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Graham Hutton – the rector known fondly as GHutz – reflects on his time at Grove Academy as he retires

His association with the Broughty Ferry school goes back 29 years to when he became its principal teacher of modern languages.

Graham Hutton, retired rector of Grove Academy.
Graham Hutton has ended 11 and a half "amazing" years as rector of Grove Academy. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

It was 29 years ago that now retired rector Graham Hutton became part of the Grove Academy family.

During that time he has been principal teacher, assistant head teacher, depute head and even dad.

But the leader known fondly as GHutz has spent his final term at the helm of the Broughty Ferry school.

And on his last day, we chatted to him about his time at Grove, which included being head teacher to his own two children, and what comes next.

He told us he had spent an “amazing” 11 and a half years as rector and said: “It has been a wonderful time and I’ve enjoyed it immensely – I hope I have taken the school forward.”

During the last weeks of his tenure his contribution was celebrated in various ways,  including the presentation by S6 leavers of his own leaver’s hoodie emblazoned with his nickname.

Mr Hutton was delighted to be presented with his own leaver’s hoodie. Image: supplied.

He had a night out with fellow staff which he described – in his native Glaswegian vernacular – as “pure dead brilliant”.

And at the end of term on Friday, he was piped out with the whole school lining the corridor from his office and the path to Claypotts Road.

Mr Hutton became Grove rector in 2011

Mr Hutton, 64, first joined Grove Academy as principal teacher of modern languages in 1994, later becoming assistant head then depute head.

His first teaching jobs had been at Tamworth Manor High School in South London followed by Breadalbane Academy, in Perthshire – settings he described as “chalk and cheese”.

In 2006, he was asked to be depute head then senior depute head at Dundee’s Braeview Academy.

He was then head teacher at Dumbarton Academy for three years before returning in November 2011 to the lead role at Grove Academy, which by then had moved from its old buildings to its current home.

Mr Hutton outside Grove Academy as it is today. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

But it wasn’t plain sailing in the early years, as he recalls.

“It was great to come back to a school I knew well, although it wasn’t in the same building.

“There were a lot of staff who had been with me when I was depute and PT.

“But it was also very challenging because I wanted to move the school forward and Grove was a very traditional school, very successful but traditional.”

This was in the early days of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

And having already made changes at Braeview and Dumbarton he wanted to ensure that at Grove the “round pegs would fit in the round holes, the square pegs in the square holes and the quirky pegs would fit in the quirky holes”.

‘Challenging’ early years of resistance

He said: “There was a bit of resistance in the first couple of years and probably they were very challenging years.

“But when the inspectors came in in 2013 they told me I was moving the school in the right direction.”

Indeed Grove Academy must have been on the right path, because that report from Education Scotland rated it as ‘very good’ and ‘good’ and spoke of the head teacher’s progress in unlocking its potential for growth.

Then in 2021 the school was highlighted as a case study in a review of CfE for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This described a significant expansion in courses offered, improvements in attainment and positive destinations and fewer exclusions.

Ensuring as comprehensive a provision as he could to meet the needs of every young person is among Mr Hutton’s proudest achievements.

He said: “I think we offer young people a breadth and depth of curriculum you don’t always get in other schools.”


Among the innovative methods Mr Hutton implemented for driving improvement was his five-a-day chats, which involved meeting five pupils each day to hear their views.

A multi-use games area (MUGA) currently under construction was a result of these discussions.

He said: “They [pupils] are not backwards about coming forwards, some of them, with their views.

“They have helped turn the school, they’ve helped influence what we do.

“We can’t always achieve exactly what they want because it’s a bit like turning an oil tanker turning a school, but their influence has greatly impacted on me.”

It’s perhaps his efforts to listen to pupils and be approachable which has earned him the nickname GHutz, which he also uses as his Twitter hashtag and which he hopes is a term of affection.

The exams system did not withstand the stress test of Covid and I think we need to look radically at what we are offering our young people.”

He said: “I’ve always had an open-door policy that children and young people can come in at any time – unless I’m in a meeting – and I’ll give them my best attention.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the young people.”

Among the young people to attend Grove were his own children, who have both recently graduated from university, Dana as a doctor and Ross in financial economics.

He said: “I was their head teacher, so that was a challenge for them.

“But they were not spies in the camp, they never told me anything I didn’t already know!

“I think they got fed up being asked ‘are you GHutz’ daughter or son?'”

Looking to the future

In retirement he hopes to spend more time with them and wife Lesley, a research scientist who is now a science technician at St Paul’s Academy, and hillwalking and travelling.

After a five-week holiday in North America, he will take up a new post as general secretary of School Leavers Scotland, maintaining his involvement in education while his successor Tim Woodcock arrives from Perth Grammar to take up the Grove reins.

He said: “It was a job I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t go from what I’m doing now to doing nothing.”

It’s an exciting time in education, he said, including changes to the qualifications system recommended by the Hayward Report.

He said: “I’m looking forward to the challenge of this and ensuring we get a good deal for all school leaders in Scotland and to try to achieve a better education system.

“The exams system did not withstand the stress test of Covid and I think we need to look radically at what we are offering our young people.”