gerry Lyons and it finds an echo in his approach to sustaining excellence.

He is strong on homework and strong on the benefits of homework. It’s that work ethic thing again.

Everyone has a strong desire for this educational innovation to succeed, none more so than the man at the helm.

Pic – Holyrood pupils campaigning for SCIAF


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